How to make an infectious disease vaguely enjoyable

I spent this past weekend suffering from the horrible malady of pink eye—the highly contagious and widely feared disease that infects those who are constantly surrounded by various unwashed surfaces and bodies. In other words, college students. It’s not a huge surprise when you get sick at college, because everyone is constantly touching each other. I think I got licked the other day while I was in line at the Kiosk. At home, being sick is easy, because you can just hide out in your house until you’ve recovered and then emerge back into the world when you’re ready.

College is a bit different. When hiding out in your house in college, you just happen to be surrounded by a few hundred other people that for some reason don’t take kindly to being asked to leave so you can roam the halls without an eye-patch. Lucky for my fellow students, during my time of illness, I believe that I have discovered the secret to having the most enjoyable sickness possible (is that possible?) and I have emerged from my hibernation to share a few tidbits of knowledge.

First, be willing to grovel. People will pity you no matter what, but pity doesn’t always manifest in the form of aid; when you have pink-eye, it often manifests in people running away from you at high speeds trying not to vomit. That’s OK; sometimes people just need a little extra help to be good. For me, this was very easy, because the nature of my illness made it so that I already appeared to have been crying for hours on end, which really tends to spur kindness in others.

However, if you don’t happen to be as lucky as I was, a few well-placed fake tears can always do the trick. And really, how hard is it to cry when you’re sick? You haven’t slept in days and yet are still expected to read 200 pages of Socrates, who is purposefully being obtuse. You also should have called Mom last weekend, but you didn’t, and why does your roommate smell like cheese and insist on wearing those cowboy boots? That would bring anyone to tears. Yes, I understand that you don’t want your reputation to be tarnished, but suck it up for a day or two. You can punch someone once you’re better just to counteract your supposed wimpiness.

If you don’t want to cry, then a faked scratchy voice will do the trick. The beautiful part of this symptom is that it goes along with almost every illness out there. Have a cold? Scratchy voice from the coughing. Stomach bug? Throat is irritated from all of that stomach acid flowing its way up your throat in the form of puke (I hope you aren’t reading this while eating). Broke your leg? You can’t sleep and therefore your immune system is compromised and therefore you got a cold and therefore you have a scratchy voice. It is truly a versatile aid.

Next, if your illness manifests itself as an obvious physical abnormality, point it out to people as much as possible. Speaking to people when you have pink eye is a difficult task, because not only do you have a red and swollen eye, but that eye also happens to continually produce a disgusting and almost-but-not-quite-clear fluid at the most inopportune moments that makes it look like you are crying. Consequently, people will think you are extremely sad that the Deece ran out of Cinnamon Toast Crunch (the taste you can see! Well, I can’t, thanks to my pink-eye, but some people probably can). Through this tactic, if you’re smart, you can put a positive spin on your sickly looks. “No, I have a black eye, not pink eye, you’re just color blind so you can’t tell. You should see the other guy”.

You will be golden if you are willing to sit in your room with minimal stimulation for hours on end, because that is likely what your life will be for a few days. Now, this is a difficult art form, so don’t expect to get it perfectly on the first try. Blankets are key. Make a bit of a straight jacket with your blankets, tucking them tightly into the sides and slipping in at the top like a sleeping bag. Also, it’s best to stockpile a bunch of television shows and/or movies (but no books), because the less you use your brain, the better. Over the past few days I have worked my way through season 9 of Friends (I have also started an org dedicated to Chandler Bing’s sweater vests) and had beautiful dreams about that kiss Mila Kunis and Justin Timberlake share at the end of Friends with Benefits.

Overall, being sick in college sucks, but there are ways to make it better and much more manageable. You just have to commit to a lifestyle change for a few days. It’s not like you’re giving up gluten, or something nightmarish like that. By the time you emerge from your cave of sickness back into the real world, you will be so tired of being in your room that you will stay away from your old habits of sitting on your bed and watching Miley Cyrus’s music videos instead of doing your work. Don’t worry though, that motivation won’t last.

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