Pink-Eye Panic

Woke up at 5:15 this morning, way too early for my taste. Wandering to the bathroom for water, I caught sight of myself in the mirror. My eyes were the color of Barbie's princess gown. They didn't feel too good, either. Itchy, gunky, watery. Went back to bed, and before long my eyes began to feel like they had chunks of gravel in them. Very pointy chunks of gravel. I wanted to go back to sleep, but my mind had strayed off onto a spooky, dark, dusty, unmarked country road detour from Memory Lane: college boyfriends who owned cats, so I was always meeting potential in-laws with tears running down my cheeks; the piano teacher with many cats and icky perfume who thought I really hated music because I cried through every lesson; my frequent bouts with conjunctivis when we first moved to Texas equally due to waterproof mascara and mimosa blooms. And then, MY BIGGEST FEAR. Yes, Pink-Eye! (Can you hear the horror movie music yet?) Dun-dun-dum-DUMMMMM!

I am a person who cannot read about diseases without developing the symptoms. Don't tell me the possible side effects to a medication unless you want me to have them. It's not really hypochondria, explained a very patient, understanding allergist. He said it was not uncommon for intelligent, artistic people to convert words into sensations. Don't eat onions, he advised, and don't read bestsellers about outbreaks of horrible diseases.

Still, at 5:25 a.m., it is easy to slip into Pink-Eye Panic. Those of us who teach the summer camps cannot be sick. It is not possible. There are no substitutes. There are no sick days. There are no make-ups. We know it going in. In five summers I have never been sick. I've not had so much as a nosebleed. So, even if the chunks of gravel in my eye are an artist's overreactions, I can't have Pink-Eye.

Pink-Eye is the worst. You can't hide it. It is hideously contagious. You can't teach if you have Pink-Eye, but it's summer camp. You can't be absent, either. I had a dear friend who tried to explain non-zero-sum game theory to me nearly ten years ago. I never did understand the Prisoners' Dilemma, but I propose to you that the Teacher's Pink-Eye Dilemma is an equally difficult puzzle, especially at 5:30 a.m.

The good news is the hay fever eye drops cleared my eyes. No Pink-Eye. Just short of sleep all day with the students.

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