Cold and flu season is here, and with it the moral dilemmas that define it. This time of year offers a unique glimpse into the social contract we all want upheld even as we seek to subvert it. The rules for how to interact with others while sick are usually written in erasable ink. A closer examination might help create a stronger human bond, or at least explain why your child’s teacher was absent today. Is it acceptable to attend a party even if you suspect you might be coming down with something? If so, is it your duty to warn others before touching them? On the other hand, is staying away from that party because of a sore throat a good enough excuse? How many days before and after a cold are you expected to avoid contact?
Some would never expose Grandma to their cold but wouldn’t think twice about sitting in a crowded movie theatre while sneezing through a box of tissues. All of us rationalize our choices without verbalizing them, creating at best an uneasy truce between expediency and moral relativity.