Thursday, June 24, 2021

Life & Style

Germ Warfare

This particular column is brought to you courtesy of the man in front of me at Stop & Shop who open-mouth coughs then wipes his nose with his hand before touching anything and everything. Thanks for sharing, Bud.

Mid-winter is a tough time to go out in public. It’s cold, it’s usually sleeting, and germs are lurking on every surface. Or at least it seems that way. I hibernate like a possum each winter, digging into my burrow of blankets and only come out when I have to come out. My alarm assaults my ears each morning, forcing me to leave my nest and enter the world. I can’t afford my burrow of blankets if I don’t earn my paycheck after all.

I get out of bed in the dark, creaky as an old ship. I am the Mayflower at the end of its long journey across the sea, listing to the right with sails askew and my timbers shouting and bulging in a riot against the elements. What is going on? It’s raw and I’m another year older, but I’m not a hundred years older? Why is it so difficult to move in the morning? And why do I have arthritic pain like the old crone in Snow White must have had? Why do my hands feel like they should look like hers as she thrust out that apple, her tortured fingers wrapped like vines around the fruit? I’m not an old crone yet. Really, I’m not. I call my doctor and get checked out. Turns out I have Lyme disease. I’ve had it before and it always manifests itself in joint pain rather than a bulls-eye rash.

I’m sick but not contagious, so I get antibiotics and keep working. I probably contracted the disease over the summer, but since I never got a rash or found a tick, I had no idea. It’s not until my joints start behaving like they belong to a centenarian that I take notice.

I’m the only one in the office with Lyme disease, but I’m not the only one who’s ill. The office is one big ol’ petri dish. All offices are at this time of year. One person has bronchitis and a sinus infection, as if having either one isn’t bad enough. Others have colds and at times there’s a chorus of hacking like frogs in a pond who smoke too much. Those who have children get the dreaded Stomach Bug. I will capitalize because this is the most feared of all office ailments. The Most Feared. No one is afraid of my Lyme disease because it’s not communicable. We’re all vaguely concerned about the bronchitis and the colds, but figure we can take careful steps to avoid contact with the afflicted.

As for the Stomach Bug, the idea of contracting it and having it come on like the Acela Express train while I’m at work and then having to drive all the way home hoping my system stays in control long enough for me to get to my very own Bathroom of Solitude (I capitalize again), is not good at all. Being ill at work is bad enough, but being that kind of ill is mortifying.

And so we all Purell bomb our hands at every chance. Lysol is sprayed like Agent Orange over the desk and phone of the latest victim who has declared absence due to Stomach Bug. Even the person’s chair gets a Lysol shower. You can’t be too careful. Antibiotic washes and wipes are our swords and shields. Let the battle begin!

My antibiotic pills are like little soldiers in my bloodstream, brawling with the enemy that is Lyme. As for the flu and the Stomach Bug, antibiotics won’t help. So I will do my best to fight them through those days and nights when everything is locked up tight as a barrier against the chill and germs are bouncing off the walls. I will fight them off like a Jedi until spring, also known as allergy season. Or should I say, Allergy Season?


Juliana Gribbins is a writer who believes that absurdity is the spice of life. Her book Date Expectations is winner of the 2016 IPPY silver medal for humor. Write to her at Read more of her columns at

Juliana Gribbins is the Columnist for Zip06. Email Juliana at .

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