Or “in hospital,” as they probably say in the places I’m headed to.
When I was young, I never gave travel a second thought. Whatever shots I needed I got, without incident. I wandered everywhere; was foolishly friendly with strangers; thought nothing of sharing bathrooms with cockroaches the size of cats, and shrugged off food poisoning in places where the toilets were mere holes in the ground with grooves in the tiles for feet. And never, ever thought to pack insect repellent.
Guess I was too stupid to worry, and had that youthful delusion that I was invincible. I’m lucky I wasn’t killed.
But that was all before 9/11, the recent demise of Osama bin Laden, West Nile virus and middle age. Now, I’m a wreck.
Just days before my round-the-world odyssey is about to start, I’m driving myself crazy. I’ve had my hepatitis shots, my typhoid pills. Packed my Wet Ones and mosquito-repellent wipes. Got my world clock(s) set on my iPhone. My checklists have checklists.
I’m staring at the online travel advisory issued by the U.S. State Department in a post-bin Laden world, warning Americans abroad to be extra careful. (Especially an American Jew going through Qatar to get to the Muslim nation of Maldives and the mostly Muslim city of Hyderabad, India.)
OK, I know. That’s stupid and ridiculous. But I’m an American. I’ve been trained well. I’m supposed to be perpetually nervous. I’m supposed to know what color the travel alert is this week. What is it: Orange? Mauve? Cream? Also, I did have an unpleasant scrape in the past.
And I’m poring over the guide given out by the nice folks at the travel clinic where I got my shots. It’s a veritable Bible of what can go wrong. My beloved Jewish mama would have been plotzing. The one who, everytime I announced I was hopping a jet to some exotic locale, would light up another cigarette out of frustration that I still wasn’t married with children yet, sigh and say, “Why? It’s just another warm place.”
Don’t walk on the beach at night; don’t go to crowded areas. Maybe best to leave the Star of David, chichi watch and rings at home. At any given moment there could be a terrorist attack, a religious stampede, rabid bats, mosquitoes bringing Dengue fever or malaria your way, or someone with TB hacking in your general direction. Wash your hands constantly.
Avoid raw and unpasteurized foods, including salads, yogurt, ice cream, chutney. Watch out for shellfish. Wait a minute, wasn’t the point of going to India to eat Indian food? Beware of even bottled water; it might be dangerous tap water in disguise. In other words, don’t eat, drink or breathe.
I may have to pack some frozen Indian dinners from my own freezer.
Or better yet, maybe I should just bag this fakakta trip and pull a Tracy Morgan from 30 Rock. Remember that? His character pretended to be in Africa, when in fact he was Skyping from a hideout in Queens.
Here. This is me in South Africa.
Ah, that’s so much easier.
Alright, alright, I’ll quit whining. I’m just about packed and ready to go.
Photoshop be damned. Bring it on.