Friday, August 12, 2011

Cafe Infection

It's about 7:40 in the morning and I'm at my usual coffee shop.
Drink ordered, pastry in hand, I pick up some free reading material to pass the time until my mocha is ready. I look at no one. I register no one. I sit down and begin reading.
A small, older Asian man approaches me. I look up.
He: "Watch yourself. These people have the cough." He motions to two women sitting about 15 feet away, diagonally to my left. "That congestion and fluid. You can hear it when they cough. That will lead to bronchitis and pneumonia. You should stay away from those people."
I'm taken way off guard. The oddity of the situation stuns me.
Me: Uh…thanks. That's good advice.
I force a smile.
He nods and walks toward his breakfast, which is about 30 feet in front of me, diagonally to my right, but then he stops and turns. He returns to my table.
He points to something behind me. "That guy has it, too. You should be sitting over here where I am."
I'm even more thrown. I turn to see the guy behind me, who looks back. I feel guilt. My mind is operating slllllooooooowwwwwwlllllllyyyyyyyy. I feel a tinge of fear, as though this man is telling me I'm surrounded by people with a highly contagious and fatal airborne disease. He walks back over to his breakfast.
I hear no coughing, nor have I, nor have I listened for it until now. I note that none of these people look especially sick. Still, for some reason, almost on autopilot, his power of suggestion driving my dull mind, I stand up and return my reading material. I try not to look at the infected man. I approach the counter, as it puts a bit of distance between me and these people and my mocha should be about ready anyway. The Asian man stands, approaches me again.
He: "The reason I mention this: I used to be a teacher. I had a boy in one of my classes, and he had the cough. He was misbehaving, so I made him sit in the back of the class. But that kid coughed in my face. I ended up with bad bronchitis. It's not something you want to go through."
Me: Well, I can appreciate that.
I look somewhat nervously at the counter.
Barista: "Large Mocha."
Me: Thank you. Have a good day.
Barista: "You too." She's Russian, but that's not relevant.

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