It has to do with this swine flu/possible pandemic issue. My job involves helping businesses prepare for public health issues, like pandemics. We've been a bit busier than usual these past 2 weeks.
So Monday, Mr. B wakes up feeling pretty poorly. No temp, no cough, just a scratchy throat and fatigue. I tell him it must be a man-cold.
When I get to work, I find out that a Minneapolis school has been shuttered because of swine flu. As it happens, it's the same school where Mr B subbed last week.
I start to wonder, "Could he? Nah, that's just too ironic."
Work gets hectic and I get distracted.
Around 4, I receive a text message from Mr. B: "Really sick. Slept till 2:30. Went to doc's. Got swabbed for H1N1."
He doesn't answer my call, which means he's sleeping -- and that my chance at getting a ride home from him is shot. I finish work around 7 and notice I'm not feeling that swift either.
So I slog my achy muscles and joints to the bus stop, climb aboard, crumple against the window, and shut my eyes for the hour ride.
Half way home, I decide to try to reach him on my cell. No answer. I try my daughter. No answer. I try my eldest. Score. We talk. My eyes shut, I remain slumped against the window. He tells me he saw "Pops" late in the afternoon, just before he went back to sleep.
"Did he tell you they swabbed him for H1N1?" I ask.
"Cool. How long does it take to get the results back?"
"I don't know. It probably depends on whether they have to send the test to the CDC."
"Ma, are you on the bus? You really need to get off your phone. I got yelled at yesterday for talking on the bus."
Yikes. I open my eyes to see if anyone's glaring at me for being too loud. (Ever notice how hard it is to judge your volume when your eyes are shut?) It's crowded, but no one is giving me the stink eye. Whew.
There is this man sitting next to me. I hadn't noticed him. I don't know how I missed him: He's balancing on the edge of our shared bench, about as far from me as he can perch without falling into the aisle.
Two stops later, a seat opens up in the row next to the bus driver, same spot I always choose when there's a loose cannon type on the bus. It affords a false sense of safety, like when as a kid you tag "home" by clinging to your mom's leg to keep your sibling from making you "it."
I cough into my elbow, and in a jiff, my neighbor leapfrogs to home base. I shut my eyes again and I can feel something burning. I think it's his stare.
I can't really blame him. It's not everyday you hear CDC and a cough on a bus from a stranger you're sitting next to during the same week that pandemic is the buzz word.
He pulls his feet way in when I disembark.
Epilogue: No tests are back yet, but Mr. B appears to have had enough pats on the head to recover nicely from the man-flu. He returned to work today. Oh, and the CDC has decided it isn't necessary to close schools. The CDC does say people should stay home if they feel ill. I know of at least one fellow bus rider who would agree wholeheartedly with that little piece of wisdom.