My inner physician is frequently exasperated with me. “No, we’re not talking about microscopic portions of irate African mammals,” she says, “rhinovirus is just a name. Look, you’ve got a cold, quit yapping. And while we’re at it, yes coprophagia is a thing, but no, you shouldn’t try it.”
Rhinoviruses and their ilk are fascinating little buggers, and hardy to boot. Typically, infection occurs via a respiratory vector (you breathe it in). Viral material has to get past the body’s nose hairs, mucus and so on, get into the lungs and transfer into the vascular system. Or it can be introduced by the eyes or ingested from direct contact with infected materials or secretions (snot). From the vascular system, the virus is able to multiply and subsequently make its way back into the nose and throat in order to leap to the next host. That’s a grossly simplified account involving no science words, of course, but in fairness every time I blow my nose my IQ drops by 5 points.
Like all young boys, I went through a virus phase. I was deeply enamoured of the hantavirus and marburg and of course ebola. I would often disconcert perfectly harmless adults by describing the symptoms of haemorrhagic fever. Usually over lunch. Over time words like pustule and serum became banned.
Now, here’s a theory about minor ailments and why men are said to make such a big fuss over them while women are supposedly more stoic. It works like this: men have weaker immune systems than women. I’ve yet to hear a particularly compelling reason proffered for such a large generalisation, but let’s go with it. Maybe it has something to do with reproduction.
A weaker immune system is more likely to be overrun, or else more likely to react relatively late in the day. The result, perhaps counter-intuitively, is heavier symptoms. Essentially, most of the symptoms of disease are the result of the body fighting off the infection.
If one combines heavier symptoms with men’s lower pain threshold, then it turns out that manflu really is a thing – we’re not just more pathetic because we’re pathetic, but also because we actually suffer more.
More likely, men just like to be taken care of.
Whatever the reason, I had a bad ‘un – blocked sinuses, nausea, dizziness, nightmarish fever dreams that left me asking questions of myself such as what, when you get right down to it, is metafiction? And why does anyone buy it?
The timing was dreadful: one day the previous week I worked from home. Now you can work like a late 50s jazz musician, without pause for thought or food. You can create your industry-specific equivalent of the output of 19th century thought magician, Kant. But the phrase ‘working from home’ tends to invite a certain look from those around you. The look says “So what you’re saying is you woke up around 1pm and ate breakfast in your pants before spending 10 minutes standing perfectly still under the shower head hoping your body would wash itself. Having started to work through the hangover you earned last night when you knew that tomorrow you’d be working from home, you left the house, dropping in by the bookies before wiling away the afternoon in your local brothel. I know your game.”
Disconcerting when the look comes from your boss: how does (s)he have such an insight into your private life?
Me, I don’t like to be taken care of when I’m ill; I want to be left alone in peace to drink plenty of fluids and whinge and watch Apocalypse Now Redux because it’s the only time I have the patience to sit through the whole thing.
I wait until I’m better to demand sympathy.