The gift of Influkwanzaa

Nurse Jiggy

“Come before me in the cold, like a wet swaddling baby wrapped in thin blankets, and I will lay upon you something that will keep you still and silent for days,” the saying goes.

(I like to imagine this saying pronounced by alpha man Tony Soprano, from the ever-popular Italian-American mobster drama The Sopranos. This same show starred the recently deceased James Gandolfini, who, in my opinion, could have easily played a villain in Ace Ventura if another sequel was ever made again. However, I digress. The man is dead.)

This is the perfect time of year to reflect upon a more intriguing didactic declaration than during this God-giving season. It’s the most wonderful time of year: The visiting of family and friends. Gatherings taking place in front of mantles. A time to clink our glasses of sweet libation and indulge in delightful-smelling foods like figs and pudding and figgy pudding. An occasion that asks us to be more thoughtful than the year before. It’s a season where we comfortably expose our quiet laughter and joyous breath to one another as we exchange warmth and love through as much physical contact that is legally permissible in public. A time of giving!

I come to you not as another celebratory confidante but as a giver of gifts. A gift giver, as the polite Red District Amsterdam residents would say. I’m a healthcare professional, a R.N. No, it doesn’t stand for registered nut. It stands for Nurse Jiggy.

Working as a nurse in a hospital allows me the luxury to be exposed to a multitude of microorganisms, especially during the colder months. Therefore, let’s celebrate this year with the gift that festers for days, or possibly for at least 12 days, fa la la la la la la la la. Happy Influkwanzaa!

Do you remember when it was polite for someone to offer a used handkerchief to someone with a runny nose? That was the 1970s. Let’s get back to that. We don’t share any more like we once did. “Hey, would you like a sip of my bubbly champagne or chilled Bailey’s Irish Cream that I’ve poured for a toast? Go ahead, take a swig.”

Wait, I know what you’re thinking. “Can’t I get herpes from that?” No, you can’t, because I don’t have herpes. I have an active cold sore. There’s a big difference. But you know what I might have? I might have the flu. Maybe it’s Influenza A or maybe it’s B. Maybe it’s Influenza plus another letter of the alphabet. I don’t know, and I don’t care. Let us find out together. We could create a superbug, a super virus—maybe a deficiency in our human immunity that will allow the flu to live longer in us. We could refer to it as a human immunodeficiency virus. But you know what? That’s a lot of jargon. So let’s shorten it to an acronym and name it HIV.

Do not be afraid! I became a medically trained professional so if you get dehydrated due to copious amounts of undigested vomit and diarrhea or lose consciousness, I will take care of you. I don’t mind wiping you from end to end with one quick sweep, utilizing the same washcloth as not to be wasteful and more environmentally responsible, of course. You can be confident that if you’re gasping for air, because you’re lungs are drowning with infection, I’ve been trained to suction you so you can breathe better. I am Nurse Jiggy and this is my favorite holiday. I won’t let anything bad happen to you on my watch.

What time is it? It’s time to celebrate this Influkwanzaa together. I want to crawl in your hospital bed with you when you’re feeling “under the weather.” Will you let me do that? We don’t have to cuddle. I just want to be your blanket. Please don’t mind those snot-dried tissues that are on the floor. We won’t be reusing them. We have a handkerchief from the 1970s. Don’t be concerned. What is coming from your nose is thick and green, true, but only because that’s the color mucus turns when it hits the air. I just cleaned the floor two weeks ago with Pine Sol. Go ahead. Walk barefoot across the room. Then, throw those gummy vitamin C tablets and antipyretics down the toilet. Embrace your illness naked, cold, and wet, the way it was intended to be celebrated. I love you. How else can I show you? I just want to kiss you with my mouth. But first…cough, cough, hack, hack. Sorry, maybe it’s the pepper steak I ate for dinner from the Chinese restaurant on the corner of Market and 5th. Suddenly, I don’t feel so well. Now that’s Influkwanzaa.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will have you believe that influenza can kill you. That’s only true if you’re under the age of two or older than 65. But before I go on, how is that acronym even remotely correct? Shouldn’t it be CDCP? Maybe it’s because the CDC doesn’t want “Prevention.” Think about that for a minute while the government is in complete shutdown. Oh snap…and clap. Let’s begin the festivities of the season by choosing to say “no way, lazy CDC who can’t even add a P.” I’m not getting the flu vaccine, and neither should you. The government would have us believe that Influkwanzaa isn’t worth celebrating. The CDC recommends all of us, especially those most at risk (like Nurse Jiggy), to get vaccinated for the flu every year. But to date there’s still no vaccination for Lyme’s disease, which is far more debilitating. Oh, but wait! I can get the Lyme’s vaccine for my dog, but not for myself? Well, then, give my dog a flu shot! Hold up. There’s no flu shot for my dog? This doesn’t make any sense. You know how many people get Lyme’s each year? A lot. Do you know how many dogs get the flu? That’s just it! Nobody knows. (I assure you, however, that a dog’s nose knows).

Before we try to defeat the flu, picture this for a second: Under a microscope influenza appears to look like Droopy, an animated anthropomorphic dog with a droopy face and long beautiful ears. I’ve seen it. Therefore, in a very real way, we are killing people. Destroying human likeness? Isn’t that killing? Killing is illegal. I rest my case.

We should crowd together in open protest. Stand, filthy, hand-to-hand, our wet hair glistening in the frost of the cold winter months with coats unzipped, swaying back and fro in a large circle around a pine tree, singing, “Fah who foraze! Dah who doraze”. We should allow spit to flow from our mouths and cough our words of loyal dissent on Capital Hill. If one person infects even one small child, then that recently infected asymptomatic child could attend schoolyard playgrounds giving eight of those children that come into contact a small gift that can be given to eight more children for every child that it was originally given, ad infinitum—an epidemic of Influkwanzaa in our schools and, later, in our communities. I am Nurse Jiggy and I’m keeping the spirit of the season alive. Won’t you join in with me? Shall we not heed the words of another well-unknown author who most likely said, “Touch the lives of every person you come into contact. Allow your lips to penetrate their lips so that we may pass on the gift of love and whatever else comes from the mouths of the degenerate.”

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