Monday, August 19, 2013

Life with Theme Park Mice: The Plagues

Disney World draws people from all over the globe, every one of the 50 states, and quite possibly disguised extraterrestrial lifeforms. This mass of humanity brings together a wide array of languages and cultures to one place in a mostly harmonious fashion. All these people also happen to bring every virus and bacteria floating around their places of origin. It's like Epcot everywhere, except you're sampling the germs of the world rather than international boozes.

Some of the excessively optimistic tourists think they can avoid the plagues. They wash their hands constantly, carry hand sanitizer like a talisman against evil, and generally refuse to touch anything. Of course, eventually someone will cough in their vicinity, or they will have to reach for a railing to avoid falling.

Then, all those efforts are for nothing. Those people that are sick probably don't even realize it yet. Those that do realize probably don't care about infecting others. They handle every bit of the queues, touching props and jangling chains marking out the lines. They breathe the same air as you, standing much too close while shouting to people mere feet away. You will be exposed to the germs at some point, and eventually your immune system will break.

Not everyone gets sick, of course. However, the more time you spend with a huge, random population of people, the more chance of infection there is. Stay a week at Disney, and the odds start getting pretty high that somebody will at least get the sniffles or a lovely intestinal bug. Disney Parks food may be better than 99% of theme park food elsewhere, but it still isn't fun to digest when a flu unleashes hellfire upon your stomach.

I'm not sure, but I doubt this gentleman washes his hands regularly.

This unfortunate reality is harsher still for those of us that visit Disney World frequently. We annual pass holders subject ourselves to the gauntlet of potential infection weekly. Even though I don't have to deal with freezing winter temperatures, I've still managed to contract my fair share of colds and flus. Most of them pass quickly, but occasionally something truly nasty finds its way inside.

A few weeks ago, my wife and I decided to celebrate our anniversary early since she was still on work leave. We stayed at the Caribbean Beach Resort for a long weekend, taking in the faux island atmosphere and swimming in the pool with the least amount of obnoxious children. Our last full day at the resort, we spent most of it in the hotel room. My wife slept off the ankle pain she was still experiencing, while I sat in a virtual daze and did nothing much at all. I thought it was just exhaustion from the last few days of heat, but I was wrong.

I had contracted one of the plagues. For the last three weeks, I have spent my days coughing constantly and downing a wide array of cold medication. Some days I think it's almost gone, and the next I will spend moaning in minor agony as my head throbs and my lungs rattle.

At first, I was good. I rested, stayed home, and tried to quarantine myself. Once a week had passed and the sickness lingered, I finally had to escape the house. I wasn't sick enough to go to the doctor, but probably not well enough to expose myself to others. Yet I did, and I've made several ill fated trips to the parks. I'm sure I helped spread a nice little respiratory infection to tourists just looking for some Disney magic. Now they have a reminder of their trip, but not one they necessarily wanted.

Today is another day where I'm sure the cold, or flu, or whatever has passed, and I'm most likely going to visit the Magic Kingdom. I'll probably be wrong as well, and just end up giving more people that same cold, or flu, or whatever. Those people will take that infection home to their respective state, or country, or planet, and it will find many new places to spread. Colds, flus, and whatever come from all over the planet to Disney World, and then spread to new places all over the globe. It's a small, sick world after all.

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