The problem with being a hypochondriac is that you don’t know if you really are one. It’s like asking “Will your answer to this question be no?” The only safe answer is MAYBE. If you tell me you have a headache, I’ll be taking Ibuprofen and massaging my furrowed brow thirty seconds later. If you’re a female friend complaining to me about your period pains, the uncomfortable contraction of my imaginary uterus will not be far behind.
The recent scare stories about the Norovirus epidemic have left me in little doubt about my psychological shortcomings. I sit on the tube trying to concentrate on my book, but become distracted by the compulsion to identify all the sick people sitting near me. I’m especially wary of breeders. I’m like the child catcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang – ‘There are chil-dren here, I can SMELL them!’
Here’s why it’s such a concern. Molly and Tarquin have gone back to school after the Christmas holidays, their little immune systems all compromised and sketchy. They run around in the cold, playing games of spitballs and kiss-chase, which spreads the Norovirus like a pukey plague. Then they go home to Mummy and Daddy and give them big sloppy kisses, infecting them. Ma and Pa then cough and splutter on the tube, passing on the lurgey.
I’m terrified. See, I HAD the norovirus a couple of years ago, and it was the worst 48 hours of my life. I know I’m prone to exaggeration, but this time I’m serious. If my body had an off-switch, I’d have pressed it. I would have been grateful for instant death. The upshot is, I’ve been holding my breath when amongst crowds and washing my hands like Macbeth on speed since Monday.
One thing I’ve often wondered is why we can’t see viruses with the naked eye. We have all kinds of weird oddities of human-ness, such as music and dance (providing the evolutionary benefit of mass communication and attracting sexual partners) and we can distinguish colours so our ancestors wouldn’t unwittingly eat green meat, but we can’t see something that will make us puke constantly for 2 days! Fuck you, blind watchmaker!