A young professional’s take on the trials and tribulations of everyday life in New York City.

By Nina Pajak

Is it flu shot season already? Dagnabbit.

As a mild-to-medium germaphobe, I obviously find flu season quite stressful. On a normal, low-flu-risk day, I’m already horrified by public displays of sneezing and coughing, nose wiping and excessively moist-sounding throat-clearing (ew). Everyone at the gym or on the subway is a potential threat, and I eye them as such. I carry hand sanitizer wherever I go, if for nothing else than the peace of mind it affords me. I use my sleeve to push revolving doors and other potential breeding grounds for disease, much in the manner of Bill Murray’s character, Bob, in “What About Bob?”, a completely and uncontrollably unstable basketcase who follows his psychiatrist on vacation.

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However, as a medium-to-extreme sick-a-phobe (I made that up), I fear the feeling of being sick more than anything. So for the last who knows how many years, due to an admittedly irrational suspicion that a flu shot is going to give me flu-like symptoms, I have refused to go under the needle. I know that logically this makes no sense, as those symptoms are not actually influenza and would likely be mild and last only a day or two, and getting influenza would be much, much worse. I am by no means able or desirous to defend or explain my reasoning, but I play chicken with the flu virus each year, and each year I seem to win. Of course, I spend each flu season internally battling my “decision” (I put that in quotes, since the word seems to elevate my actions a bit unfairly), and convinced that this will be the year I will rue the day I didn’t wait in that damn line in my company’s lounge and get the damn shot and stop being such a baby. Only now I’ve twisted this into some kind of false and enigmatic principle upon which I remain stubbornly adherent, like getting a flu shot is “just not something I do,” along with wearing fur and eating at B-grade restaurants.

I’ve discovered that the flu shot is kind of a controversial thing. Some people tell me I’m an absolute moron. Some people have much more fully-realized rationales for abstaining, though I wonder if they’re just afraid of needles and won’t admit it. At least I own up to my idiocy. Anyway, it’s become, for some reason, a really tough subject to avoid around the office. “Did you get your flu shot” followed by “Why the hell not?” will be a conversation I’ll be forced to have weekly until the signs come down from our lobby.

I mean, I don’t ask people if they’ve had their yearly dental check-up. Ah, I mean bi-yearly. Meaning, twice a year and not every two years, right? Right. I do that.

Do you avoid the flu shot too? Tell us about it in our comments section.


Dear Readers: While I am rarely at a loss for words, I’m always grateful for column ideas. Please feel free to e-mail me your suggestions.

Nina Pajak is a writer and publishing professional living with her husband on the Upper West Side.

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