In a few hours, I’m going to get both my flu shot and my H1N1 vaccine. Luckily, NYU is making these sometimes hard-to-get shots available to students, but I know that many New Yorkers do not enjoy the benefits of group health care. What do you do then when someone on your train is hacking up a lung without so much as cursory attempt to cover his or her mouth?
In today’s economy, people can ill afford to take sick days. Workers need to be at their best, and most people need the money. When one gets sick, one is often inclined to ride it out while heading to work, and generally, riding it out means, literally, riding on the subway while sick. Meanwhile, with Swine Flu fears on the rise, with the government proclaiming health emergencies, New Yorkers generally wary of the petri dish of the subways are even less tolerance of the underground coughers.
Today, Lawrence Delevinge has a story for our times about a fight on his D train over Swine Flu fears:
If you think tensions over swine flu are exaggerated, think again. We saw a violent altercation between two women this morning on the New York City subway because of H1N1.
The D train was traveling south from Rockefeller Center (50th Street) to Bryant Park (42nd Street) shortly after 8:00 am. One woman, perhaps 5’7″, slightly overweight and with dyed reddish blond hair, was coughing without covering her mouth. Maybe it was swine flu, maybe not.
Another woman, roughly 5’2″, stocky, with her blond hair in a slicked-back bun, was nearby, clearly displeased. She made a curt comment to the first woman, something to the effect of “you need to cover your mouth — I don’t want swine flu.”
The second woman continued to yell at the cougher, berating her until she reacted, beginning to curse back. It escalated, and the accosting woman yelled “get the conductor!”
No one got the conductor — it just seemed like a shouting match — but as the train pulled into 42nd Street, the coughing woman spit on the other, provoking what sounded like a punch from the reaction of the crowd (we didn’t directly see it). Then the cougher attempted to exit the train as the doors were open, but the second woman grabbed her by the back of the hair, violently yanking her down to the floor.
Eventually, the two were separated, and one of the women got off at 34th St. The other passengers, though, sided with the displeased straphanger. They noted that the offender “wasn’t even covering her mouth,” and another passenger said that he “could have decked her too. That swine flu is treacherous.”
There is little doubt in my mind what the proper course of action is. Although these two women should not have come to blows, a person who is sick but has to ride the subway must make every effort to limit the spray. I routinely see people coughing without covering their mouths, and it is, frankly, disgusting. Even without Swine Flu fears, people riding the subway should be more mindful of their germs. With the threat of a debilitating illness, though, now is the time to be ever-vigilant.
I know some of you might say I don’t go far enough. Maybe people who are sick shouldn’t ride the subways at all. In an ideal world, they would stay home and recuperate. But when a sick day isn’t an option, the rest of us on a packed subway car shouldn’t have to suffer as well.