Life in London: so many issues. Our inquisitive editor-at-large addresses the ones that nobody else dares (or cares) to. This week: the thing people say when you’re ill.
Do you feel ill? If not, skip this bit. Seriously, it’s best if you just head straight to the next paragraph. Off you go. See you in a minute! Right, are they gone? Okay, here goes. Christ, today’s a shitty day, huh? Someone owes us big time for the fact we’re not in bed right now. Nose full of gunge. Head full of fuddle. An office chair full of you and a bed at home full of emptiness. The worst thing, though: at some point today, someone will inevitably say the following words to you: ‘Got a cold, eh? Yeah, I hear there’s one going around.’ Well, obviously. Otherwise we wouldn’t be jamming tissues up our noses to stop the carpet turning into an ectoplasmic slip ‘n’ slide. Why do people say it? WE’RE ILL AND TETCHY! WHAT’S YOUR POINT? Oops, better pull it together. The norms are coming back. Act natural.
Hey! How’s it going? Cool to see you! Anyway, so some of us have a bit of a cold. Here’s the thing: if you wouldn’t mind, could you please not say: ‘I hear there’s a cold going round?’ We get it. We do. You’re trying to be nice. All you wanted was a pleasant conversation. Then you noticed that we sound more nasal than Bob Dylan. So, naturally, you said the thing you’re supposed to say to ill people. It’s what us Brits do. It’s as natural as filling an awkward silence with weather chat. Or using ‘literally’ to mean ‘not literally’.
But, well, we’re a bit grumpy at the moment. You know, what with having to be in the office and listen to you talk about work like we give a shi… Sorry. See? Grumpy. What did I tell ya?
Seriously, though, why does everyone say it? There’s always a cold going around. That’s what they do. They go around. Essentially, they’re saying, ‘Colds happen.’ Why state the obvious? Did people start trotting it out as a nice way of saying, ‘Don’t worry, pal. You’re not the only one suffering’? Well, that’s a lovely thought and all, but, erm, feeling like you’re suffering alone ain’t most ill peoples’ problem. It’s more that their brain’s been bonked with a hammer and fired into a vat of hot custard.
What we need is a new pre-agreed ‘thing you say to ill people’. And I think I’ve got it. Because – and allow me to blow your mind here – did you know that snotty tissues can’t be recycled? Not just because most recycling companies aren’t keen on your germs turning their plant into ‘Outbreak’ but with more bogeys, but also because tissues simply contain too few fibres. A handy tip for you there.
So next time you start a conversation with someone who’s ill, this is what you should say to them: ‘Don’t forget – if you blow it, throw it!’ Unlike ‘there’s a cold going round’ – which is so obvious it implies that your listener couldn’t outthink a bowl of jelly – it gives people the benefit of the doubt. It assumes you recycle. It’s all modern and eco-friendly. It’s health chat 2.0. And who doesn’t like a bit of useful advice? Almost no one.
So who could object to that as small talk? They’d have to be a hyper-mardy sourpuss. Unreasonably mean. Totally unpredictable. And – OI! THAT’S MY PARACETAMOL YOU SON OF A BITCH! Ahem, yes, sorry. As I was saying: just try it out. It’ll probably work fine.
Find out more of Alexi’s burning questions including ‘Why didn’t we get to rename The Strand?’