The Passing Parade: Cheap Shots from a Drive By Mind

"...difficile est saturam non scribere. Nam quis iniquae tam patiens urbis, tam ferreus, ut teneat se..." " is hard not to write Satire. For who is so tolerant of the unjust City, so steeled, that he can restrain himself... Juvenal, The Satires (1.30-32)

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

DR. JENNER, PLEASE PICK UP YOUR PHONE: Our children’s librarian was out sick for most of this past week. Illness is a bit of an occupational hazard with her, as it is with most children’s librarians, since they must, by job definition if nothing else, spend an inordinate amount of time with small children. This is not a good thing for anyone’s health, as small children are, next to dung heaps, mosquitoes, and Typhoid Mary, among the world’s greatest carriers and breeders of dangerous diseases. There might be a malarial swamp somewhere in the Burmese backcountry that has your average toddler beat in this department, but frankly, I wouldn’t bet on it. It only takes the amount of time necessary to read Curious George goes to the hospital to turn the internal organs of a perfectly healthy children’s librarian into a seething mosh pit of plague and pestilence, if that’s not being redundant.

Given these facts, which are well known to the political and public health authorities from one end of the nation to the other, it is still surprising that no one in a position of authority has done anything about this danger to the nation’s health and well-being. Billions of man-hours and dollars are lost every year to this ongoing menace, and yet the government refuses to take any prophylactic measures against this hazard and one must wonder why this is the case. It’s not like nobody knows about this threat. Even within my limited sphere, I can see the menace in action. Small children brimming over with every contagion known to medical science routinely wander around this egregious mold pit, coughing and sneezing and otherwise spewing dangerous microorganisms at the passersby like little viral shotguns. If that were not bad enough in itself, these children seldom, if ever, cover their mouths and noses when they emit their microbial barrages, and even if they do, they think nothing afterwards of rubbing their disease-ridden paws over books, computers, and anything else that can help them spread dangerous diseases to the unsuspecting masses.

Clearly, the government must do something about this threat. If a hostile foreign government somehow managed to introduce a biological weapon and delivery system as efficient as your average toddler into the country, the Federal government would regard the act as nothing less than a casus belli and rightfully so. But against the enemy within, an enemy we see and hear and demands supper from us every day, the American public seems utterly unwilling to take the steps necessary to defend this our Great Republic and our American way of life. In such cases, the people must take action on their own and not wait for government to make up its mind about what to do about the threat to the nation’s health. Here are a few practical steps you can take to lessen the biological hazard in your own home.

First, write your elected representatives. This will accomplish nothing, but you have to buy a stamp to mail you screed and the money helps the good folks at the Post Office in beer and pretzels. It may make you feel better, but this is merely the placebo effect in action; make sure you have a couple of shots of vodka on the rocks with a twist of lemon after you mail the letter. This really will make you feel better and the alcohol content will protect you from most microbes. Having done this, you may want to imbed your children in that heavy plastic wrapping they sell everything in nowadays. You know what I mean, don’t you, those big plastic things with the tiny bubble in the middle that contains the thing you actually bought and now can’t get to because of the plastic wrapping. Imbedding your children in that stuff is a good way of making sure that their microbiological life stays away from you. You should toss a couple of sandwiches in with your child before you imbed them; they might get a little hungry in there. You will be completely safe from disease with an imbedded child, and the heavy plastic wrapping makes it easy to store your child in the trunk of your station wagon when going on family vacations. At the moment, there is no set limit to how long you should keep your child imbedded; some experts say until age six, others to age nine. Just to be on the safe side, it might be wise to keep them in the plastic until after they graduate from high school. That way you can avoid both childhood disease and adolescent whining, and you can save a fortune in airline tickets by sending them to college via Federal Express.

Sterilization is another good way of preventing your child from infecting you and everyone else in your neighborhood. This tends to be a little harder to do than imbedding them in plastic, as children tend to dislike boiling water intensely. There are a number of ways around this, however. For a complete sterilization, you may want to rub the infected child down with alcohol; four six-packs or a couple of bottles of a fortified wine like Thunderbird will eliminate the majority of microbes on your youngster, as well as several thousand brain cells the child would never have used anyway, and make the boiling process that much easier to accomplish. During football season, parents might want to have some chips and salsa ready when disinfecting their child; this will help you save money on entertaining and will give your usual light beer an interesting aftertaste. As an unintended side effect, pathogens slaughtered in this manner confer on the drinker some small degree of immunity from an entire host of child-borne diseases.

Most parents prefer this method of sterilization, as boiling tends to be a bit problematical, since children don’t like cleaning themselves in the first place and are apt to lie like bandits to get themselves out of any hot water they may find themselves in. You might want to consider putting some onions, carrots, or some other vegetable into the pot with them, but this may give the game away, as children, as a class, tend to regard vegetables with the same suspicion the rest of us reserve for disk jockeys, politicians, and life insurance salesmen.

Other, more theoretical suggestions the government is now testing include the construction of large wind tunnels that will fit in your average sized home. The idea behind this came from a Mrs. Beulah T. Cosgrove, of Deer Park, NY, who had such an apparatus put into her home in 1962 and has not had a cold, the flu, or any other child-borne disease from that day until this, despite her having four children, a dog, and a hamster named Sam. The idea here is very simple; at the first sniffle, the parent isolates the child in a bedroom at the far end of the wind tunnel and then switches the power on. Mrs. Cosgrove had to set the wind speed on her tunnel manually, but the modern wind tunnel is fully digital, and so the concerned parent merely has to punch in 85 miles an hour and let the fan do the rest of the work. No microbe can infect anyone else in the family in such a wind, although your next-door neighbor might object to your bombarding his house with pathogens. A blast fence similar to those used on aircraft carriers might be a wise investment for people who want to use the prophylactic wind tunnel in their homes. Just as a sidebar here, the tunnel also makes a wonderful snow blower, for those of you who do not live in the Sun Belt.

All of these methods; this list is by no means definitive; have both good and bad points, but all of them will help preserve you from diseases, especially child-borne diseases. We tend to give such diseases short shrift and this is always a mistake. In our modern age forewarned is forearmed, and ignoring children as they undermine the nation’s health is always and everywhere a danger to us all. Only when the government finally pulls its head out of the sand on this issue will the prospect of cold and flu season finally cease wracking the nation on an annual basis. If the government does not want to take these steps, then at the very least it should allow the rest of us to escape the pestilence. I don’t mind going to Bermuda, all expenses paid, until the kids get over whatever it is they have this week.


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