Dave: My wife makes me take off my clothes in the garage. Then she leaves out a bucket of warm water and some soap. And then she douses everything in hand sanitizer after I leave. I mean, she’s overreacting, right?
Dr. Erin Mears: Not really. And stop touching your face, Dave.
– Contagion, 2011
Sue O’ is my assistant, as she has been through most of my years at the Small Office. She can find order in chaos. She can see the positive where others find regret. She looks forward, never back. I am the opposite in all those things.
What she does best is many things at once. We recently acquired a small company and Sue O’ is coordinating the change in corporate identification. That means updating government registrations, signage, stationery, promotional material. She doesn’t necessarily do the work, but she does make sure it gets done, with no detail left unattended. To help her, we temporarily assigned a secretary from the Marketing Department.
Alissa is young and keen and has just the right amount of ambition. She also has a strep throat. She informed Sue O’ of this fact on the second day of her transfer.
Sue O’ shuddered as she saw Alissa pick her teeth.
Alissa has this bad habit of licking her fingers as she rifles through papers. Those fingers must be awfully dry because she licks them often. Then she brings her files to Sue O’ or perhaps a cup of coffee. So how long do those little streptococcal buggers last as they crawl along No. 1 bond watermarked paper or cling to porcelain mugs? Do those repugnant pathogens continue to multiply in their little grape-like clusters as they transfer to new hosts? Sue O’ shuddered as she saw Alissa pick her teeth.
Dr. Erin Mears: Somewhere in the world, the wrong pig met up with the wrong bat. – Contagion, 2011
On Day 3, Alissa showed up with a cold sore on her upper lip. It was at the blister stage. Swollen, slightly oozing a white viscous substance, not yet ready to scab. She kept poking at it. And then she’d lick her fingers as was her habit and rifle through papers and bring them or perhaps a cup of coffee to Sue O’. Who would wince and clench and repeatedly scrub her hands with sanitizer. And every time she passed my office, she would look at me, her eyes blazing, accusing, threatening to take her vengeance on me for having brought pestilence to her doorstep.
Alan Krumwiede: It’s a bad day to be a rhesus monkey. – Contagion, 2011
Now, of course, the cold sore had nothing to do with the strep throat, and both, in the fullness of time, went away. These things either get better or they get very much worse. None of this provided even the smallest measure of solace to Sue O’ who, I discovered, can be very unforgiving and not the least bit amused. Licking my fingers, I realized that I am the opposite in those things too.