"I found the perfect term for you," my husband told me recently, "You're a Googlechondriac."
"Excuse me?" I asked icily.
"I read it online somewhere. It's like a hypochondriac, but who self-diagnoses using Google to find the worst case medical scenario," he said.
"Hm," I said, affecting disinterest but thinking damn, that's totally me.
I am that unfortunate trifecta of being fascinated by all things medical (my wealth of knowledge culled not entirely from ER, House, and Grey's Anatomy), having an overactive imagination, and feeling the sneaking suspicion that I am going to fall in the small percentages. When my OB tried to brush aside my childbirth concerns by telling me that 9 out of 10 women have perfectly normal births, it took all my self-control to nod and smile like a sane person when I felt like clutching him by his papery old white guy neck and screaming, Yeah? Well, what about the other one, buddy?? Ever think about her?? The one who bleeds out and dies on the delivery table???
It was around the six month prenatal visit during my pregnancy with Bear, when I mentioned that I was pretty sure I had some obscure pregnancy-related syndrome, that the same OB asked if I did a lot of reading? Like, say, medical books?
"Why, yes, I do," I told him smugly, fancying that the knowing glint in his eye was his recognition of another member of the Medically Savvy.
Turning to my husband, he said bluntly, "Take them away from her," made a quick notation on my chart and left.
So the people who know me best were not entirely surprised by my reaction to Swine Flu this week. And by reaction I mean my doing everything short of throwing a world map up on the living room wall and charting the minute-by-minute spread of the global pandemic that's going to KILL US ALL BY NEXT WEEK OMIGOD. Let's just say there was a little bit of obsessive "refresh" clicking while I sat glued to the CNN website. Also some hand-washing. OK, a lot of hand-washing. Really, really thorough hand-washing. Then...then came The Groceries of Mass Panic.
Sidebar & Confession: Have you ever read "The Long Winter" by Laura Ingalls Wilder? Specifically the part where they're stranded by blizzards all winter and can't get supplies into town because the trains can't get through, and they run out of food and have to grind wheat in their hand-crank coffee grinder to make one tiny loaf of bread a day for the six of them to share? It left a lasting impression on me when I read it in third grade. To this day I have a horror/fascination of being stranded at home and having to make do on whatever groceries are in the house. (Secretly I like to think I could rock it and whip up awesome meals using only ingredients like canned peaches and Top Ramen).
But I'm not taking any chances, and usually have enough food to feed a medium-sized army on hand at all times. One of my kid's friends, staring open-mouthed at our array of cereals once said, "I didn't even know they made that many kinds of cereal." Also, I like choices. If I feel like Raisin Bran, I don't want to have to make do with Shredded Wheat or Honey Bunches of Oats. This way, my options are open, plus we're covered if, say, there's an ice-storm (realistic) or a nuclear detonation (not-quite-so-realistic, but we'd be all set on cereal if there was).
When Governor Baldacci interrupted Oprah on Wednesday to announce three confirmed cases of Swine Flu (note to CDC: H1N1 is never going to have the same ring to it, give it up) in Maine, I snapped to immediate attention. All Mainers should go to the Maine CDC website for further infor..., he said. I was logging on to the site before -mation was out of his mouth. And it was on that site that I saw the magical words:
To plan for a pandemic:
Store a two week supply of water and food. During a pandemic, if you cannot get to a store, or if stores are out of supplies, it will be important for you to have extra supplies on hand. This can be useful in other types of emergencies, such as power outages and disasters.
Say no more, my friend. Say. No. More. I was at the grocery store at 7:45 the next morning, list in hand.
It wasn't until later in the day when I was putting away the bags and bags (and bags) of canned goods that I began to feel slightly embarrassed. I can actually pinpoint my mental shift to exactly the moment I was trying to figure out whether to shelve the eight cans of refried beans next to the twenty cans of fruit? or behind the God-help-me eighteen boxes of Kraft Mac 'n Cheese? Then my gaze fell on the two glass jars of capers that I swear I don't remember putting in the cart, but obviously did. What the hell was I thinking? That we might be quarantined for Swine Flu and there would be a sudden Chicken Piccata Emergency? Humanity might be dropping like flies, but by GOD, we can still make chicken piccata.
I might have also shelved fourteen cans of soup.
We hate canned soup.
However! I'm pleased to report that I've regained some perspective and am barely even freaking out at all anymore. Just ... don't sneeze, cough, or look feverish in my vicinity. I'm still a tad sensitive to that, and I can't be responsible for my hair-trigger reaction if you do.
Don't make me whip the industrial-sized bottle of hand sanitizer out of my purse. Or break out the (*blush*) four boxes of surgical masks in my bathroom cupboard.