At some point every year someone will say to you, "It seems like everyone's sick, huh?" It's like saying "everyone's dating these days" or "everyone's quitting their jobs." It's a feeling based on one or two instances or anecdotes in our own lives stretched into universality for conversational effect. Except! Right now, everyone really is sick, aren't they? Walking around town is like the "before" part of a DayQuil commercial. Sniffling and sneezing and coughing and hacking. It's everywhere. This is the year when everyone actually was sick.
This widespread common illness has become such an epidemic — whether it be an irritating cold or a serious flu — that it's becoming a trend. It's not yet been New York Times-certified, so don't go gabbing about it at your dinner parties quite yet, but occasional trend-spotter The Wall Street Journal has written a piece on this year's illness, and that has to count for something. Sure, OK, their piece is about how people are faking the flu to get out of work and other obligations, but the fakery only works if everyone else really is sick. So almost everyone is sick.
It's become trendy, if not terribly glamorous, to complain about being sick — "Ugh, my nose has been running for a week" — or to grumble about trying not to be sick. We've had more "I couldn't find a flu shot" conversations in the past two weeks than we've talked to our parents. It is the big social story right now, all this phlegm and mucus and other charming stuff. Hurricane Sandy "survival" stories were all the rage in November, now it's all about how sick you are and how many days of work you've missed. It's created a little culture that's made the WSJ story possible. Who is going to say "I don't believe you have the flu" these days? It's the new dead grandmother. An utterly unimpeachable excuse. (Unless someone's grandma died three times, then it's OK to ask if they're lying or if their grandmother was open about her sexuality and very ahead of her time.)