I have a cough. That’s it: a dry, hacking cough. A little congestion, yes, but really, it’s a simple dry cough. No fever. No headache. No aches and pains. So today I coughed into my long sleeves, sucked on a variety of cough drops (Ricolas are my new favorite thing), spread antibacterial gel on my hands half hourly, carried antibacterial wipes and used them every time I left my office (and everywhere in my office), drank quarts of hot tea and lemon, and went about my usual business of teaching one class, answering emails, grading essays and holding a few office hours. (Ok, I didn’t run today, and I slept in till 7am, but those were my only concessions.)
You would think I had the plague. You would think I was playing the martyr. The embodiment of evil. The most self centered THING existing. Some colleagues chastised me (only after hearing a cough or two since I am not obviously physically sick) for coming to campus at all, warning me that I had the swine flu and should have stayed home. They refused to come within 10 feet of me.
My students had an entirely different reaction. They laughed with glee at the note I put on the white board before class: “DANGER: Annie has a cough. Stay away. Put your essays on the table in the corner (and yes, I’ve wiped down the stapler). Don’t be insulted if I do not come close to you if you have a question for me.” Despite my red-inked warning, however, they CAME CLOSE TO ME to ask me questions and hand in papers. Some who were also coughing offered me their evaluation of the cough drop inventory at the supermarket, and then gave me a sample. They even stayed late after class to finish working on the project outlines and research we had begun. Some of the students from this class showed up at my office hour after class to chat some more (luckily my new office is so incredibly huge, that the student chair could be placed far away from my germy desk).
So, what gives? Should I have stayed home? I feel FINE. It’s “just a flesh wound” as the knight on Monty Python famously said. Or am I being as famously stupid by ignoring what could be the precursor to the flu? Since I will be missing a few classes next week for an out of town meeting, cancelling class today (a particularly important class, too, in terms of the projects the students are starting to work on) seemed just wrong.
I suppose tomorrow morning will tell.
Now excuse me while I take my trustworthy medicine for colds and coughs: a glass of cognac.