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Life in the Sick Lane

Guest Column Seth Bisen-Hersh

It comes without warning or provocation. It comes without any sign of its arrival. It attacks you and takes over your life. And not just your life, it takes over any life it comes into contact with. It is one of the most annoying things in life to contend with. It is a virus.

A virus is a corrupting influence. It takes over every part of your body until you can't think any more. It makes you sneeze and cough and feel hot and cold at the same moment. It makes you feel so bad that you would rather have more lectures each week than suffer through one virus. Unfortunately, the rest of the world does not slow down for a virus. The work comes just as fast, and classes continue undaunted. Whenever you are sick, the workload seems to double. Or maybe work doubles every week here at MIT. Who knows? In any case there becomes a choice between sleeping and working.

On one hand, many viruses are brought on by lack of sleep. Yet if you choose to not do the work and opt for sleep, that just means more work to do the next day. The theory is that if one gets well, one will be able to do the work more quickly, so the balance between sleep and work must lean more toward sleep now with this viral "influence" in one's body.

Right now one of these evil viruses is going around campus. Unfortunately, I have contracted it from somewhere. Most of my friends have it as well. And the only thing we all have in common is the fact that we don't want it. And why not? What's so bad about a tiny, microscopic virus? It clouds our thinking, makes us tired and overall just makes us irritable and unhappy. While sitting in my calculus recitation, I was completely unable to concentrate because a minute force had taken over my mind and body. I knew that I could solve the calculus problems in front of me if only my brain would function again. But unfortunately, my body is too busy fighting of the evil infection in my blood.

There are a few good things that come with this virus: Comradery. The entire campus is connected through our feelings of complete and utter frustration and exhaustion. People care about one another; we all know how awful it is to be sick. Indeed, when you walk around with a big box of tissues wherever you go, people are much nicer. Not to mention observant. A big box of tissues is as conspicuous as a giant, red arrow or a bull's-eye because everyone notices that you are sick. Viruses also help bring curves up. If, in each class, a virus could somehow affect one curve-breaker, everyone's grades would increase.

How does one avoid the attacks of a virus? At the risk of sounding like an overprotective parent, the best way is to wear warm clothes, eat right, and get enough sleep. Another good thing to do is wash one's hands. I don't mean, constantly and as obsessively as Lady MacBeth, but before eating or removing contact lenses, it is always a good idea to give them a good scrub. Another way to avoid a virus is to stay away from people who have it. Speaking from experience, however, this is not always a good way of treating your sick friends. Having a virus is not a crime. Ostracizing the virus holder is cruel and unusual punishment towards an innocent victim of illness.

The best thing that comes from a virus is when it leaves. Whether it takes a few days or even a week, eventually your body will fend off this monster enemy and return to its usual state of equilibrium. When that happens, you can truly appreciate what it is like to be healthy again. So to all of you out there who are sneezing and coughing your heads off, remember it will pass soon enough. And to all of you who have yet to get sick, try to take advantage of your health and don't take it for granted, because a virus may come without warning at the worst possible moment.

Seth Bisen-Hersh is a member of the Class of 2001.