Indecent Exposure
A Cure for the Common Cold


Now that Jerry Brown is our governor, I’d like to make a suggestion that will not only help balance California’s budget, but increase productive hours for our workforce.

But first, a little story:

Yesterday, my friend Mark walked into my office and started sneezing.  He wiped his nose with his hand. Then he did the thumb lick and paper turn — you know lick your thumb turn the page.  The pages were in my copy of Mark Twain’s autobiography.

“Cool,” Mark said.

“Are you sick?”  I asked. 

Mark then went into a lengthy explanation of how he’s had this damn cold for a whole week and it started with a sore throat and he’s already got a cough and it’s been cold at night, so he doesn’t really know where he got it.

“Probably from some jackass like you,” I said.

“Why the attitude, Nathan?” Mark replied. 

Because I don’t like to be sick — that’s why the attitude.

Please for the good of us all, don’t bring your disease out in public, or to your friends, or even your enemies.  Stay at home.  Take care of yourself and above all don’t spread your god damn virus.   That’s right.  Colds are caused by a virus.  They are not caused by being cold.  That’s an unfortunate misnomer that’s led to many an unfortunate practice.  For example:  Wearing a jacket so you don’t catch a cold is ignorant. Not going outside in the winter with wet hair to avoid catching a cold is also, ignorant.  Unless you are literally freezing, your body’s temperature has nothing to do with catching a cold.  The cold virus takes care of that for you.   Once it’s in your system, you will get sick.  It doesn’t matter if you are in Palm Springs or Anchorage, Alaska. 

Mark, the sneezing man, then told me to “man up” because, as he said, “the cold season is almost over and not to worry.” 

First off, cold season is not like duck season.  There’s a good chance I will catch the virus if you’re spreading it around, no matter what time of year it is.  Secondly, being manly has nothing to do with sick time.  Do you think Chuck Norris likes to blow yellow snot?  I think not.  I don’t know of anybody, man or beast, who likes to prove themselves by withstanding post nasal drip. Thirdly, winter is not cold season. Most colds happen in Spring and Fall because the virus is more active then. Mark must be thinking about the flu.  That’s different.  And if you have the flu, please stay home.

By this time, Mark was being belligerent because that’s all he had left.  He was feigning wiping his hands on everything in my office.  Cold viruses, of course, spread by contact with surfaces recently touched by the person with a cold. Cold viruses can also spread through the air, infecting when they are inhaled.  Think of nose blowing, sneezing, and coughing as the missiles that carry the warhead.

These things didn’t seem to sink into Mark who left my office unenlightened.  I didn’t read any Mark Twain that day.  I still caught Mark’s cold.  End of story.

By this time, I hope you’re wondering about my suggestion for Governor Brown — the one that would not only help balance the state budget, but increase workplace production.  I call it the Indecent Exposure Law.  It goes like this:

A fine of $350 will be levied if you have a cold and are found, without good reason, in a public place in the state of California.   Law enforcement officers will be authorized to hand out what, will be referred to as, virus tickets.  I understand that there will be exceptions to the law, but we can rely on the criminal justice system to sort that out.

This punishment — this $350 fine — is not extravagant.  Think about it.  If someone exposes their genitals in public, they can be fined up to $9000 and sentenced to one year in prison.  I’m sure most of us would much rather see someone’s genitals than catch a cold.

With California’s Indecent Exposure Law in place, not only would our better health increase workplace production, but the revenue collected from infractions could help balance the state budget.  If someone didn’t want their virus infraction to appear on their Health Insurance record, they could, just like with a traffic ticket, take a cold virus class at their local municipal court.  There they could learn about, among other things, not touching their nose or eyes after being in physical contact with an infected person, washing their hands frequently and avoiding crowded places (and Nathan Callahan’s office) when they’re sick.

Governor Brown’s political savvy in moving the Indecent Exposure Law though the legislative process could create a cold-free environment for the state of California.  After all, Jerry might say, if we can put a man on the moon,  we can certainly teach people to stay at home when their sick.

Are you listening, Mark?

— Nathan Callahan

First Broadcast March 18, 2011

© / Nathan Callahan / all rights reserved


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