LOST, Stephen Hawking And Biblical Plagues: How Swine Flu Shut Down My Kids' School

Black Holes and Hand Sanitizer

Yesterday I emailed an article to my wife reporting how the city of Fort Worth planned to shut down their schools for the next ten days as a measure to reduce the spread of Swine Flu. "They're going to make a pig's ear out of this whole thing!" she wrote back along with calling everyone, including me, "a bunch of sniveling whiners." I'm not sure where this new, hard-ass version of my Sweet Fluffy Bunny came from, but my guess was it had something to do with the kegs of hand sanitizer she strapped onto the kids' backs before they hopped on the bus earlier.

"I got you one too, Honey," she told me pushing a hand-cart full of drum-shaped containers through the front door of our apartment.

"Oh, thanks. Where is it?"

She looked over her cargo. "Musta left it in the van." Then I watched as she instructed the girls on how to slather all of their exposed skin with gobs of rose pedal-scented goo.

To say that something has been, "left in the van," is really to mean said object is gone. Library books, homework, five pairs of my sunglasses and a Chia Pet are just a few of the items vanishing into thin air after witnesses last saw them somewhere in the vicinity of the minivan. So it really wasn't much of stretch to believe that the hand sanitizer was gone, especially when taking into account that Stephen Hawking conducted most of his early black hole research inside of our vehicle. I imagined the cast of Lost hovering around my vat of anti-bacterial cleanser and making pig noises as they wrung their hands together. That it fell from the sky onto their island in 1977 wouldn't seem weird at all to them.

During the email exchange with my wife I predicted that it would be less than a week before the schools here would close too. "When a pig flies!" she wrote back. But there was already a growing hysteria taking hold in the area after the first Swine Flu fatality in the U.S. occurred here in Houston. Sadly it was a small child who died after traveling here from southern Texas. Reports are also claiming that the baby's family spent some time lugging him around the very up-scale Galleria mall where all this city's biggest celebrities shop. Now Beyonce Knowles is rumored to have a fever, and black helicopters are buzzing back and forth across the skyline in an attempt to keep Yao Ming from succumbing to the virus. Or so I've heard.

Don't get me wrong; I'm all for taking precautions. What I think people are failing to recognize, however, is that this is Houston. Houston, Texas. So, what are the odds of Swine Flu manifesting itself here? Let me put it this way. The chamber of commerce distributes a brochure entitled Fun Things To Do In Houston; number twenty-three on their list of fun activities is to close your eyes, stick your arms straight out and spin three times trying not to hit someone who recently came from Mexico. You do the math.

Ham and Hysteria on Rye

Chalk it up to the laws of probability or my tingling spider-pig senses, but as I prophesied, the girls' school canceled classes today after a student there was diagnosed with Swine Flu. "Oh, Hogwash!" my wife said when I told her. She doubted the news until reading it for herself. At this point, as a parent, I probably have justifiable cause to join in the hysteria. It is a world-wide pandemic for heaven's sake. Still, blame it on my pragmatic nature, but you won't find me at any Olivia book burnings. I refuse to sign any petitions being circulated in an effort to have "The Three Little Pigs" removed from the cannon of fairy tales, and I won't be party to blackballing Porky Pig and Miss. Piggy from further television appearances.

By the same token, I cannot condone the position held by pig advocates, or the People for the Ethical Treatment of Swine (PETS) as they prefer to be called. The slaughter of hogs as a fear-based reaction to the virus is an senseless act of ignorance, but to chain one's self to a large sow seems a bit extreme. Even more ludicrous are the members of certain Jewish organizations protesting the use of "swine" as a moniker for the virus. I can only guess at what they would propose as a suitable alternative: Shoat Syndrome, Cob Roller's Disease, a case of The Piggies? But one thing is for sure, these same organizations would be mortified to learn my sister traditionally serves ham every Easter for dinner. Such news would have to be a proverbial slap in their faces followed by a high-powered punch to the nuts.

Fear is really the evil twin brother of fact, and in all this confusion, the media cannot tell the two apart.

As someone who spent many summers working on an honest to goodness pig farm, I feel compelled to interject my expertise on the issue. I have assisted in the birth of countless piglets; I have slung hundreds of pounds worth of slop into their troughs, and once watched as a sow removed the genitalia of an overly-horny boar who mistook her for being "in season." Besides attesting to the fact that even the female of this species has her "time of the month," I can assure you that pigs, as a whole, could give a shit about the whole thing, not as an expression of their opinion, but as evidence to their healthy digestive systems. It, as they say, happens.

Getting back to my children's school being a breeding ground for Swine Flu, I am happy with the actions taken by the district's administration. Oddly enough this is the second day in a week classes have been called off, the first being on account of monsoon-like rains that escalated into wide-scale flooding. Given their randomness, there's an outside chance these events are actually the first in a series of Biblical plagues, retribution for the Astros I suppose. By the melodramatic tone permeating the local news coverage one would certainly would believe this to be the case. Fear is really the evil twin brother of fact, and in all this confusion, the media cannot tell the two apart.

Somebody Think of the Children!

It's for this very reason I've refrained from telling the girls Swine Flu has shut down their school. At the moment they're convinced the bus is just really late. Maybe at dinner I'll let them in on the secret, but even then I'm still hesitant. For being only five and six years old it's disturbing to see what attention-starved, drama queens they've grown to become. The street name for this I'm told is, attention whore. That would be an apt description. Both are a couple of overbearing divas wielding cartoon mallets against the other in a gladiator fight on an under-sized stage. As such I've already forbid them from watching The View. So to explain that a potentially deadly virus is swirling around in the very halls they stroll through daily would only incur Golden Globe worthy performances.

I suspect, however, that they already know something is a afoot. Last evening I heard the youngest coughing loudly, and went to investigate, stepping in a large wet pool next to her bed in the process.

"What the hell is this!?"

She looked up at me. "I had this yucky stuff in my mouth, and I had to get it out like this." Cuxxxxswit! Right on my big toe. "See! It's the dreaded Swine Flu." Then she gasped and fainted.

Not wanting to be forgotten, her sister then burst into a sobbing fit. "Oh dear God! My sister is dead and now your foot has The Piggies. Why is this happening to me!?"

It may be better to tell them they are repairing the school's faulty AC system. In the meantime, they are home with me feigning worry over the whereabouts of their beloved bus. "Oh bus! Where art thou?"

Should the situation get out of hand, I'm considering the idea of outfitting them with face masks and parading them around the mall merely to see perfectly sane adults flee for their lives. Or possibly we'll head to the place where all parents take their children when they don't know what to do with them: a McDonalds playground. I'm sure the chain's conscientious staff are astute enough to maintain a flu-free environment. Either way, I'm just thrilled to be a part in the international frenzy.

(Finally! I'm involved in something in this town as interesting as those written by famed Houston blogger, The Bloggess. Pssst! Stay away from the black helicopters, sister.)

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