Should you by any chance find yourself in the ladies’ room at the American Airlines lounge, you may hear a chorus of the “Happy Birthday” song wafting towards you from the sink area. Refrain from graciously informing the singers that you were actually born in October. They are not celebrating you or anyone else. Their chirping is an exercise in flu prevention.
You may have heard on NPR that in order to avoid that new ‘n nasty influenza, 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.)
But let’s face it. if you are flu-phobic, an airport is a minefield. 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 tried using my elbow but found it inefficient, and I my feet have limited small motor skills. A better course, I think, 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.
But more challenges lie ahead. When you move on to the requisite pre-boarding stop at the news stand for junk reading and eating, don’t forget for a minute that the sales clerk has had hand-to-hand contact with a staggering number of current or future flu victims (including the lady who just did doorknob duty for you). Give the clerk your MasterCard and it will come back fully loaded. Instead, pick up your Lucky magazine and Junior Mints, place an adequate amount of cash on the counter and get the hell out of there.
Of course, the airplane itself is the worst, each one carrying germs as abundant, varied and aggressive as those in, say, Times Square.
NPR points out that you should never put stuff in the seat pocket in front of you, as that is where all those flu-flyers have stashed their used tissues. (I know, eeww.) 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 the Handi-wipes, face mask, Neosporin, Airborne, hand sanitizer and Flu-B-Gone.
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 bleach bottle at security. On a long flight you may have to catheterize but stay OUT of that damn bathroom!
In the unlikely event that you get to your destination without picking up the norovirus or shingles or pneumonia or the flu or whooping cough or hoof and mouth disease or herpes, don’t be smug. Do NOT tell some less fortunate person who is writhing on the bathroom floor, thermometer dangling from Gatorade-stained lips, 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.