Swining and dining

The U of C population is condemned to swine flu—but not SCC appointments.

By Claire McNear

We’re probably all going to get swine flu.You heard it here first. Or, well, maybe not first, or second or third or fourth, or, honestly, thirty-fifth, but by now, you have most definitely, absolutely, incontrovertibly heard it. Perhaps you thought you were tired from class or from that Redbull-fueled all-nighter you pulled last week to grind your way through your PhySci midterm—exhaustion is a way of life, after all. Sneezing, too, is a way of life, especially now that every thoroughly dead-looking bush and tree across Chicago has erupted into a grayish-green mini-jungle of pollen and stumpy leaves. And nausea? Well, you know, Aramark can’t really be trusted, and there is no way—no way—that all that schmear at the C-Shop is actually fit for human consumption.Welcome to the pandemic. There’s no cure—or, at least, there are only four cures, but maybe only two work and they’re just “treatments,” and the flu is probably just mutating away and picking up gossamer threads of death in New Zealand and Mexico and learning more and more evil tricks and becoming resistant to just about everything, anyway. You’ll go from zero to flu to six feet under faster than you can buy another box of tissues or gasp out for Tamiflu.When it comes down to it, Mexico isn’t having a very good couple of months. A pandemic panic is one thing, but a pandemic panic accompanied by earthquakes in the capital, drug cartels, collapsed tourism, and the occasional accusatory words “failed state” is another entirely. It’s the stuff Decemberists albums are made of, give or take a forlorn lover. But come on, Mexico. A pandemic? Really? You sent us a pandemic? If this isn’t an act of war, I’m not entirely sure what is.And now that the disease has come bubbling up north, what can we do? Not go to the Student Care Center (SCC), apparently. In an e-mail sent out last night, Vice President and Dean of Students Kim Goff-Crews confirmed, more or less, that we’re all going to die. All routine appointments at the SCC were canceled yesterday and today; the fourth floor of the parking garage at East 55th Street and South Ellis Avenue has been converted in the meantime into a kind of war hospital. The e-mail seems to imply that if you see anyone coughing, sniffling, or generally looking like they’re U of C students in the midst of midterms, you should report them immediately to the U of C Medical Center’s wandering quarantine agents.I can’t help but wonder if swine flu isn’t everything administrators could ever have wanted. Short of football teams and Axis powers, there’s little that brings people together like a good, possibly lethal pandemic. Who’s going to worry about Obama’s 100-day benchmark—or, you know, the Kalven Report or Harper Court or emergency room rejections—when with a single well-aimed sneeze, a Mexican pig could knock out all of Western civilization?And through it all, though it might cancel SCC appointments (assuming you could even get one), the University of Chicago will not cancel classes—not for wind chill, not for thunderstorms, and certainly not for swine flu.

Claire McNear is a second-year in the College majoring in political science. She is a Viewpoints Editor.