True Gripes: Sneezes

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The Independent Online
Angie sneezes. Not a discreet whoosh into a little lace hankie, but an uncontrollable volcanic eruption in mid-air. The droplets spray through the micro-climate of our overheated office like the sprinkler system in a tropical glasshouse. "Soddy!" says Angie, wiping her computer screen. "I've got a teddible gold." She has indeed. Her eyes are streaming, her nose is pink; she should be at home and tucked up in bed with aspirin and vitamin C. But here come the fateful words. "I just had to struggle in."

Ah, yes, that's always the refrain. There's a nasty cold doing the rounds, and the Angies of this world are always willing vectors for the diaspora of infection, bringing down hapless colleagues and customers in their wake as they snuffle through their daily routine. Already, Angie has sprayed a bus-load of fellow-passengers on her way to work. At lunch-time, she will make a generous bestowal of bugs in the canteen. Yet nothing will persuade her just to go home and get into bed and spare the rest of the world from her exploding microbes.

There were Angies at school, little girls who always wanted to share your desk, sniffling and streaming through their tiny noses. "My mum says you just have to keep on going. She doesn't want me to miss any of my lessons." Never mind about any other children missing their lessons, laid flat on their backs by the malevolent germs of some infant Angie.

It's probably been like this throughout human history. The martyrs to duty have croaked their way to work, no matter what. You can imagine what it was like in the Middle Ages: "I had to come in and give the pease puddings a good stir - can't trust anyone else to do it right. I just had to struggle in."

Yes, and Typhoid Mary, who specialised in culinary duties and worked her way through half the restaurants in 19th-century America, leaving a trail of outbreaks behind her, must have been made of the same stern stuff, never missing a day. A right little struggler-in, I bet.

Another sneeze from Angie. More germs come parachuting joyously through the air to fulfil their manifest destiny. A germ's got to do what a germ's got to do.

Angie, go home! Please!

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