Is it just me, or does anyone else automatically think of R.E.M. whenever they read yet another news report about the swine flu?
Sing it with me, won't you? "It's the end of the world as we know it, it's the end of the world as we know it, it's the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine."
Now we've got the World Health Organization telling us that a pandemic is "imminent." WHO said they were planning to announce this at 4 p.m., presumably so we could all enjoy this breaking news story as we drive off the nearest bridge on the way home from work (assuming that we're all still fortunate to be gainfully employed). As I drove home listing to the traffic report, the local news radio station led with the story that four college kids in my state were sick. "They definitely have the flu," the announcer intoned ominously. Four college kids. On a campus with 20,500 students. (An update to this says there's now 10 "probable cases" there now and their website is emblazoned with HEALTH ALERT.)
Reports say they don't know why or how the swine flu is being spread so easily. Well, that's a no-brainer. It's because of people like the freakin' idiot in the car in front of me at Dunkin' Donuts this morning who was PICKING HIS FREAKIN' TEETH WITH HIS FINGERNAILS WHILE WAITING IN LINE AT THE DRIVE THRU ... and then using that same hand to exchange money and food with the same cashier who had my order up next! I'm so not kidding. I'm supposed to be worried about swine flu when I've got to contend with that asshole? I'm telling you, I damn near crashed into his car while frantically scavaging for the Purell in my purse and you know, the guy would have deserved it if I rear-ended him. No jury in the world would have found me guilty, I guarantee it. That's the pig who is going to get me sick faster than anything else. That's the pig who is going to be the end of civilization as we know it.
I don't know why this has me so laissez-faire. I really have a few other things on my mind besides the possibility of getting swine flu. Are people working themselves into a lather about this because deep down they're afraid of confronting their own mortality? Is our attention being diverted from something else? ("Wag the Dog" anyone?)
I don't know the answers to any of these rambling questions, and I don't wish any ill will on anyone who is sick. I hope everyone who has the flu - be it swine or the normal, garden-variety versions - gets better quickly. I'm aware that there was a major influenza epidemic in 1918 and that it killed thousands. I'm also acutely, painfully aware that the flu does, indeed, kill nearly 500,000 people each year. (My own father was one of those fatalities.)
In the meantime, we could all benefit from keeping some perspective - and Purell - close at hand.