It seems as though the eyes of every passenger on the ferry are boring into me, or at least the peepers that aren’t closed due to tipsy drowsiness.
The water in my bottle is almost gone. I stare out the window, contemplating a scoop of Victoria Harbour to refill it. It might have marine debris in it but, psychologically, knowing hydration is in hand could relax me and, crucially, my throat. I am only five minutes into a late night ferry ride home. I won’t last. Someone will maim me from irritation.
The only body part as tense as my throat are my shoulders, ready for people to tap me sternly and say ‘can you take it outside?’
What then? This cough will carry across water. Do ships still have foghorns, and therefore loud noises remain an accepted form of comms? I fear what my series of parps could mean because, frankly, my cough is like a ship’s siren. What if I unknowingly coughed something political? Mind you. If my coughs were to tap out in Morse code an emergency sequence that beckoned the Marine Department, surely they’d have some extra medical supplies on board.
For the past two weeks, see, I have had a cough. It comes from nowhere, turning a peaceful moment to panic. Once it starts, it’s dogged. It won’t cease till at least two minutes of raucous barking have crescendoed to a contagious pinnacle.
The strength of the air being expelled by my throat is not just impressive, it’s practically measurable. At the hair salon, I started coughing and the airflow from my personal nozzle could have blow dried another customer’s short bob. That made my cough a Professional Remington.
Eventually, persuaded by others, I go to the doctor, to have my chest sounded and be told it’s completely clear. ‘Don’t worry,’ she says, ‘lots of people get this.’
I have a cough without cause? Others do too? Being told there is no explanation for something which nonetheless exists makes me fear the future.
The mystery genesis of my cough deserves study. I consider non-medical possible causes and land quickly on pollution. If that’s the case, then it won’t just be me who contracts a cough. Every journey will be accompanied by the rasping of an adjacent wayfarer. It will be a new form of noise pollution. Transport will sound like plague pits on wheels.
It strikes me then that transport should adapt. A relief area for coughers might be designated, like the opposite of a quiet coach. Already some Hong Kong ferry goers are told to head upstairs if they should wish to eat or drink. Add to that – ‘If you have a cough, please sit upstairs, at the back, in the unwellness area, which is demarcated by purple seats.‘ The colour would be chosen to match the shade a cougher’s face attains during a coughing fit.
It further occurs this all heralds a new market. On my ferry, I yearned for more water and cough syrup. Others similarly afflicted might too. Food delivery apps already abound – so why not a medical delivery app? Deliveroo for cough mixture. Cough Panda. Uber Syrups not Uber Eats. I foresee a med tech bubble.
With the ubiquity of coughs with no apparent cause – hey, the doctor said so – comes also a possible new drinks market. Instead of plain cough syrup, we sufferers might enjoy ingredients to add sweetness and further gaudiness. Medical mixology. Don’t forget soothing ice. And presto – a cough cocktail. A cough-tail!
Who wants a healthy economy? Unwellness seems to offer so many opportunities.