1. Should you by any chance find yourself in one of the ladies’ rooms at the United Airlines terminal, you may hear a chorus of the “Happy Birthday” song floating towards you from the sink area. Do not graciously inform the singers that you were actually born in October. They do not care. They are not celebrating you or anyone else. Their vocalizing is an exercise in flu prevention.
You may have heard on NPR that in order to avoid this season’s swine or bird or bronchial flus, you must not rely on Purell alone. You should wash your hands in warm, soapy water for as long as it takes to sing the birthday song, about 20 seconds. (Although if you can’t remember the words or try to sing it like Alicia Keyes it could take longer.)
2. But let’s face it: the airport is a minefield for the flu-phobic. Even if you wash long enough to sing birthday greetings to everyone in your immediate family, when you leave the ladies’ room you have to deal with the issue of the doorknob. NPR reports that doorknobs are your worst enemies; each one is hosting a virus party.
You can try to open the door with a body part that is not your hands. I’ve used my elbow but found it awkward, and I my feet have limited small motor skills. The thing to do is to wait for some sucker who does NOT listen to NPR to open the door the traditional way (oblivious to the fact that they have just sentenced themselves to a couple weeks of chicken soup and Netflix) and slip out in their wake.
3. But more challenges lie ahead. When you stop at the news stand for your Lucky magazine and Junior Mints, don’t forget that the sales clerk has had hand-to-hand contact with a staggering number of flu-flyers (including the doorknob lady). Give the clerk your MasterCard and it will come back fully loaded. Instead, pick up your purchases, place an adequate amount of cash on the counter and get the hell out of there.
4. Of course, the airplane itself is the worst, each one carrying germs as abundant, varied and aggressive as those in, say, Times Square. NPR says that, on a plane, you are 113 times more likely to get sick than you are in normal life.
They also point out that you should put nothing in the seat pocket in front of you, as that is where all those flu-ish types have stashed their used tissues. (I know, gross, right?) So keep your magazine and mints inside your personal bubble and don’t be intimidated by people who look at you funny when you pull out and put to use the Wet Ones, Neosporin, Airborne, hand sanitizer and Flu-B-Gone.
5. Don’t drink water in flight or you will have to pee. Even if you don’t listen to NPR you know about the airplane bathroom. It’s like a Petri dish in there, and the TSA most likely confiscated your Clorox bottle at security. On a long flight you may have to catheterize but stay OUT of that damn bathroom!
6. In the unlikely event that you get to your destination without picking up the flu or pneumonia or whooping cough or herpes, don’t be smug. Do NOT tell some less fortunate person, someone who DOES succumb that “Prevention is the best cure.” The sick person will find this so annoying, she may even seek revenge. You could wake up with a doorknob on your pillow.