Always read your IHE “Quick Takes”; I can vouch for their accuracy. This past week they noted that 92% of campuses being monitored across the country were reporting new cases of H1N1 flu. Indeed, I was one of them.
At least I had the “flu-like symptoms” that short of a specific test are being taken as evidence of the illness formerly know as swine flu. Anything flu-ish, before the seasonal flu has arrived, is being treated like H1N1 here. Our campus is holding a seminar next week on how to handle student and instructor absences, and it’s going to be needed to hash out dropped readings from the syllabus, missed quiz grades, and busted-up attendance policies.
Last Sunday I’d taken the kids to campus in order to pick something up at the office. It was a cool sunny morning and we played soccer on the quad and ate lunch at the Pita Pit. That night I started feeling incredibly tired and congested; Monday, still thinking I just had the start of a bad cold, I was able to conduct my midterm review in the giant lecture hall without getting near students. But after midnight that night I suddenly spiked a 105-degree fever and lay in bed for the next three days, something I haven’t done since I was a child, stoked on ibuprofen and Tamiflu. I missed the whole teaching week. Luckily I have some of the best TAs anywhere, who administered and proctored the midterm I finished writing in bed.
I hate fever and have always been sensitive to it. It still makes me think of being a kid, sick on winter nights in a cold bed, blankets heavy on my feet, and the TV muttering incoherently in a distant room. My synaptical connections scramble like egg proteins at the slightest touch of fever, and things begin to get trippy and brittle very quickly, the world taking on a glassy brilliance, with dew sparkling like crystals in the grass.
Worse, nights are filled with fever dreams: Hammerheads, numerous as sperm, swimming circles around an invisible egg, far up near the surface I must get to before my air runs out; the little wart on my finger sprouts the plant known as Hens-and-Chicks, and when I rub it off, it sprouts back more fiercely each time in succulent rosettes.
And the worst—the very worst? An unending mental loop of the song “Food,” from the musical Oliver, as sung by the vultures in Ice Age 2. (“Magical food!” warbles the bulging-eyed fledgling in this bad copy from some guy’s TV set, which makes it all the more horrible and like my dreams).
When I’m really sick I also have a hard time reading, a genuinely hellish fact that makes me hope that, many years from now when my time really comes, I drop quickly from the top of my elephant, as I’m crossing the Alps to face the Roman Legions, rather than suffer some long, non-reading infirmity.
Wait, what’d I just say?
I was able to read one good book in bed this week—the fact that I could read it when I couldn’t get interested in much else is testament to its interest and quality—and I’ll tell you about it soon. But for now I must force myself to read the midterm exams that have arrived back on my front stoop as if by magic, courtesy of a goateed, Mephistophelean figure in the rain, who says his name is Dave, the TA.
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