A problem shared

On a recent trip I found myself in a dangerous position. I thought I’d asked the check-in lady for a window and aisle combo on the plane for myself and cello, but it appeared I’d been given the death seat.

More precisely I’d been given the infectious seat, as all around me the world coughed and sneezed. It was like everyone at a Prom of quiet music (let’s say Arvo Part) had been picked up and placed around me on my tiny little plane like SAS snipers. I tried to ignore the number of germs flying like Luftwaffe with red-mist syndrome towards my system as I took in lung after lung of recycled air. Then the lady in front sneezed into her in-flight magazine. No hand-to-mouth reaction or anything. Then the cheap, stripey-suited Malcolm sitting at 2 o’clock showed that he’d had too much business-funded sushi for lunch by not even having the will to cover his sneeze with his Financial Times. It was just thrown out there for everyone to share.

It got me thinking – Maybe by sharing the cold it helped them to get better. Like one of those emails people in Army-surplus baggy jumper send out that say ‘I’m sending this out to help save the fairies and to spread happiness. You must send it on to at least 101 friends or your dog will die.’ Afterall, they say a problem shared is a problem halved’.

Expect it isn’t, is it?

There are very few problems that are halved by being shared when you actually think about it. Sure, if I have a difficult Trivial Pursuit question I could share it with someone else but it’s only helpful if I share it with someone who actually knows the answer. Then it’s not halved – it’s gone.

Someone with halitosis or problems with body odour share their problem with people all day long. It’s not halved exponentially. If my dog only develops a limp rather than actually dying because I didn’t pass on hippy-girl’s chain-mail, it’s only helped if I share the problem by tying Fido onto a smaller dog to create a non-falling over, eight-legged super-dog.

And we’d all agree global warming’s a big problem, and Live Earth had Madonna and Chris Martin showing most of the Western world the problem, but in the next couple of days the weather through the square window is going to go from warm to snow then very quickly back to warm.

So that’s not halved it then.

There are solutions to global warming and limping dogs, but science hasn’t yet cured the common cold. So for now, cover your mouth when you sneeze people.

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