We’re all familiar with the common fibs people tell – “It’s in the mail,” “I only had one,” and “No, I haven’t had a face lift, I’m just really relaxed.” But the one that really gets me is “I’m not contagious.” The speaker invariably has a hacking cough reminiscent of Greta Garbo dying of consumption in the last scenes of Camille.
Let me say up front that I am hardly a germaphobe. (One look at my house would convince you.) But some of the worst illnesses I’ve ever caught have been from people who “weren’t contagious.” Fortunately, neither my husband Olof nor I get sick all that often but when we do, we tend to get afflictions that take up residence in our obviously weak lungs and refuse to be evicted. So we do our best to avoid them.
There are no lack of virulent organisms floating around any time of the year. Everything you touch is a source of some pathogen, including and especially the payment keypad at your local pharmacy which I am convinced is the source of the spread of 98% of communicable disease. When I go to pick up my blood pressure medicine I don’t want to touch that thing. Or even stand within five feet of it.
Other than washing your hands a lot, you just have to hope your immune system is up to the challenge. But why dare it by inviting plague into your house?
Several weeks ago, some friends we hadn’t seen in a long time arrived for a much-anticipated dinner. The husband, unbeknownst to us, had recently returned from a trip through what I call the Ebola airline hubs in Europe where the world’s grodiest germs have a chance to mix and match. The first thing I noticed was that he was exhibiting the Green Snot Sign. There are few microbes I hate more than green snot microbes which from my personal experience are pernicious and have a door knob life span of decades. Further, the Manual of Mom Medicine, paragraph six, article two, clearly states that yellow snot is your standard basic cold but green snot requires antibiotics. As if on cue, our guest croaked from his severely laryngitic throat that he had just started antibiotics so not to worry, he was “not contagious.”
I immediately considered letting this guy eat alone out on our uncovered patio in the rain where his illness might progress to pneumonia to which he would hopefully succumb before I had to let him back in. My husband Olof, a frequent business traveler, has come back from those same airports with some seriously nasty stuff. (Green snot from an Ebola airport probably IS Ebola.) But I was overruled by my kinder gentler Other Half, who thinks it’s not polite to be mean to people one has invited over even if they are attempting to kill us.
Our guest not only coughed and sneezed pretty much non-stop but kept repeating, probably in response to my cringing looks every time he blew Snot Verde across my dinner table, that his doctor told him that once he started taking antibiotics he wasn’t contagious. He said they’d thought of cancelling but didn’t want to disappoint us.
Please. Disappoint us.
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