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by David Gura
Apr 30, 2009

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David Gura

The other day, the Red Line Metro, here in Washington, had some major delays. When I was able to board a train, the car was packed. Halfway to the Woodley Park stop, we came to a standstill.

"The car in front of us has a malfunctioning door. We're waiting for it to clear the platform."

For those of you who haven't lived in Washington, here's what that means: Everyone has to get off the train with the malfunctioning door. Then, they stand on the platform, waiting for the next train. While that is happening, subsequent trains — like the one I was on — have to wait. When the subsequent trains get to the next station, where all the passengers from the preceding train are waiting, it's a huge mess. Everyone tries to cram into the car.

So, as I said, that situation played out on Tuesday, and when it did, I couldn't help but look around at this crammed car, with people standing shoulder to shoulder, as the air got thicker and thicker, wondering, of course, what would happen if someone on the train had Swine Flu!

The horror! The humanity!

Jeffrey Goldberg, of The Atlantic, posted about a similar experience, at a coffee shop, on his blog:

I was in a Starbucks today when I was struck by an allergy-induced cough. Three people stared at me with something approaching panic. "Don't worry, it's just Marburg," I said, which caused them to visibly relax. Not that they knew what Marburg was. They were just glad to hear that I didn't have the dreaded swine flu. (Fun fact about Marburg: Those who manage to recover from Marburg frequently suffer from orchititis. Look it up.)

Have you seen people start to panic? Are your friends wearing masks?

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