Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Phenology: Flowers and Flu

When I strolled out into town on Sunday, enjoying the March thaw, I thought I had time to stop at the computer center in between errands, ending with picking up a few groceries, go home and cook, and even get in a little spring cleaning.

The sky was beautiful, bright blue with just enough wisps of cloud for a good contrast, and the air was warm, and in town some flowers were blooming. One lucky homeowner has a steep front yard almost solidly pinkish-green with ground-ivy. One has rows of daffodils all the way up one side of the steps running up through their steep yard.

In the course of my errands I used a public restroom. I used to make myself ill rather than do that because I dreaded walking in and knowing by the smell how recently, and by whom, the room had been used. On Sunday I couldn't guess the previous user's age or sex (as any dog or cat can do) from the odor, because the overwhelming airborne message was that the person wasn't well.

So...while sitting at the computer I felt tired, almost fluzly, and as I walked home I started to feel positively feverish. Walking felt like hard work. I bypassed the grocery store because, although I hadn't eaten yet, I didn't feel at all hungry. By the time I got home I felt as if I'd walked fifty miles instead of five. Then I got inside and lay down and started feeling much worse.

This phenomenon is known as the Norwalk Flu, an extremely fast-moving virus called norovirus that lasts about long enough to empty out the patient's digestive system. It's less gruesome if you happen to have a completely empty stomach when it hits, but it's still gruesome, because actually bolting to the bathroom is the better part, the light at the end of the tunnel of illness. The bad part is that during the emptying-out stage you become so weak that bolting fifteen feet to the bathroom feels as if it just might kill you.

Nearly all sufferers from Norwalk Flu will of course feel fine, approximately twenty-four hours after regathering enough energy to stagger from the bathroom back to bed...but people who try not to give in to the weakness can, like Hillary Rodham Clinton, end up with concussions.

When it takes four to eight hours after inhaling an airborne virus to become acutely sick, and eighteen to twenty-four hours after that to make a complete recovery, trying to observe quarantine is useless...but I stayed home and offline yesterday, anyway, and so instead of being able to catch up with Saturday's e-mail I now have another 130 new e-mails to scan. In two hours.

This phenomenon is known as a Gates Foundation Grant with Nasty Sticky Strings Attached, and it's what I'm actively working to improve, for all of the computer-using minority in Scott County.

Anyway, the flowers are still blooming; by now the Cat Sanctuary has some ground-ivy too, as well as real "crowns" of purple crocuses.