Life in New York in the time of Ebola

October 24, 2014

Commuters depart an L train during the morning commute a day after an announcement that the subway system had been used by a doctor now testing positive for Ebola in New York

New York is a disgusting place. There are strange, unpleasant smells that greet you every morning as you leave your apartment and walk to the subway on your way to work. Often, you can’t even identify the lingering foulness.

As you walk, you’re likely to step in puddles of godknowswhat that appear days after the last rain. Always the same gray, brownish color, with hints of oily iridescence. Maybe that’s where the smell is coming from, but maybe not.

Arrive at the subway station at rush hour and everybody is touching everyone as you make your way down the stairs. Now you smell perfume, hair products, sweat and often damp wool. The stairs themselves are covered with the grime of a century and gum that might first have been chewed by a flapper on her way to a night at Delmonico’s.

Stand on a crowded platform, breathing in the breath of strangers, waiting for a train that was cleaned once by someone who wished they were doing anything else. Cram yourself in and grab a pole that’s been grabbed in that exact same spot a million times before by people of every nation and creed. Some were fastidious, others had just vomited, while still others had sneezed into their palms and lurched to get a grip.

That’s life in New York, and I’ve lived here for 43 years. Some of my friends have, too, as have millions of others that I’ve never met. We are survivors.

Now Ebola has reached the city, and the man who has it joined us on our trains, went bowling with us and took an Uber car. He probably wasn’t the first patron in that car that day, and he probably wasn’t the last.

And yet, if you live through what we all live through every day, come home to your children or your cat, you’re likely to live through this latest scare. Actually, likely barely begins to cover how likely you are to be fine. The odds are ever in your favor.

Three weeks ago, before Ebola had reached the United States, my 9-month-old contracted the enterovirus, which has killed some children and is thought to be the cause of paralysis in others. He was hospitalized for 36 hours and we were all very lucky. My baby son is happy and healthy today, and back at his daycare, which is far more dangerous to his health than taking the same subway Dr. Craig Spencer did after returning from Liberia.

Be careful? Yes.

Wash your hands? Yes.

Stay away from the sweat, vomit and blood of others? Yes.

But if you weren’t doing all that before, you were tempting fate, anyway.

Welcome to New York.


PHOTO: Commuters depart an L train during the morning commute a day after an announcement that the subway system had been used by a doctor now testing positive for Ebola in New York October 24, 2014. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson


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Hey, what is wrong with you? Fear is a powerful tool for control and every opportunity must be used regardless of the irrationality of those fears. You need to get your head in the game son. There are masses to manipulated and speaking frankly on reality is not going to do it

Posted by brotherkenny4 | Report as abusive

The first sentence says it all…However he left out one key word.City.

New York City is a disgusting place !

Posted by Machezmo | Report as abusive

Philosophy begins in wonder. And, right at the end, when philosophic thought did its best, the wonder remains. ~Alfred North Whitehead

Posted by fans for you and me | Report as abusive

Well said

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