Plane Germs

I fight off a cold I may have caught enroute from Boston to Phoenix.

PhotoLike most people, I hate getting sick. It isn’t just the feeling like crap part of being sick. It’s the knowing that I have so much to do and that doing any of it will exhaust me and prolong my illness. Mike and I took a vacation in Maine last week. We stayed with our friends, John and Lorna, who have a wonderful piece of property on a stream with a dam surrounded by tall trees. The weather in Maine was mostly foggy while we were there, but every once in a while, the fog would lift or clear away and we’d get an outstanding view of the New England countryside or coast.

We left on Friday for Amhurst, MA to visit Mike’s niece, Molly. The drive was wonderful through Maine, with the fog clearing out enough to make it a very pleasant drive. But when we hit New Hampshire and Massachusetts, it became overcast. By the time we reached Amhurst, it was raining. It was terribly humid on Friday — the kind of humidity that makes you sweat no matter how cool it is outside. On Saturday, it was pouring and very cool. But not quite cool enough to give me the chill I normally need to catch cold.

So it must have been the plane ride. Five and a half hours on board, from Boston to Phoenix. Stuck in coach, crammed into a window seat beside Mike on a plane too full for anyone to stretch out. I spent most of the flight reading, despite the nagging headache I’d had since the previous afternoon. I couldn’t even listen to my iPod very long. My head ached.

The air was typical airline air. Who knows where it came from or where it had been? How much of it came from outside the cabin? How much of it was laden with the germs the 100+ other passengers had brought onboard with them?Now don’t get the idea that I’m paranoid about germs. I’m not. I fully believe that everyone should expose themselves to a certain amount of germs just to keep their immune system working. That’s why I don’t go out of my way to use antibacterial soap. And I never really believed that the germs on airplanes could make you sick. To me, it sounded like just another fear fed into society by the media, which loves to keep us scared and tuned in for details.

But now I’m not so sure.

I arrived home at 10 PM on Saturday. I was fine on Sunday. I woke up a bit early on Monday — okay, so it was 4:00 AM — but felt fine. At about 7 AM, I had a nasty sneezing fit. By 10 AM, my nose was running like a faucet. By noon, my head was aching and my nose was sore from blowing it. By 2 PM, I was at the cold medications counter in Safeway, asking a pharmacist to please help me find the right medicine for my symptoms.

My condition continued to worsen. Mike made us dinner and it took me forever to eat. Ever try to swallow food when your nose is completely stuffed?At 7:30 PM, I went into the bedroom to read. I was asleep 10 minutes later.

I slept sitting up. I know from experience that a postnasal drip can give you a sore throat and cough. I didn’t want to go there. So I slept with my head up and tilted to one side. Thankfully, the nasty stuff in my nose had thickened a bit from the medication and wasn’t drippy. As I write this on Tuesday morning, I still don’t have a sore throat or cough.

But I am on medication. And I decided to take the day off to rest up. That’s the only way I’ll recover.

But why now? Why couldn’t this have happened over the summer when I was goofing off most of the time? Why does it have to happen when I’m working on a book revision and have two editors nagging me for articles? When my helicopter needs to be run up after maintenance so I can do a tour for a woman and her grandson this weekend? When I’m trying to launch a podcast and my voice is too nasal to make recordings?No need to dwell on it. I’ll just settle down on the sofa with a box of Puffs, glass of orange juice, and a good book. I’m taking today off so I can get back to work tomorrow. I’d better be at least a little better by then.

What do you think?