After my trip last week to Atlanta and back I remember why I’m glad I
don’t do long-haul travel much. What a hassle. And today’s Saturday and I’m
nursing a cold I picked up.
Honestly, how do people who travel a lot to business meetings
this time of year stay alive?
You go to a crowded airport, get jammed into 6
different lines with people who are coughing, sneezing and blowing their noses.
Airports are, IMHO, just distribution centers for worldwide traffic in
pathogens. You seal yourself in big, winged aluminum tubes with croopers for
hours. When you get to a big meeting you hear people coughing, sneezing, etc., all
around you, but, to be sociable you shake hands. Sometimes they say
apologetically, “Yeah, the flu’s sweeping through our whole family.”
Would it be socially acceptable, when someone lets out a
sneeze or cough before extending a paw, to jerk your hand back? Should you
glove-up before the cocktail social? Can you give a shake and then say, “Excuse
me,” while you whip out a bottle of Purell and anoint your hands? Who says
Howard Hughes was crazy? Maybe he was just ahead of his time, as usual.
It needn’t be this way. I’ve got some suggestions.
When the CDC, National Health Service or whoever officially
declares cold and flu season I say we stop shaking hands and
bow politely to each other as a greeting until the season of pestilence is
We need a department of Health Security that runs in parallel with
Homeland Security. When you go through airport “security” Health Security screens you for
bugs while TSA looks for butcher knives and such.Billions are
being spent on quick, portable biohazard detection devices by the DOD and
While I was on the plane to Atlanta I was sitting next to a
guy from a biotech company that is working on a handheld bacteria detector. He
pulled out the February Wired magazine. On the last page of Wired each month
they create am image of some futuristic device that doesn’t exist today but
will seem a normal device some time in the future. The February Wired shows
this handheld device for picking up hazardous things in your environment. He
said proudly, “I’m working on that,” or at least the part on the lower right
side that would allow you to test food in a restaurant for e. coli, salmonella
and other creatures. He said. “I can’t tell you more,” because, evidently, the
product is real enough to be full of nondisclosure contracts.
So when you go through airport security why not have
somebody who swabs your hands for cold germs just like the TSA guy swabs your
computer bag for traces of explosives? (They’d wear lab-coat-white or
surgical-green uniforms.) If you test positive you either have to go home—the
best idea—or rent a biohazard suit for $50 that contains you and your
emissions for the duration of the flight. And it wouldn’t be that inconvenient.
I mean, they’ve got the time for one more indignity while you’re standing there
in your stockings, holding your pants up with one hand and scrambling with the other to
recover your valuables from the passing parade of gray plastic tubs.