It's coming. It's coming for all of us.

At this point, it doesn't matter whether it's a mismatch between this year's flu shot and this year's virus, or a secret government plot, or just plain crappy luck: everybody I know, practically, has the flu.

We have nine full-time nurses in our unit. Two of them have pneumonia. A third is out for another week, until the Tamiflu and chicken soup kick in. The remaining half-dozen of us are bathing in alcohol foam, refusing to get too close to each other (I swear; it's like Sweden up in there), and running away from anybody with the slightest hint of a cough. I myself have taken to bathing daily in boiling bleach and wrapping myself in plastic wrap, head to toe, before I leave the house. I figure a nice tight seal will still leave me enough oxygen to get to the grocery store and back.

Today I took advantage of a sale on soup at the local weird grocery store. I have something like ten cans of Campbell's in the cupboard, as well as a pot of homemade Mexican-inspired chicken soup simmering on the stove. I'll be making a simple salad later, with cucumber, red bell pepper, plum tomatoes, oregano, feta cheese, and about six cloves of raw garlic. (That number is not an exaggeration. Raw garlic, when blended with olive oil and white balsamic vinegar, gets surprisingly mellow.)

I'm not even letting Mongo kiss me.

It's hard, to be honest. Everybody but me in the neurocritical care unit is from somewhere else, and they're all from touchy places like Southern India and the Phillipines and Italy. We practically snuggle while we're giving report. I'm the one person who's not A Delicate Tropical Flowah, so I'm the only one who's treating this lack of hand-on-knee, hug-and-cheek-kiss as normal. All the dark, large-eyed beauties I work with are starting to look positively glum. It's the paranoia.

Because, really? Having the flu--and I have had the flu, the real thing, twice in twelve years--is generally not as bad as you expect it to be. (The one exception to that is the first time you have it. That is the worst you will ever feel, ever, short of being shot repeatedly in non-critical places with non-expanding bullets, then roasted over a dying fire, then drawn and quartered by somebody with a dull knife, and finally hanged by an incompetent knot-tier.) A few days of body aches, some pills to swallow, the inability to walk to the couch without getting winded. The best thing about the flu is that when you start feeling merely bloody, it's like you feel great. The worst thing is the anticipation.

So I'm being proactive. I have now got three large tins of Tiger Balm Ultra (the white stuff) coming in the mail. I stocked up on soup, as I mentioned before, and plan to go out tomorrow for ginger ale and ramen (only because I forgot today). I'll get some of those Totino party pizzas. I'll splurge on the big bottle of ibuprofen. Maybe pick up an extra hot water bottle, or even a heating pad.

Putting things in perspective: My pal Joy came down with the flu on Thursday of last week, the same day that my pal Stacy got salmonella food poisoning. Joy is now, thanks to the miracles of modern antivirals, back at work teaching. Stacy just today managed to get through an entire shower without having to sit down in the middle of it.

. . . . .Still. You can talk all you want about the partial protection conferred even by a mismatched flu vaccine, realize intellectually that it's not as bad as a bad hangover, and still want a canvas mask with a bird's beak on the front when you walk around work.

In short, save yourselves. Invest in bleach-manufacturer stock and buy some NyQuil.