When traveling from Phoenix into a small town like Eugene, Oregon, the planes get small. When you're traveling around holiday time, they get even smaller, I'm guessing because the "larger" (using the term as loosely as possible; we're talking a passenger capacity of 45 as opposed to 25) jets get re-routed during the busy season.
Yesterday, when boarding our flight home, I had a feeling we'd be getting on one of the teeny planes, but I had no idea how small we were really talking until I saw open air at the end of the Jetway and a set of stairs leading down to the tarmac ? because our plane wasn't even tall enough to reach the walkway. We all crammed on, all of us Fat Christmas People on a tiny plane, and that was when the symphony began. The coughing. The sneezing. The sniffling. It didn't help matters that we were leaving Arizona, the state that is currently having the worst flu outbreak in the country ? so bad it was a top story on CNN's Headline News. Now, I know people have to travel and get home whether they're sick or well, and I can't argue with that. But I do take issue when the breathing cadaver in the seat behind me coughs and coughs and coughs hard enough that I felt his lung G force hit my head and it made MY HAIR MOVE. That cough had the wind tunnel action of a Dyson and was easily strong enough to push start us down the runway. And it was grotesquely apparent from the unmuffled sounds that the coughs had been released with reckless abandon ? there had clearly been no obstacle for their discharge into the world. The man behind me was an Open-Mouthed Cougher. No hand action to shield the rest of us from the germ cloud rushing from deep within his lungs, not even a Kleenex to provide a thin, flimsy barrier.
To make matters worse, he wasn't the only one; the plane was full of them. And I don't get this. I mean, really, where are these people when Dr. Gupta says it again and again on every news show, "Wash your hands, cover your mouth, and stop blowing your nose on your Tommy Bahama shirt to help prevent the spread of disease"? Do they not get the Discovery Channel? Have they not seen the re-enactment that demonstrates how one cough is the same as spraying a garden hose full of viruses into the air? I've seen that Discovery Channel show, I remember the diagram, how the germs fell like rain and how they scramble to find your nose and then burrow all the way down into your throat. I didn't sleep for a week after I saw that and contemplated supergluing my nostrils shut. Who are these Open Mouth Coughers? In which dark corner of society do they live? These must be these the same people that leave pee on toilet seats and let gum simply fall out of their mouths onto the sidewalk. Being sick is not like a chain letter ? you don't need to spread it around to a hundred people in order to have the gods shine on you or get better. Keep your death rattle at home, I say, because I don't want it. In fact, I think making people stay at home when they're contagious should become a national policy. Being sick has the same properties looking at porn on the Internet. Keep it where it belongs, in private. No one wants to know your secret. For some people, however, that might not even be enough. For repeat offenders, all of those selfish people who continually cough and sneeze on others when they're sick, we need a quarantine unit set up. If you simply can't manage to raise your hand six inches to cover your gaping cavern of ill, go ahead. But it will be in a whole room of renegade nose-blowers and other Open Mouthed Coughers who can infect each other repeatedly instead of contaminating the healthy population. If you sneeze once or twice, well, that happens, but more than that, it's the sick room for you. And when you're quarantined, you're quarantined. There will be a special sick restroom, complete with receptacles to dispose of your snot rags properly, like a bonfire, and yes, pee on the seats. And, so they can eat, there will be a sick vending machine, outfitted with already contaminated buttons.
I spent the rest of that flight with my napkin acting as my sad interpretation of a SARS mask, covering my nostrils as best it could from the germ shower being shot at the back of my head. And, just when I thought things couldn't get any worse, that bastard behind me farted.
Oh, God, I thought as I held my breath. I've seen that Discovery Channel show, too.