Sunday, July 5, 2009

Swine Flu Grips Buenos Aires Tango

La Gripe Porcine, the swine flu, has made its way into the minds of tango dancers. The winter flu season has arrived, and with it, an increase in the number of infections and deaths in Buenos Aires caused by swine flu, or whatever you want to call it.

Every day I see more people on the subway with masks "protecting" them from swine flu. Others hold a scarf or sweater over their mouths and noses. Last Thursday the Puntocero milonga, downtown, was cancelled on short notice. There is a nice free milonga 3 blocks from my house on the first saturday of the month, but that was cancelled as well. And now, the once-proud Practica X has shut its doors for the entire month of July.

School vacations have been extended by about 3 weeks, and I have heard rumors that the government will mandate cancellation of all cultural events.

At the risk of angering the swine flu god, and apart from the air of sadness that comes with observing a terrorized society, I've found some positives. Last night, I had the most enjoyable milonga experience since arriving in BsAs. I discovered Club Fulgor de Villa Crespo, which has a good dance floor (rare) and a light atmosphere (more rare). But also, while many lamented the light turnout, I found it perfect. There were enough seats for everybody, enough space to dance, and enough people to make it fun. I stayed late and slept well afterward.

One of my teachers, who has resigned herself to staying away from public gatherings, told me that, after every dance I should wash my hands and... gargle with salt water.

That's a bit excessive for me. I must admit I wash my hands more often these days but beyond that, I'll rely on my immune system and regular sleep to carry me through.

I have to wonder what it is about swine flu. I guess public health officials worry about the infection rate going parabolic, but what does the average Joe worry about? Far more people die from "regular flu," not to mentions the hundreds of other prominent dangers that surely outkill swine flu by a long shot. No one appears to be to concerned with, for example, malaria or automobile accidents.

I think that our minds are drawn to things that are new. We've lived through regular flu, and malaria. And we understand that cars in the street are dangerous, but we have outsmarted them this long. Each of us has proven that we can live in a world with all the diseases that exist in the world; but we don't yet know how this whole swine flu thing will play out. It is the uncertainty that fills our mind with dread more than the presence of certain danger.

My guess is that in a few months or a year, swine flu will be as big a problem or greater than it is today. But, except for a small number of unlucky individuals, no one will care.

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