Circle of Influenza

If you need an example of how the world can change in an instant, here is a small blow by blow.

There’s nothing like starting your day with the discovery that the swine flu has hit your northwest Houston neighborhood. I know, because it happened to me this morning. If you need an example of how the world can change in an instant, here is a small blow by blow.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

8:00 a.m. Read newspaper, see that two of the most recent “probable” cases of swine flu have struck my neighborhood, the Heights. A fourteen-year-old girl at Hamilton Middle School, and the other a nine-year-old girl at Harvard Elementary.

9:00 a.m. Teenaged son grows anxious, not that he might contract swine flu, or that swine flu will cause the cancellation of school or graduation, but that it might cause the cancellation of the Bonaroo concert he has been looking forward to for months and for which he has already paid $250 for a ticket. Since I have been dreading the same—or rather, his going to Bonaroo with four friends in an SUV—I start to see the bright side of the pandemic.

9:05 a.m. Teenaged son allows that he cannot run errands for the family because he is “nervous about being out in public.”

10:00 a.m. Start to feel achy, tired; throat sore with slight cough. Impossible to tell whether I am suffering from swine flu, hay fever, or hysteria.

12:00 p.m. At lunch the server sets an extra place at my table, and when I hand her back the silverware rolled in a napkin, she refuses to take it from me. Mild loss of appetite ensues.

2:00 p.m.: Pick up prescription at Target. The pharmacist sloshes Purell all over her hands after helping the last customer, an elderly woman. “Are you worried about swine flu?” I ask. “Well, she was picking up a prescription for Tamiflu,” she tells me.

3:30 p.m. Receive this email from a friend about her daughter: “The first case of confirmed swine flu in the city (outside of the toddler who died at Texas Children’s Hospital) was at Olivia’s high school: Episcopal. And the girl is in Olivia’s grade. And sits directly behind her in her Spanish class.”

4:00 p.m.: Brief discussion with neighbor about weekend plans. We realize we are invited to the same Bat Mitzvah—another neighbor’s daughter. The girl is a student at Hamilton Middle School. Hamilton and Harvard are now closed for the week. “Think they’ll cancel?” she asks.

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