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)

Sunday, June 19, 2011

ETIQUETTE AND THE WORLD OF MICROBES: I have cellulitis. I’m sorry, but as look at that first sentence I realize that I shouldn’t sound so sure of myself. I think I have cellulitis; that’s actually much closer to the truth. But whatever the actual truth of the matter is, I have some form of –itis and it doesn’t want to go away. If you’ve never heard of cellulitis then do not fear; from what I understand the conditions is not contagious and to be honest I’d never heard of cellulitis before this week either, assuming, of course, that cellulitis is what I have. Doctors are like computer technicians in that they think that because they understood what they just said, everyone else must understand what they just said too. This, as we all know, is not always the case, either with bacterial infections or fractious computers. Sometimes things are not as they seem, a condition that helps incumbents get re-elected on a fairly regular basis.

In any case, I disapprove of contracting diseases that I’ve never heard of. It seems more than a little rude to me for some microbe to take up residence in my left hand without so much as asking for an introduction or leaving a security deposit. I am not in the habit of imposing myself on others and I see no reason why I should permit others to impose on me. I am not running a hot sheets hotel for bacteria here. If I am going to be sick, then I prefer to give the job to local bacteria that I know and loathe, and whose death via antibiotic I can therefore savor with a clear conscience and maybe a small parade. Contracting cellulitis, and again, this is with the proviso that the condition afflicting my left hand at the moment is in fact cellulitis and not some other altogether disgusting and loathsome disease, seems the height of bacterial presumption, something on the order of my moving to Ulan Bator for my health and then demanding the Mongolian authorities conduct their official business in English for my convenience. I can see how my relatives can impose on me in this way…well, actually, I can’t see how my relatives can impose on me in this way, they just do impose on me in this way and with very little compunction, I might add, but I cannot see how a bacterium to whom I have no known familial or personal connection can demand the right to make an equal imposition. Charity, I think, only goes so far before it becomes onerous, if not actually socialistic, and then becomes physically painful, which are how things stand with me right at the moment.

I do not wish to point fingers here, especially not with my left hand, which is really not in any condition at the moment to point at anything except the floor, but there is something clearly lacking in the education of young bacteria these days. Once, here in this our Great Republic, the citizenry could count on the public schools to teach young microbes the basic etiquette required to infect the body politic on a truly epic scale, but those days are long gone, it would seem, leaving only the anomic young masses to wander in and out of the school buildings doing as they please.

I suppose that much of this bacterial anomie comes from their condition as bacteria in a world where everyone worries about viruses. After centuries of being the terror of the world, of affecting the course of history by simply appearing in one place or another and killing a million people here and a million people there, Nemesis struck; Sir Alexander Fleming and his orange molds reduced the common bacterium to just one more easily removed annoyance in a world full of easily removed annoyances, whereas viruses have, in their own truly stupid way, stumbled into the title of most feared killer. This must be galling in the extreme for your average microbe, who must wonder if viruses are really alive at all. This is a debatable question, I think, and I am sure of the position most bacterium would take: viruses are too dumb to be alive, as are most Red Sox fans. Frankly, I would prefer that this cellulitis, assuming that it is cellulitis, would infect those people instead of me; I have stuff to do this weekend.

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