If there are any kids reading today’s column, please pay attention because they won’t teach you this kind of stuff in school. (Which makes you wonder what exactly parents are paying for these days. It’s such a scandal I can’t even begin to think which minister you should complain to.)
So, listen up.
The next time you get sick, enjoy yourself. Seriously, this is going to be as good as it gets. Everyone from your neighbour to your granny will be fussing over you, alert to your every sniffle and moan of pain, at the ready with a cool cloth or a bowl of nourishing, freshly brewed herbal tonic. You’ll be let off school. You get to stay in bed all day, watch TV, play games, send pictures to envious friends who are in school learning useless things like calculus and valency tables.
So, you’re in a little bit of discomfort, but what’s a bit of fever and aching joints against all that upside?
Because let me tell you now, when you grow up, it’s all going to change. It’s like sitting in First Class where you’re sipping champagne and nibbling on French cheese, and then halfway through your flight, they make you change seats and move down to Economy right in front of a kid that keeps kicking your seat and they serve you sludge in a dinky little plastic container.
It all happens in the blink of any eye, and suddenly, you’re, like, uhm, what just happened?
Last week, Amanda’s sister asked her to babysit Jake, her five-year old nephew.
“He’ll be no trouble at all,” Melanie said handing over a Louis Vuitton bag stuffed with toys, containers of food, blanket and medication.
“What’s the medication for?” Amanda asked.
“Oh, he’s had this cough and fever for a week now, but he’s much better. I’ve written down the timing for the meds!”
As Amanda later hoarsely complained from beneath the depths of her blanket, there should be a law against mothers who lightly dismiss their children’s plague-like illnesses when they hand over their children to casual babysitters.
Apparently, all afternoon as he played with his reluctant aunt, Jake coughed like a veteran, 6-pack a day smoker.
“The worse thing was he never covered his mouth when he coughed!” Amanda croaked. Only her bloodshot eyes were visible above the blanket. “God, I feel like death warmed up!”
“He’s only five!” Saffy said from the relatively safe distance of the doorway to Amanda’s bedroom. Wisely, she was wearing hospital mask, goggles, and gloves.
“Oh!” Amanda moaned. “I am so sick. And I have an important meeting tomorrow morning!”
“Call in sick!” said Saffy, HR manager.
“I can’t! It’s an important pitch and the client is flying in just for this and I’m the only one who knows anything about it!”
“Well, I’m meeting Indah for a movie, so I’d better get going!” Saffy said briskly. Her voice, muffled behind the facemask, managed to convey an equal measure of concern for a fellow human being, and desperation to be far away from this pestilential petri dish.
“And where are you going?” Amanda called to me.
“Me?” I squeaked. “Oh, I’m going to Penang for the weekend. I’m sure I told you about it!” Quietly, I thanked God I had managed to get the last seat on the plane that afternoon.
There was a pregnant silence.
“Wait. What, I’m going to be all alone in the flat?”
“You’ll be fine!” Saffy called out from the front door. “I’ll be back after, uhm, dinner! Just text me if you need anything! But just not during the movie because I’ll be turning the phone to silent. I hate people who text during a movie, OK, bye!”
On my way to the airport, I bumped into Sharyn in the condo lobby. She was struggling with a tiffin carrier and the bag containing the latest issues of Vogue and Men’s Health for Amanda.
“Aiyoh, you two, ah, so useless!” she said immediately. “A little fever only, what!”
I was unmoved. “I’m sure that’s what they said about the first Ebola victim, Sharyn,” I told her.
“I ever bring up so many sick chil-ren, and look at me! Still so healthy!” Sharyn declared, her eyes disappearing into dots of disappointment behind her Coke bottle-thick spectacles.
“Well, good for you!” I called from inside the cab. “You should donate your body to science so they should extract a vaccine out of you! Terminal 2, please, uncle!”
Saffy says she got over any guilt she had about the way we abandoned Amanda when we got news that Sharyn fell sick within two days with the same symptoms as Jake.
“This is what happens when you have children,” Saffy told me.