Tuesday, February 14, 2006

1st Graders: The Carriers of Disease

About a week ago, the entire family and I decided to go out into the winter elements to get some errands done. You know, the innocuous trek to the grocery to pick up basic food necessities such as milk, bread, eggs, bacon and of course assorted babyfood ranging from peas to chicken and rice to beef and potatoes to the ever popular desert among babies from 5 to 9 months--Hawaiian Delight. How they puree chicken and rice to a consistency that matches smashed banana I have no idea. But I digress.

One of the stops that day was to the eye doctor to pick up my FIRST pair of glasses. I hadn't had an eye exam since the pre-internet days so I knew glasses were in my future. Plus, the shelf-life of my left bionic eye being only 7 years was due for a refit.

While I was busy picking out frames, my wife was entertaining my son by playing peek-a-boo among the endless rectangular mirrors in-between the ecletic styles of frames throughout the store. He was getting a bit cranky so she put him in his removable car seat and started feeding him lunch. It wasn't the best setup but you make due when your arsenal of baby needs doesn't include a traveling high-chair.

As my son was eating lunch, a family consisting of a mom and two kids probably age seven or eight walked into the store. The mom made a mad dash to the checkout desk to pick up her prescription. The kids, however didn't follow. They made a beeline to my son who was quietly eating lunch.

As a parent, you develop a second sense when danger might be lurking. On this day, I realized that I had developed this power. Soon, my "spider-sense" was tingling bigtime. Almost immediately, I turned around and these kids were talking to my son. No problem, right? Normally that would be true. Except this day, these kids were hacking up phloem as if they had smoked 3 packs of non-filtered cigarettes on the car ride over! Their eyes were bloodshot, the bottoms of their nose were red with irritation and the snot was running out of their noses like a leaky spicket puddling on their upper lip! Instantly, the words Pneumonia and Sinusitis repeated themselves in my head like a huge, blinking neon sign.

Not used to my new glasses, I stumbled over to everyone congregating around my son. The disease infested kids paid no attention to me. So, I leaned over to my wife and start mumbling different random diseases:

"Bronchitis, pneumonia, whooping cough, The Black Plague--one of these kids has to be named one of these", I said.

My wife who usually corrects me when I am somewhat blunt in public started to laugh uncontrollably partly because what I said was, frankly funny, but it also served as a therapy mechanism that dulled the prospect of our son coming down with a prolonged illness of the likes that hadn't been seen since the SARS epidemic.

From that point on, the first graders handling our kid were referred to as: Bronchitis and Emphysema

As a paranoid father, who desperately wanted his child's streak of non-sick days to continue until he's 18, I needed to jump into action. Do I pull the kids away from my child and soak them in antibacterial soap? Should I risk actually touching these kids potentially exposing myself to the Bubonic Plague they were carrying? Do I call their mother over and ask her nicely to remove her disease infested children whose DNA was being re-written to resemble some alien, snot producing lifeform from the SCI-FI Channel? Do I Purel my son's hands, face and other exposed skin and run the risk of showing the mother through my actions that their kids are spreading their germs to my infant son? Or do I ignore this and hope that everything will be alright?

All of these scenarios went through my head in the span of a few seconds and thankfully I didn't have to act on any of these possibilities. Why? Because, my wife saved the day as only a mother can.

She calmly told the kids who doubled as a petry dish to not touch my son because he was not feeling well and that he might pass along his germs to them. Upon hearing this, I couldn't fathum my son passing along any germ that could have been more potent then the bacteria that resided on these kids. Almost immediately, they moved a few feet back from my son although more curious than ever. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, their mom finished her business and made her way to the door followed by the kids. They left the store and I breathed a sigh of relief now that my son was by himself and hopefully free of contaminants.

Like a season of "24", a biological disaster was averted that day all because of my wife's quick thinking and unorthodox tactics. Sure, all my wife did was turn the situation on its head by pretending that my son was the carrier of disease but it worked.

What did we learn from all of this? Simple. Quarantine all first graders until spring because they are carriers of disease.

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