If there’s one thing I’ve learned about people, it’s that they love a good whinge. Especially here in the UK, where complaining is considered a national pastime. The weather is a good go-to moaning topic, and with temperatures this week across the UK returning to sub-zero iciness, people are giddy with anticipation of great opportunities to let loose a stream of weather-related grumbles.
There are of course plenty of things to complain about: joblessness, homelessness, listlessness, the list goes on.
But, regardless of content, at the core of each of our mini-rants is the very human need to connect with other people; our desire to feel that the way that we feel about things – and by extension who we are – has an impact on them. We want empathy, sympathy, and outrage, but most of all, we want to matter.
Which is why I love cold and flu season. With all of the sniffling, sneezing and attendant traveling of germs from one sickly orifice into another, people finally start to truly communicate – even if it’s only through the medium of infectious diseases.
It may seem insignificant, but a single well-timed sneeze on the bus and you’re influencing literally dozens of other people in a very real way. Poking ex-lovers and friends-of-friends through the impersonal medium Facebook does not compare to the very primordial interface of germ transference via sweaty bus poles.
And, as a further minty vapo-rub on the chest cold of our alienation, having a fever and runny nose gives the people you’ve infected something to kvetch about.
And there’s nothing people love more than grousing about a very personal inconvenience. None of this, “I have a neighbour who had a four-hour sneezing fit!”, or “My Nan took so much cough syrup she hallucinated a scene from Inception,” or some other once-or-twice removed complaint. No. Thanks to you, this shit is now real – it happened to them!
What’s more, you’ve given them an infection that they, in turn, can also pass on. To friends, loved ones, strangers, and co-workers. Forget the Christmas Cuisanart or flop-eared puppy, the flu is the seasonal gift that truly keeps on giving.
I’m currently nursing a hodge-podge of flu-type symptoms: runny nose, head cold, and a deep chesty cough. Concurrently, I am trying to get as much time on public transit as I can, bravely putting myself out there into this cold and impersonal city.
What’s more, to anyone who doesn’t mind listening, I’ve got a stream of viral laments I’m more than happy to share with you. Whilst coughing in your face.
Pass it on.