Holiday cold strategy falls short

It was a simple goal: Experience Christmas without the accompaniment of a bad cold as had happened the previous few years. It’s no fun sniffing hot chocolate through mucus, hacking out “Silent Night,” and handing out gifts no one will accept because they’re contaminated by germs.

The problem with Christmas colds dates back to my decision to ride the bus to work at least part of the time. Little did I know that young people today aren’t taught proper personal hygiene. No one carries a handkerchief. At best, they’ll wrap one around their skull to look cool. Without a handkerchief you can’t completely stifle a sneeze or a cough. Some young people sneeze or cough into their palm, then wipe the residue on their pants. Most, however, cough and sneeze into their elbows. Where this idea came from I don’t know. Perhaps some elementary school hygienist decided not everyone can afford a handkerchief, but everyone does have an elbow, so it caught on. On the bus on any winter’s day, half a dozen kids will crinkle up their noses, look desperately around for a place to sneeze, and then at the last fraction of a second remember their elbow. Most miss the elbow, shooting germs above or below it, hitting the floor, ceiling and windows.

The coughers hit their elbow the first time or two, but then get bored with the exercise and are satisfied with only coughing toward their elbow, wherever it may be located at any particular moment. As a result, the bus is a veritable test tube of cold and flu germs, and the elbows in the bus are biological hazard zones right out of a post-9/11 terror novel.

The only way to avoid a Christmas cold was to stop riding the bus, which I did after Thanksgiving. I was thrilled when Dec. 23 arrived that I was sniffleless. That was the day of our mass family celebration and I was in perfect health. Unfortunately, the same could not be said of some others in the room. I’m not sure what was going around — some theorize it may have been food poisoning — but it hit me 24 hours later. After arriving home from the Christmas Eve service at Dick’s Church, which as you might imagine was quite informal, I got sicker than a Pilgrim on the way to America. Dysentery, diphtheria, cholera, typhoid, all the symptoms were there, and they lasted all that night and all through Christmas day. No hot chocolate. No Christmas lasagna. No Christmas candy. Gifts were thrown my way from across the room to avoid contagion. Visitors left early. The dog preferred the company of the cat. It was a disastrous Christmas, worse than any I had had with an Island Transit cold.

The next day I was feeling much better, so I rode the bus to work. I was looking forward to a healthy New Year when I could eat some leftover Christmas lasagna and candy, and celebrate in good health. Friday, I started sniffling, and by Monday my nose was running faster than the backs in the Rose Bowl. Another holiday ruined.

My New Year’s resolution is to not try to avoid any colds in 2007. I’ll ride the bus, let nature take its course, and ask for practical Christmas presents, such as Kleenex and Pepto Bismol.