I got home tonight around 10:30 pm to find that there has been a case of Ebola discovered in New York, where I go to school five days a week. (If this blog is read far into the future the reader will remember that Ebola showed up in western Africa earlier this year and to date has killed close to 5,000 people and infected more than double that number.) As I am home alone with my laptop and it’s pretty late, I’m not going to call anyone and talk about what’s going on in my mind or potentially in the minds of other (semi-) New Yorkers right now.
I will say that I’ve checked my glands several times since I read the story, a nervous reflex when I’m afraid I’m getting sick. I’ve just made myself chicken soup, which I’ve heard is an excellent prophylactic for Ebola (joking). On my mind is my trip home to Boston tomorrow; I normally take the subway and then a city bus to where I catch another bus to Beantown. The man who was diagnosed with Ebola – a young doctor who had just come back from working in Africa to help stem the disease’s spread – rode the subway from his place in Brooklyn, including the 1 train, which I took today.
What will traveling be like tomorrow? Will there be fewer people on the subway? Will people be wearing masks, gloves? Will the riders be avoiding anyone who is coughing or seems sick? Will anyone make eye contact with anyone else, or will it feel like the people around us are not really people, but potential carriers of a deadly disease?
I was in New York when 9/11 happened. It was horrible, unreal, a feeling that all of us were thrown together in the face of a terrible and inhuman violence that left a cloud of yellowish dust floating north across Manhattan. One of the great weaknesses of a city is that it is very susceptible to biological/chemical warfare due to the concentration of millions of people in the transit system, which in New York carries about 5.5 riders every day. They say that fortunately, Ebola is only spread by contact with bodily fluids of an infected person, so we should remember that our chances of contracting it are slim…although I don’t want to think about what bodily fluids might be hanging around on the poles and straps for riders. I may just take the pedestrian route to catch my bus out of the city tomorrow.