Now that I’m symptom-free and have successfully crossed the membrane into olde Europa, I feel confident(ish) sharing about my recent quarantine anxieties. So, um, I had swine flu. Don’t believe the hype: it is unpleasant and certainly not to be scoffed at, but really, not much more dangerous, apparently, than a ‘normal’ influenza. It’s unusual for its rapid intercontinental spread, and for its failure to adhere to the regularly scheduled flu ‘season,’ which begins in mid- to late-autumn. I had it when the weather was still all summery with blazing sunshine, and it knocked me over for a couple of days. During that time, I was unable to remain conscious for for than a few hours, I had a high fever, and my body ached in a dispiriting preview of arthritis – every joint was creaky and painful, but the pain did not, unfortunately, give me the old-timer’s ability to predict the weather. After that, no other symptoms but a persistent chest cough and generalized exhaustion.
Not too bad, all things considered. Except that I was planning to travel to Austria. I read a bunch of interwebs and got my head all full of Gattaca-like visions: Passport Kontrol would include a sophisticated bioscan, and when I walked through the metal detector, my slightly-feverish body would be illuminated in alarming red on an imaging screen. Thereafter I would be shoved into a plastic biohazard suit, surrounded by stormtroopers with menacing-sounding breathing apparatuses, hustled into a starkly-lit white room, probed with painful silver needles and alien probosci, and have a large red ‘X’ painted across my forehead with indelible, photo-luminescent paint. After the administration of a strong paralytic that would render my body limp and useless while my mind remained acutely conscious, I would be subjected to extraordinary rendition in a modified butcher’s truck with human bloodstains on the filthy floor. And then awake to find myself nameless and without documents in some quarantine camp for lepers.
It didn’t quite play out like that. The border guard at Charles de Gaulle barely glanced at my precious American passport. It was 5 am; the customs officials weren’t even on duty yet; I passed unmolested through the nothing-to-declare door and into the chill pre-dawn air of Freedom. (Don’t think for a moment that I had left it to chance, however – Dr. Feelgood had provided me with a powerful combination of cough suppressants and industrial-strength fever reducers before the journey. BTW, who knew you could get a vicodin scrip for a COUGH?)
Which is all a long-winded way of saying that I’ve been thinking a bit about the concept of quarantine. Edible Geography is sponsoring a cultural ‘workshop’ on quarantine: participants read texts and create artworks and discussion on the matter. The website has a lovely reading list that might interest you. Especially if you’ve been feeling a little peaked lately.