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Blog: Now I play the 'worse illness than you' game
Catch it, Bin it, Kill it. That, we are told, is how we can keep coughs and colds to ourselves and prevent germs spreading to others.
But that advert obviously hasn’t reached some members of the population.
And that is the reason why I never sit beside the window on the train to work.
On too many occasions, I’ve sat on the inside (my preferred option) with my newspaper, ready for the hour-long journey, when I’ve been joined by a travelling companion who really should be in an isolation ward.
The first indication that all is not well comes before they even sit down, and you notice their nose is redder than Rudolph’s. Then there’s the smell – a heady mix of Vicks Inhaler and Olbas Oil, and, if you listen carefully, a low sucking noise, as they erode yet another Strepsil.
All this wouldn’t be too bad, but then the sniffing starts. Not the silent sniff of a rabbit, but great snorts, like they’re Hoovering up bucketloads of snot. Then they go rigid and lean back slightly and you know it’s coming – a sneeze like a force nine, mid-Atlantic blast, that showers droplets all over the little fold-up tray in front.
It’s disgusting. What puzzles me is that with many cold-sufferers there’s not a tissue in sight. If you’'ve got a heavy cold, surely it makes sense to carry a pack of Kleenex.
Worse, are those people who carry one tiny scrap of tissue which they use all day long. As they pull it from their sleeve, bits break off and when they blow their nose most of it goes on their fingers.
Sitting next to someone like this, you are bound to inhale at least one of the million particles emitted with every sneeze, and you’re almost sure to catch a cold.
Far from Catch it, Bin it, Kill it – many people Release it, Distribute it (as widely as possible) and Infect others with it.
Frequently, I pull my scarf up around my head, winding it around so I look like an extra from Lawrence of Arabia. I don’t know whether wool is a particularly good filter system, but until – like the Japanese – we all start wearing masks as we go about our business, it is my only form of defence. It might seem rude, but it’s better than spending five days in bed with a temperature.
I’m thinking of getting a balaclava, but it might ruin my carefully coiffured hair.
So now I sit in the aisle seat on the train and if anyone with a red nose looks likely to join me, I play the ‘worse illness than you’ game, start scratching my head and drooling at the mouth. It does the trick.