If you thought preschoolers were the crème de la crop de la contagious, you’ve obviously never spent much time on a college campus, because there is literally always something going around here. And why shouldn’t there be? We share library books and couch space and the elliptical machines and silverware (dutifully washed with care by our dining hall workers, of course, but, I mean, Lysol only kills 99.99 percent of germs), and don’t even get me started on the public toilet situation. By the time a few unceasing waves of disease wash over you, it’s hard not to start thinking of your comrades-in-liberal-arts as nothing more than living, breathing, festering vessels of bacteria (that is, if the meningococcal meningitis PSAs weren’t enough to scare you away from coming to college in the first place). But if you’re gonna learn, you have to live, and that means rubbing oozing, scabby elbows with some seriously unwell humans. To simplify matters, below you will find a clear guide to the types of the infirm you are likely to encounter as you roam the hallowed halls of Claremont College X, Y or Z.
The Studious Contagion-Spreader
Okay, we get it—you’re determined to be so much more successful than the rest of us someday, and in order to gain the competitive advantage, you must come to class with a hacking cough and a fever of 102 degrees. Not only that, you must sit directly next to me. Furthermore, if anybody asks you if you’re okay, it is absolutely imperative that in your highly detailed explanation of your piteous condition, you explicitly mention the excuse slip they gave you at Student Health Services (valid for five days) but that you can’t use because you’ve got that “big Econ midterm” coming up. Seriously, kid, we admire your commitment to the economy, but, for crying out loud, take a day already—you’re just doing everybody else in the class a disservice (not to mention yourself—how are you supposed to become the CEO of a Fortune 500 company if you die of a flu co-infection before you graduate?).
The Unstoppable Party Animal
Jägerbomb-penicillin cocktail? Why not! Better yet, forget the antibiotic—why swallow all those pills if you’re not even getting a buzz out of it? Fatigue? Malaise? A touch of the old pharyngeal inflammation? Just throw back some Dayquil and mosey on down to Pub! It’ll be good for you to get out, and that girl you’re hooking up with won’t even know the difference…that is, until she can’t stay awake in her classes a few months later and the doc tells her she’s got mono, or worse, chlamydia (flu-like symptoms, people! Really, I’m not making this stuff up). The Studious Contagion-Spreader is a real killjoy, but you, my friend, are downright dangerous. We’ve got enough to worry about with the aforementioned public toilets—we don’t need you graciously sharing your shot-glasses. Besides, how are you supposed to make it into the 27 Club if you die of Hepatitis B before you graduate?
The Chronic Truant
What, you mean SHS won’t write notes for hangnails? But you’re in serious pain! Part self-rationalizing hypochondriac, part lazy slouch looking for an excuse to lie around and watch Arrested Development, this is the kid who takes the slightest health anomaly and blows it way out of proportion. Spanish paper due tomorrow? Only two weeks until that time of the month—better claim “problemas femeninos.” Sure, you’re paying upwards of fifty thousand a year for your education, but there’s no reason to overexert yourself by actually going to class. After all, how are you supposed to become the president of the National Arrested Development Fan Club if you contract MRSA from that paper cut and meet a slow, agonizing death before you graduate?
I definitely fall into this category. I had strep the second week of the new semester (I took two days off, which I thought was wholly appropriate considering that it felt like my throat was full of tiny Brazilian farmers practicing the slash-and-burn technique on my tonsils), and I completely reverted into a little kid. I sat at my desk with my little green take-out box and Skyped my parents and longed for Get Better Bear Pops. It was especially rough to come back after a month of being at home, where I basically had my folks eating out of my hand (hey, I’m a lovable kid!) to being stranded 3,000 miles away and having to administer my own medicine, take my own temperature, et cetera. For people like me, being sick is a double job of work, because we can’t help but put extra energy into wondering why nobody on the hall seems to really care that we’re ailing. Sometimes you just want a hug, despite your logical awareness that you are incredibly infectious. In seeking the kind of affection I get from my mom and dad, I tried to make myself as cute as possible by walking around in pajamas and carrying a teddy bear everywhere I went. Remarkably, this won me very little positive attention. Which raises the question—if nobody loves me now, how am I supposed to find anything beyond fair-weather friendship to sustain me after I graduate? (We’re getting into serious territory now with the graduation motif.)
And then, occasionally, you get really sick. Maybe not as sick as those kids in the Meningococcal Meningitis PSAs (you’re a goner with that; seriously, people, get vaccinated, some kid on my high school friend’s hall kicked it last semester within 24 hours of symptom onset), but sick enough that it’s just not tenable for you to be at school right now. Whether it’s a huge drag like mono or something more serious, sometimes it’s best to pack up and bow out for the time being. Don’t worry, you’ll still graduate—it might take a little longer, but, hey, that’s great! More time to live in the spacious dorms and eat in the world-class dining halls. Not good enough? Well, at least you’ll buy yourself some temporary respite from the land of the chronic rhinovirus.