Flu Flyers

Harper's CornerFlu Flyers
By Jessica Harper
February 2013

"On why you should NOT travel in February without Lysol wipes, hand sanitizer, a face mask, Flu-Be-Gone and a bottle of bleach, 
not to mention an account with a company called Uber!"

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.

By the way, if you do have the nerve to travel during flu season, I’ve found a new resource for transportation from the airport. Text a company called Uber when your plane lands and a modestly priced limo will be there to meet you at the curb.

Uber was a genius business idea. Somebody (Mr. Uber?) noticed that limo drivers, between their morning trip to the airport and their evening run to take clients to the Philharmonic, were sitting around in their gorgeous black cars doing the crossword puzzle. Mr. Uber put all those down-time drivers on a network, where they can opt in to be notified and hired if they are in close proximity to a client who needs a ride.

For those of us PXEers who have lost our driving privileges due to poor vision, this is a great service.

The cost to clients is way below that of a regular limo, maybe 10% higher than a taxi (and a much nicer ride). Tip is included, and you text the company a rating (1-5) of your driver after each ride to insure quality.

To get started, you register online with the company. When you need them, simply text Uber your address, and they will text you back, asking for confirmation. When they get it, they say, okay, back to you in 2 minutes.  In 2 minutes they send you the driver’s ETA. (You can also contact them through an app on your smart phone.)

While I still try to bum rides from willing friends and relatives for many things, for those times when nobody’s available or you just don’t want to ask, Uber can make you feel almost as independent as you did when you could drive. It’s now available in many cities, and I highly recommend that you check it out.


For more articles by Jessica Harper, visit http://www.jessicaharper.com and http://www.thecrabbycook.com.