C3PO, R2D2 and H1N1

Published 9:23 pm Tuesday, May 12, 2009

C3PO, R2D2 and H1N1 all went into a cantina… one of these things is not like the other. Two are adored Star Wars characters named appropriately and one is a bad character hitting a germ factory near you and although it has already been labeled swine flu the powers that be want to rename it in the manner of George Lucas. Why H1N1? Who ever heard of “Pigs in Space” except on the “Muppet Show!” Diseases need real names, not letters and numbers.

Renaming something in the midst of an event doesn’t work either. You can’t name a child Fred and two months later start calling him Harry. Although, my brother Joe requested he be called Bryan when I would walk him to his first grade class and grew hot under the collar when I would forget. His attempt to use his first name never stuck because, even today, although he is in his thirties, he is still known by Joe.

It’s too confusing to rename something. Doesn’t anyone remember the artist formerly known as Prince? He changed his name to an unpronounceable symbol and boy that really worked. No one accidentally referred to him as Prince anymore, right? Should we call the new virus the flu formerly known as swine?

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I understand the reason behind the retelling of the story, no one wants to blame the pig and hurt the pork industry but this little piggy did the deed and so instead of worrying about hurting the pig’s feelings we must call an ace an ace or an oink an oink.

I think the movies “Babe” and “Charlotte’s Web” did more damage to pork consumption than pig flu. After seeing those cute talking piggies, who wants to eat pork?

H1N1 doesn’t flow well off the lips. The obedient news anchors are the only ones following the rules the White House has laid out. Have you ever voluntarily called it the H1N1 flu? Of course not because you can’t teach an old public… new tricks.

The media have been promising a pandemic for years, though the chosen form of our destructor were supposed to be the birds of the air and not the dirty, nasty swine that lies in the mud pond eating slop and piggy poo.

They kept telling us it was coming, prepare and then nothing happened. You can’t blame timing on the news people.

You could almost feel the disappointment by some that this flu outbreak was understated and mild, so much so that the peanuts and the tomatoes killed more people last year than the virus known as H1N1.

At first it was more the pandam-hysteria that was spreading faster than the flu; thousands were sent home from school, while paranoia sent others to clinics for testing. We were sanitizing our body parts in a feverish manner depleting stores of their sanitizing products. VP Biden fed the flames of fear with his foot in mouth disease by further hyping the fear encouraging citizens to refrain from public transportation. The smell of panic was in the air.

It took the Mexican flu (Oh yes, I repeated the first controversial title given to H1N1 because no one got upset when we named another flu the Asian flu!) eight days from its conception to make its way to my town. I had a rush of panic when my phone rang informing me that my own kid’s school system was closing due to a couple of cases of the dreaded swine flu. Okay, now the far away phenomenon was in my backyard!

By now we know the flu ended up being a wimp, but what if it had not? I was not prepared to stay home for a couple of weeks in case the disease turned deadly. When I left hurricane alley I became lackadaisical with my emergency kit.

But on Mother’s Day, I woke up. Cade, one of the twins, had a fever of 101, headache and all the dreaded symptoms of you know what! I had a nurse and a doctor telling me because of the swine flu epidemic I had to go to the ER and have him tested. Good news, he did not have it but if he had H1N1, the CDC would require that myself and my whole family stay home for ten days, no school, no work, no grocery shopping and no baseball games. Yikes.

The bad news was he had the regular flu — I was thrilled about it! Yeah, my son has the good old fashion Influenza B which kills 36,000 a year! Wait a minute, what am I happy about? I still had to quarantine the other twin and have kids stay home from school… again!

The other white meat flu, or whatever you wanna call it today, hasn’t turned out to be the kind of “kill all” sickness the media promised. It reminds me of an impending category 5 hurricane that hits the coast as a tropical storm. Yet, everyone evacuated like they should, especially after Katrina and as we always do, after a few trial run storms, we become conditioned to not worry. We fail to get out of the way of the storm, or not prepare. The storm usually does hit eventually, and so will the course of nature thrust upon us another pandemic. We will have one.

This could be the beginning, a test run, but next fall it could reawaken with a vengeance. Are you sleeping? Are you prepared? Are you scared yet? You should be, at least enough to educate yourself and prepare for the worst only to be pleasantly surprised when it doesn’t happen. Just like this time, we will breathe a sigh of relief as we coast on with everyday life.

Or maybe this was all a plan to make money! Was there really a flu outbreak or has the crafty business executives that head the hand sanitizer industry figured out a way to scare us all into buying multiple bottles of their product. Stores all over the country have run out of the H1N1 killing stuff and I heard of fights breaking out over the bottles. Could it be a conspiracy? Hmm.

Whether a money-making scheme, a pandemic trial run or a misunderstood flu, the swine flu should be called swine flu and my apologies to the pig people. Since I feel guilty, I promise to fight the flu outbreak by eating several pork chops, a ham and a pound of bacon.

Tracy Williams is a guest columnist and can be reached at myhometowncolumn.com