Watching, waiting, eating, drinking
By Catherine Dunn April 28, 2009 - 16:17
Mexico City -- Last Friday I wrote a blog post about swine flu. No sooner had I posted a media round-up of the death toll, symptoms, and safety measures than I began to question my own decision-making. Had what I written been too glib, or too alarmist? I simply couldn't tell, and it became part of a constant questioning of how to react to the reaction to news of the flu that's been playing since the story broke.
I tried to cancel an interview to which I'd planned to bus or metro, only to be guffawed by my cowardice and re-confirm... only to listen to my interview subject compare this moment to the days she had lived in New Orleans before Hurricane Katrina hit: the precursory news reports, the recommended evacuations, and then... bam. The storm.
I grabbed a taxi home after the interview. My cab driver said we shouldn't be alarmed, take things in stride -- and don't eat pork ("Eating pork has nothing to do with getting the flu," I countered. "Pero mas vale, no?" - Might as well not, right? -- he shrugged). I was just noticing the string of missed calls on my cell phone, when it rang again...
My parents. They're saints the way they weather news of drug violence, kidnappings, and my own medical maladies in my adopted country. But... my dad had been watching the news in Virginia. Was I okay? Could I get vaccinated?
I said I would look into it. I reminded my dad I'd gotten the flu very badly back in February and should be afforded some kind of immunity (what on earth was I saying? I had no idea). He was skeptical about my reasoning, but didn't push it.
Indeed, what kind of logic was I applying during this nascent phase of the alarm? Basically, I was making it up.
I decided to skip the gym because the idea of touching things that other people had touched whilst sweating grossed me out. I called my friend Michael instead.
His play-by-play of the day included all the public transportation he'd ridden, all the public places he'd been, all the people he'd greeted with kisses and handshakes -- all quite unwittingly -- before he'd caught wind of the flu story. We laughed at ourselves (we could drown in our antibodies!) and at the situation (would the entire art world collapse under the weight of swine flu-related event cancellations?). We pumped ourselves up with a good dose of gallows humor and wished each other well for the weekend.
As party hour neared, my roommate Dulce and I browsed headlines and Facebook status messages, all influenza-related. We read a blog written by a friend of hers who was a biologist and seemed to know what he was talking about.
I caved, and changed into pajamas. Dulce, however, would not be dissuaded. "No me voy a dejar influenzar," she proclaimed, copping a funny little pun on not letting "influenza" "influence" her fiesta plans.
But there I had it. My weekend agenda was conforming to the nebulous shape of an invisible enemy.
To wit: An email arrived on Saturday morning, announcing the cancellation of a blues festival I had planned to attend. So we went out for breakfast, and did errands around the quiet neighborhood.