Subway swine flu? Tell me another.

Repeat after me: you cannot get swine flu from eating pork. Pork manufacturers, for whom the myth has a certain reality, have joined the Israelis in campaigning to rename the latest flu strain.  They want to stick with its actual name: H1N1. But how catchy is that? You can also NOT get swine flu from riding the subway. At least, not unless an infected person on the train sneezes on you. Which could happen anywhere. But the idea of subway-as-petri-dish sticks around, as per Joe Biden’s latest gaffe. The comment is somewhat ironic coming from a man who liked to prove his working-class credentials by showing off his Amtrak pass.
On second thought, maybe it’s not surprising.  New Yorkers, many of whom have no non-public transportation option, are used to having their trains denigrated by outsiders. They’re also used to subway circulating myths; they just prefer to do so themselves. Why, the Mythographer herself was riding the 1 train yesterday afternoon, when two middle-aged guys across the aisle took up a spirited subway myth-off.  One guy told a story about how when he was a kid in the 80s, wearing “high-top sneakers”, he once got his foot caught in a closing door and was dragged along with the moving train, his head hitting every pole “bang, bang, bang” until he was finally knocked off, and went to the hospital with a swollen leg “this big!”  His friend, after a respectful “you’re lucky to be alive, man,”  countered with a classic subway horror story.  “My mother has a friend, an older lady, who got her handbag stuck in the closing doors; her head bumped on every pole–bang, bang, bang–and she died.” “Well, my leg was really swollen.” “Man, she died! My mother’s friend died!” Not to question the rider’s mother, but the one door-related subway fatality I could find happened in 1987 to a new Colombian immigrant, and under suspicious circumstances.  For one thing, no one was there to see whether her head hit all the poles. Which begs the question: which is worse, a real-life swollen leg, or a semi-mythical death?



2 Responses to Subway swine flu? Tell me another.

  1. Claire Kohrman says:

    It is fun to find you, Brook, and your blog! I can see that NYC is really now your town! But do come by Bernard, Manset, or SOuthwest Harbor again some time!
    Claire

    • Hi Claire, thanks for writing! So far you are the first person to comment; this is my first reply, I hope it works 🙂 I hope you and family are all well, and I do look forward to making it up to Maine finally this summer.
      Best,
      Brook

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