Opinions, Column

Coughing on Campus: The BC Plague

I remember the night that everything went wrong. Just like every other night, I was sitting in my twin XL bed mindlessly scrolling through social media, responding to emails, and of course, checking Herrd. Normally, checking Herrd means that I silently cackle at a variety of different, sort of stupid (but still funny) posts as my roommate tries to sleep. But that night was different. Instead of funny content about partying or the Class of 2025, my timeline read: “Is anyone else dying right now?” and “I’m hacking up my left lung no cap.” Under the glow of the pink LED lights in my Walsh bedroom, I knew something bad was about to happen. 

Unceremoniously, the next morning I woke up with “the tickle.” And dear God, did I wish I hadn’t. Like any good COVID-19-fearing college student, my first inclination was to panic. Thoughts like “Do I have COVID, or do I just need to sleep?” and “Oh my God if I test positive right now I’m going to miss parents’ weekend,” consumed my being as I made a beeline for the Plex’s testing center. Although I was panicking on the inside, I couldn’t let COVID-19 sense my fear. I pounded the Emergen-C equivalent of a moderate-sized orange grove and prepared to lay low until my results came back, a few queues from last year’s college playbook. 

A few very long and anxiety-driven hours later, I got my results back. Thankfully, I tested negative for COVID-19, but positive for something else: the BC Plague. And after my concerning scroll through Herrd the previous night, I knew my fate was sealed. From the looks of it, members of the BC community were dropping like flies, and campus was slowly morphing into a Petri dish. Even in the center of the loudest, most populated places on campus, the booming coughs and stuffy noses of the fallen could be identified. And even worse, the silence of Bapst was lost to the not-so-occasional sniffle. 

 Speaking as a member of the fatefully ill masses, classes that week were a physical and emotional battle. Armed with enough sanitizer to disinfect the most vile corner of my soul, I tried my best to keep it together. DayQuil, Liquid I.V., NyQuil, repeat, became my mantra as my symptoms became worse. I began to wear a mask to my classes once I realized that I couldn’t make it out of the classroom every time I felt the urge to cough or blow my nose.

For me, the decision to wear a mask was a complicated one. Part of me was concerned that wearing a mask would scare my classmates and friends into thinking I had been exposed to COVID-19 instead of just the generic BC Plague. But on the other hand, I felt odd going maskless, knowing that I was sick and potentially exposing others to the horrors of my ailments. This internal debate, I’ve grown to realize, is one that’s happening everywhere right now, and is a significant indication that things have changed. Personally, I think it’s smart to wear a mask even if you’re sick with something other than COVID-19, simply from a peace-of-mind perspective. Even though the BC Plague is more annoying than anything else, no unsuspecting stranger would realize that you have the BC Plague, and not COVID-19, by the way you blow your nose or cough. Plus, if you’re sick, there is no better way to deflect judgmental glares than with a nice medical-grade mask. This minor change in, and discussion of, personal behavior is just one of the ways the world is changing in the wake of the pandemic. Think about it, a short two years ago it was deemed commendable to roll up to class on your deathbed. And now, as much as a sniffle will earn you a hoard of crude stares. 

Although so much has changed over the past two years, all of that “change,” until now, has felt temporary. At the start of the pandemic, and even as recently as this summer, I always assumed that one day things would just go back to “normal.” But as we gradually ease into what could potentially be normal, I’ve begun to make my peace with the fact that things will probably never be exactly the same as before. I don’t feel old enough to witness widespread societal change, but I guess I don’t really have a choice. Now, I imagine myself as an old woman, telling anyone who listens that “Back in my day, we went to school sick!” and “Your grandma lived through the global pandemic!” But until then, I send my sincerest condolences to anyone that has been victimized by the BC Plague and I hope we all stop coughing soon.

Featured Graphic by Heidy Lee/ Heights Staff

October 3, 2021