Cough and U of T Coughs With You

There is one thing to say about U of T—cough and the university coughs with you. If one person is sick, you know it has spread to at least 600 other undergrads in no time flat.

This can be hard for me because frankly, I hate sick people.

I hate listening to the slow exhale through the nose of a person whose nasal passages are clogged up with watery phlegm. I hate the sound that comes out when air slowly struggles through the rare openings in a mucous-y passage way.

It makes me angry. “Stay home!” I always scream in my head. “Don’t come here and get me sick! I have jobs to work! Books to read! Stuff to memorize! Writing to complete!”

So, anyways, now that I’m dadsardly ill, you can imagine how conflicted I am.

It’s not my fault. I did everything I could. I stepped off that plane from Saskatoon in a sickly way, I’ll give you that…but I slept for 12 hours immediately afterwards.

But then again, there was no stopping after that one awesome rest…as a university student, my wages are by the hour and classified by the government as “minimum”. If I take this week off, how am I going to pay off my student loan next week? Afford transit? Snack?

So…that is how I became the type of person who I hate: the student with a nasty cold. 

By the time Friday came,  I tried stifling my coughs and pulling myself together at my night job as I phoned alumni at the U of T telefund asking if they were: “ …interested in joining with other alumni this evening and contributing this year to the Victoria College Divisional Annual Fund.”

I was pathetic, exhausted and sore in the sinus. My nose bled from all the blowing. I wished for nothing more but to die.

However, that being said…there’s a kind of community feeling at U of T when you’re sick. One of my classmates happened to have an entire box of Kleenex in her bag, which she lent me out of pity when she saw me using rough toilet roll on my delicate nose. Many did not recoil from me; instead they shared experiences…

“Yeah…I had that thing last week…not a good time.”

“I hate it when I’m sick and have to work…but you know how it is…if I take time off and can’t afford, like, vegetables or utilities in my place, then getting better ain’t happening.”

“You sound pretty bad…but I think everyone has it right now.”

True…there are some undergrads at U of T who you never see with a cold. They usually have parents paying for their books, transit, clothes, rent and/or tuition—they can afford to take time off. They don’t work through the year; they wait for the summer to do unpaid internships that look marvelous on resumes. They look amazing. They recover when they are sick. And they get stellar grades.

But as for the others…

They are much more sensitive, and probably currently lending me tissues.