The first runny nose of the season might as well be a rail in the coffin of any first-year student. Exposed to a new communal microbiome due to living in close proximity to people who ardently refuse to wash their hands after going to the bathroom, first-years hardly stand a chance when it comes to remaining virus-free.
Throw in students flying back to New York from all corners of the globe after October break trapped in pressurized germ containers populated by sticky infants and unhygienic businesspersons too busy to bother with hand sanitizer, and falling ill becomes all but inevitable.
When Sam Steeves ’21 noticed her roommate sniffling, sneezing, coughing and wheezing, she broke out the Lysol almost immediately. She tended to her ailing friend, the proud owner of a single functioning white blood cell. Steeves offered herbal tea and Nyquil, along with a healthy dose of moral support.
But alas, these extreme efforts of disinfectant and kindness were no match for the latest strain of the common cold. Soon enough, her throat became itchy. She and her roommate, who declined to be interviewed, were spotted making their way to the Deece, their call-and-response coughs echoing across the quad every step of the way.
Steeves commented, “This is just my life now. I’ve accepted my new, lower lung capacity.” She then erupted into a cacophonous coughing fit. Indeed, the two roommates have entered a vicious cycle. The pair reinfects each other with new strains of the same virus in perpetuity.
Steeves and her roommate were far from the only first-years to fall to this formidable foe of an illness. Abby Lass ’21 [Full Disclosure: Lass is the Assistant Online Editor for the Miscellany News] described a particularly poorly timed infection: “My illness started out in my throat, which is just sort of the worst possible scenario since I’m in two choirs and multiple shows. Talking is kind of crucial.”
She chugged as much tea as she could stomach and persevered, but not without extreme discomfort and unfortunate voice cracks. “I pretty much forgot what it is to be able to breathe through my nose,” Lass lamented, sniffling.
Owing to the rarer symptom of watery eyes, she finds herself in a downright deplorable state. Tearfully, she explained, “I’m just weeping constantly and then blinding myself with mascara as I try to rub my eyes to make it stop.” The poor Lass needed more tissues than anyone could feasibly carry around without a dolly.
Unfortunately, the carnage does not end there. Emma Fraizer ’21 experienced the same telltale sign: an almost inconspicuos, seemingly mild sore throat. Convinced that there must be some explanation for her suffering, she told of her search for a diagnosis: “I took my temperature eight times because the thermometer kept on telling me I did not have a fever.”
Fraizer continued, “One time it got up to 99.4, degrees though! That’s sick enough that I don’t have to go to class, right?” As of yet, both the question of this mysterious malady’s identity and Fraizer’s medical advisory status remain unanswered.
Mark Gross ’21 learned the hard way not to belittle the suffering of his fellow first-years. Fed-up with his roommate’s incessant hacking, he made the questionable decision to tempt fate. “I started fake coughing to tease him. But then those turned into real coughs, and I knew in that moment that I would be in pure agony from henceforth,” Gross recalled in a remourseful tone. Let this be a lesson to us all: Never let your guard down when fighting the first-year plague.
Jessica Moss ’21 knew better than to underestimate such a widespread ailment. Taking the matter into her own rubber-gloved hands, she began a rigorous regimen of daily multi-vitamins.
She went through several travel-sized hand sanitizers. She refused to enter the rooms of the infected. So far these tactics have been successful, but no one knows whether they will take her all the way through cold and flu season unscathed.
Perhaps if we all follow Moss’s survival tips, we too can be so fortunate. “Really, all you need is multivitamins and hand sanitizer. Maybe a flu shot as well,” she advised. Or maybe she just has a better immune system than the rest of us have.
In any case, consider this your warning: If you value your ability to breathe deeply without coughing up a lung, be cautious of your surroundings. It’s a germ-infested world out there.