Patient Zero


Dear J-

If you read some of these medical drama-type novels where the antagonist is not some terrorist or ideologically-opposed character but a faceless disease — think hantavirus or dysentery — they like to trace the origins back to some hapless Patient Zero who serves the same cannon-fodder role as the anonymous Security redshirt on Star Trek. Imagine the agent’s call: good news, you’ve got the part, but unfortunately you perish in a matter of moments*. Likewise in our family we note with some dismay the emergence of symptoms that only mean sickness is coming our way sooner or later. Invisibly, though, we’ve come to resemble one another in subtle ways both flattering and not.

One of my most terrible character traits is a lack of patience: if there’s something I want I seem to find a way to wheedle until it’s mine, sooner or later. Well, it’s not so much wheedle as make everyone’s life miserable until I get my way, whether it’s as simple as badgering people to stop what they’re doing and help me with this or looking for something I’ve lost and getting the rest of the family involved looking. For what it’s worth I feel immediate shame and remorse but it’s a hardwired response: everyone stop, we’re not doing anything until I get this done. In the end you find it eventually but it’s the asking everyone else to help because of my impatience that drives me nuts sometimes.

At the same time like some kind of mental disease I see myself reflected in figgy’s demands: as crazy as I deem her she has learned** the lack of patience from me. From the abrupt silences to plosive exhalations and final dramatic declarations (“Fine! I’m NOT going to be your friend any more!”) all the tricks of dear old dad are on display. I don’t remember my parents acting that way so I suppose that makes me zero patience Patient Zero. The mirror is sharp and painful even when it’s only a truthful image of myself. As much as I do want to teach the next generation I’m always crippled with paralyzing fears that the lessons I give are poor quality and off message to boot. So if I’m Patient Zero I’ll embrace it and instead become the change I want to see.


* There are times when I think that as part of the break in this tradition that The Next Generation afforded, along with the swap of Command gold and Security red, they installed Tasha Yar (Denise Crosby) as a charismatic, major-character Security chief. Of course they went and killed her off later that first season so that puts that to bed somewhat.

** Things she has also learned from me:
– how to curse at cars on the freeway
– how boys pee
– obsessive collection habits
– immersing yourself in technology to the exclusion of others
– poor sitting posture
– knee to the groin


Tags: , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: