For years we were beleagured by the common cold. We caught them often when we were students, and later in our teaching days. There is no question: students are grubby. A friend in high school once cracked me up by saying, “If you’re doing it right, you don’t have to wash your hands.” In those days we rinsed our hands cursorily, but the powdered soap in restrooms didn’t come into play much until college (“It abrades our hands!”). And washing hands didn’t become a serious thing until the signs saying EMPLOYEES MUST WASH THEIR HANDS cropped up in every public restroom.
At a converted depot some years ago, we read our first sign about singing “Happy Birthday” twice while you wash your hands. We washed our hands thoroughly, though not for two rounds. And then a few years ago, I began to take fewer long bike rides, mainly because of sanitation issues in the few public restrooms on the trails. Am I a sissy or simply a seer?
Can you be nostalgic for the common cold? The common cold is grim , but it is preferable to Covid-19–and there’s no comparison, I know. And yet there’s no cure for the common cold, just as there’s none for the coronavirus. In Carolyn See’s literary apocalyptic novel, Golden Days (which I wrote about here), the heroine’s best friend impatiently taps her fingers on the nose of a man with a cold, and the snot flies out. He is cured. I once tried tapping my sinuses once, but it didn’t work. Where are the magic healers
Who gets a cold in literature? I wonder.
In the modern era, we turn to anicent measures: we combine Seneca’s stoicism (“Avoid the crowd”) with old-fashioned medical advice (“Wash your hands”).
Let’s all stay well and practice social distancing!