Friday, November 04, 2005

planning for a pandemic


taking the afternoon off to visit the immigration office in shinagawa, was not exactly my idea of relaxation. sure i got to leave work early, but i had been having flushes for a week thinking about what the visit would entail. i dont know why i get so worked up when i have to fill out documents, present myself as an upstanding citizen worthy of staying in the country and flashing my credentials around.
as i stepped off the bus i was instantly hit by the fact that about eighty five percent of the foriegners now residing in tokyo, had also decided to take the afternoon off to get their visas sorted. i raced up the elevator to scope out the situation. a friend had told me, it shouldnt take too long. i had learnt once before that you always get your numbered ticket prior to spending half an hour filling out the often incomprehensible forms.
i grabbed for the number, glancing at it (624) and then up at the current customer number on the screen (412) the full brunt of this ordeal hit me...exactly 212 others would go before me.
i had some other business to get sorted out, which took no time, then i found a quiet little spot to fill in the three forms i had been given.
i dont know what it is, but when i am in situations like that or even at the airport, i treasure my passport like it is some kind of diamond encrusted bra and hold onto it for dear life. maybe i have watched too many movies rife with international espionage and identity theft. i clutch my little blue book embellished with its innocent aussie logo, in fear that the 12 spies surrounding me with their wires, cameras and amnesia, are poised to whisk my selfhood from me, leaving me a nobody in a foreign country; only to sell my identity to some underworld 'gorgeous alchemist'.
anyway after a long lounge around and a few emails and calls to my tokyo pals, the next thing i know the gorgeous yet totally 'over it!' lassie who dealt with my case was sending me on my way.
little did i know, as i rode the bus back to the station that i was in for an even bigger gut grabber. now i'm not one for getting caught up in media hype, in fact i bore and berate those around me with my constant crys of 'never believe anything you see on tv or read in the paper' ' you cant trust anything in the media' blah blah. yet as i strolled back through the horde, making my way for the station i glanced up at a big screen. usually belting out visuals of the latest product or pop star, this one displayed the cnn logo in the bottom corner, an official looking dude reading off some document and the caption in big, bold, red, letters - 'PLANNING FOR THE PANDEMIC' Usually I would brush something like this off, viewing it as scare tactics, but i instantly remembered an article i had read in last weeks newsweek about the bird flu and its economic side effects. i then remembered all the other crazy banter i heard on the topic. my mind then flashed to zume saying, only a few nights ago, that he really thinks we should head back to australia soon because the japanese economy is going to get the flu. and then suddenly i found myself surrounded by swarms of coughing and spluttering salary men.
needless to say as soon as i got in the door of my apartment, i scrubbed myself down, gargled and put my clothes in the washer. paranoid? perhaps... but i also googled 'planning for a pandemic' and do you know what came up? - 'Can you survive the bird flu?' can you believe that??
while i don't intend to get too panic striken about this, i think the threat of such an outbreak is enough to make me a little more proactive...its enough to make me chose my bike over the train; even when i am feeling a little sleepy in the mornings. its enough to get me setting up a 'gargle station' at work and enforcing a stricter handwashing routine.
enough to get me filling my glass just a little higher tonight
here's to good health


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