Like many people with jobs, my least favorite part of the day is commuting. I loathe it with a passion.
As I am NOT (at any stretch of the imagination) a “people” person, becoming trapped in a metal tube pressed up against a large (and mostly pungent) number of them while hurtling unceremoniously through the grimy underbelly of London is… quite frankly… a daily torture.
I am also quite a germ freak. This is due to experiences where I contracted debilitating illnesses from contact with the aforementioned great unwashed.
Like the time I worked as a beauty consultant during my teens. Specifically the day a client sneezed directly onto my face / in my mouth while I was giving her a makeover – and went back to gabbing about her kids as if nothing had just happened. She later offhandedly mentioned that she was currently suffering from Glandular Fever and that was why she was ‘treating’ herself. As you can imagine a little while later I too became very ill with Glandular Fever and decided this was a sign from the cosmetological Gods to quit my job.
The next instance of being on the receiving end of someone elses germs and suffering the consequences was when accidentally attending a chicken pox party (to my distinct and itchy detriment). First of all, before you judge me, I didn’t know I was at a chicken pox party at the time. My ex boyfriend (Mr Wrong) was Portuguese and his family always spoke rapidly in their native tongue when they were together. Regardless of who was in the vicinity and could not understand them. Which was rude, but there we go. One Saturday we visited his mother and there was the usual heaving crowd of relatives there. One of Mr Wrongs cousins toddled over to me and I noticed she had what looked like a few scabby spots on her face. I thought it was just acne and shrugged it off – because we’ve all been there.
She wanted to sit on my knee. So, like a trooper, I let her.
As soon as she made contact with my lap the whole room FROZE. There was what could only be described as an ‘Iberian gasp.’
Now – I knew it would take something monumental to get these people to stop talking. So when I looked up and they were all staring slack-jawed at me, I knew I was in trouble.
It turns out Mr Wrongs cousin had chickenpox and we had unknowingly wandered into the middle of a chickenpox party.
I had experienced chickenpox as a baby thanks to Bigsister, but somehow (because this is me) I only had chickenpox down one side of my body. But that still counted – right?… I couldn’t possibly get it a second time!
Wrong. So very wrong.
Two weeks later was in the depths of misery. Bedridden, itchy and abandoned by both (ex)boyfriend and housemate *a nurse* (who both went to stay with friends despite both already having had the chickenpox). I was unable to venture forth to get groceries and had to fend for myself via Tesco home delivery. Spending the majority of my day immersed in salt baths and plotting my revenge.
Amazingly enough that relationship didn’t work out.
Anyway – factor in these two of many other mumpy, fluish, tonsillitis and projectile vomit centric instances of infection at the hands of other people if you will and hopefully you might understand why I recoiled in horror on witnessing the following.
I was on the underground, walking behind a non descript guy and noticed (to my disgust) he was clearing his nostrils… into his cupped hand.
There was no tissue. Just bare skin.
First of all, allow me to pause and inwardly gag for a moment because I genuinely almost threw up watching this happen inches away from me.
So, there he was, merrily snorting mucus into his hand in a crowd of commuters… as if this was perfectly normal. He clearly got more than he bargained for because he looked into his palm, his eyebrows went up and then he (while walking along hoping nobody had seen) balled said mucus up and (on reaching a staircase we were all being forced to walk down thanks to a broken down escalator) – he took the hand with the balled up snot and casually smeared his palm containing the snot along the underside of the handrail as he descended the stairs…
Well – didn’t I just die.
Regardless of my understandable fear of contracting yet ANOTHER awful illness thanks to some selfish asshole refusing to grasp the basic concept of ‘coughs and sneezes spread diseases,’ this was truly disgusting.
This ungodly blob of a person suddenly clocked onto the fact I was standing behind him, had eyeballs and saw the whole thing – and promptly ran down the rest of the stairwell two at a time and as fast as he could.
Basically, before I could form an angry mob.
I told the disinterested platform conductor what had happened and also informed the transport police – but neither seemed very bothered about this sort of instance of pubic indecency.
But what if patient zero had had some form of illness from an exotic and far off land? What if he had had one of those resistant forms of flu you hear about in the news? What if he had Zika?
As far as I am concerned, the underground is a Petri dish of viral plague waiting to claim its next victim and this experience has done NOTHING to dispel this theory. I for one now feel far less self conscious about always being armed with leather gloves, tissues and antibacterial gel whenever I travel.
Germs are a sometimes scary and yet necessary part of life, but we should keep them to ourselves.
… Especially big handfuls of them snorted into our palms.