It's NOT the Swine Flu. Relax.
I understand perfectly why people are paranoid about the Swine Flu. H1N1, as we are now instructed to call it, is scary. Believe me, for a person like myself without a working immune system, it's scary as hell. I get it. Honestly.
What has me scratching my head (it's not lice or scabies or anything else like that... just a figure of speech) is the refusal of strangers to take my word for my non-contagious status. I cough. I don't cough constantly, the way a person with something like emphysema might. I cough a lot in the morning, when I am exposed to quick and extreme temperature changes, or sometimes all of a sudden for no reason I can figure. I've even heard doctors call the PF cough a "nervous" cough. Not because it has anything to do with nervousness... it has similar properties. If I'm coughing like mad I'm probably sick.
But I DO get more phantom tickles than the average person, and I DO sometimes cough like crazy just because I am a PF patient. Most of the time it's a quick, crackly, sharp cough.
When it comes, I cover my mouth. I'm not contagious, but I'm polite. So when a stranger gives me a filthy look in response I'm confused. I don't cough ON anyone. I cough into my elbow. If I'm hacking and horking out of control I'm en route to my oxygen and a call to Ahmed.
A while ago, when H1N1 hysteria took root, I started quietly saying "I'm not contagious" to anyone who looked scared or pissed off at my coughs. I thought it might make them feel better.
Um. Nope. What it did was open the door. Silent glares seem to need some kind of enhancement in order to activate the actual conversation mechanism. Once I've opened my mouth the divide is breached and the launch sequence is ON. I've had everything from "how the hell would YOU know?" to "if you're coughing you're contagious." I don't often know how to respond.
If I clarify we need to sit down for a few. Most people have never heard of PF. I DO have a standard rap:
That should do it. But it never does. I either get questions that are long and complex to answer or the absurd disbelief reaction. As if I have some mission to be contagious with the rare South Bumblebaria Hooping Disease and have made spreading the deadly coughing death as far and wide as possible.
Yes, please come here, person I have never freaking seen before. Allow me to spit on you, hork at you, and do my gleeful victory dance.
So anyway... here's my last attempt. I'M NOT CONTAGIOUS. If I were I would be busy following the New York Yankees in the off-season, hiding near them at cafes so I could lick the rims of their coffee cups.
K? Good? Good.