Although some people find it uncomfortable to go to a restaurant alone, I can eat alone. Honestly, I am always happy about a quiet meal, as there is always a certain amount of pandemonium in my house. I do not ask me to get up and get some more water. I do not usually throw food over the table and do not tell any disgusting stories while I'm eating. It actually provides a refreshing change.
But one day, when I was out for lunch, I noticed that a woman and a child of about six or seven years were eating at my table next to me. He was a little wild and she smiled apologetically.
"No school today?" I asked her warmly.
"Oh, he's sick at home," she replied. When she began to say something else, the little boy uttered that earth-shaking, apocalyptic sneeze that rained across the table.
He turned in my direction and got an explosive cough. I reflexively covered my food with my hands and looked at her in horror.
"He had a cold, but he can handle it," she assured me. I thought if he was feeling better, I could not imagine how bad he must have been when he was really sick. I thought a phone call to the Atlanta Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would not go too far.
I wondered if she really thought he was actually "getting over it," or just fed up with coming home with Typhoid Jack, desperate to get out among the non-drip ones. I thought about the time when another mother sent her sneezing, whistling daughter to my house to play a date with her. I insisted the girl had allergies. I insisted that you do not normally get a fever of 102 and turn your head 360 degrees in case of allergies.
As Jack continued to chop and sneeze through the food, I pushed my chair back and forth until I was almost sitting on the lap of the customer at the table behind me. Unfortunately, I no longer had surgical masks or I would have put one on immediately before going to NASA's next decontamination chamber to get biochemically disinfected.
As she tried to keep up with the lava flow of phlegm coming from the nose of her offspring, I looked at the mother in disbelief. Call me crazy, but I think if your child is too sick to go to school, you probably should not lug it around in public, unless it's supposed to take him to the TB clinic.
All around me, I noticed that other customers noticed Typhoid Jack coughing a lung. Soon all the tables mysteriously moved to the back of the restaurant.
Instead of sitting down in the kitchen, I decided I had enough of my Scarlet Fever salad with a side of Streptococcus, and motioned my waiter to bring me a check.
"Is there a dessert today?" He asked, showing me the menu.
I looked at the selection. "Do you have penicillin?"
This is a recurring Lost in Suburbia column that has appeared in the newspapers of GateHouse Media since 2008. As Tracy Beckerman's main column shifts focus – her children are grown and she's moved back to town – we continue her previous work for readers who may have missed them the first time. You can follow her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/LostinSuburbiaFanPage/ and on Twitter at https://twitter.com/tracybeckerman.