I’m sick for the second time since July this year. It started with a sore throat, moved into the sniffles, and is now a nice, chest-y cough. Sick is sick. It’s all-consuming and yet boring. It’s blah blah blah just let me be back to normal soon, please. It’s STOP IT, BOOGERS. As we’ve already discussed, I’m a terrible sick person.
There was a time in my life when I never got sick. I once went two years without getting sick – not even a cold. I’ve never had a flu shot, and I’ve never had the flu. I used to strut about with this information as though I knew some great secret of good health. I didn’t.
Then I moved to New York City. A friend warned me that in her first two years of living here, she got sick more than she ever had before, part of an initiation rite. “We’ll see,” I responded, not so much out of smugness as out of doubt. Would my lucky streak hold?
Since moving here two+ years ago, I’ve been sick more than five times. If I can still do math, that’s at least twice a year, carry the one, equaling TOO MUCH. What is it about New York City that compromises the immune system so?
I was thinking about this yesterday while blowing my nose. I blew it so hard that I became light headed and almost fainted. As the white light crept in, the many ways in which New York tries to murder her inhabitants flashed before my eyes.
Culprit #1: The Subway
This festering tunnel snake is home to so much grossness that I could spend the next seven weeks dedicating a blog post to each. Let’s just start with the top-level ones, shall we?
First, you’re often face-to-face with strangers. Sometimes, bless them, they will cough right in your face because there is no other space in which to do it.
Second, there is a 100% chance that you will not find a seat during rush hour, so, naturally, your inclination is to hold onto the metal bar above your head to avoid being shaken and stirred. This is a mistake. That metal bar is coated in sneeze juice, dandruff flakes, forgotten food, and other people poison. It’s there only to meet minimum safety standards and annoy tall people. You musn’t ever actually touch it.
Lastly, you’re so far down within the earth in the subway that the air you’re breathing is second-rate. It’s not even from yesterday or the day before. It’s ancient. You’re breathing a T-Rex fart or Genghis Khan’s bad breath. You’re breathing God’s sigh after he finished creating the universe (just go with it).
In sum: there is no way to prepare your puny human lungs for the air down there.
Culprit #2: Food Trucks
Mm. Smell that? It’s peanuts roasting. Ooo – or that? It’s some sort of meat product. There’s Halal, Thai, an egg on a bagel. Oh, I’ll have a falafel sandwich, please. All of this food sits out in the open NYC air where garbage trucks fly by, smokers flick their butts, and people spit while talking on their cell phones. Mmm mm! Flavorful.
Food trucks collect the spirit of NYC in their offerings, and that spirit is then transferred to you. Rumble, rumble, says your stomach.
Culprit #3: Public Bathrooms
All I have to say about this is: your nose takes in particles/molecules from the thing you’re smelling in order to be able to process it. I’ll just leave that there and let you think about it.
Culprit #4: My Apartment Building
The building front door. The elevator buttons. The shared mailboxes. I touch, you touch, we touch. Even going home, I cannot escape the fact that I live with dozens of other people piled on top of one another, each with their own brand of grossness. Even if I tried to escape it, which I can’t, I still go home to a husband who touches dozens of other people throughout the day, and a cat who does not but is gross regardless.
So I don’t know from where, or whom, this cough came. Really, though, does it matter? I only know that living here means accepting the fact that I will get sick more often, from people I don’t know, and that it won’t stop with me. I, too, will become part of the chain that continues to infect. I’m certain I’ve already infected several someone elses.
After my nose-blowing fainting spell passed yesterday, I had another, better thought. Perhaps New York City is trying to kill me – but only because she’s trying to make me stronger. After all, how am I to build my immunity strength without practice? Maybe that’s why the people of NYC live the longest in the United States. New York City is trying to make me indestructible so that I can one day rule the earth.
Good one, NYC. I accept the challenge.