No Flu Zone

This column was written by CBS News Up To The Minute contributor Simon Bates, filing from London.


As if the commute to and from work isn't normally a nightmare -- packed into a subway carriage like a sardine, unable to prevent your neighbor from invading the inch or two left of your own personal space -- there's an added horror at this time of year. The commuter with a cold, or worse, the flu.

Sniffling and snuffling, coughing and spluttering, they add agony to the journey and leave you in the safe knowledge that you'll succumb to their infection within forty eight hours.

And to make matters worse, you can't get away from them.

At least back in the middle ages, sufferers from unpleasant illnesses had to carry a bell around with them and ring it as a warning. Now often the first you know is when the thoughtless so and so sneezes unapologetically into your face.

But, rejoice, help is at hand.

Not just the cough free zone, but the cough free carriage. Because one carriage in each railroad train is now being reserved on each journey in and out of London from Shoeburyness on England's East Coast, for anyone who hasn't got a cold and doesn't want to get one.

If you're in this carriage, which is being sponsored suitably enough by a cough medicine company, and you so much as sniff, you will be asked to leave.

It's a great idea, but I fear it's doomed. For a start, everyone is going to want to travel in the germ free coach and at the height of the coughing season, it'll be packed out anyway, leaving late comers to the infected carriages.

And how about the thorny business of asking someone who's coughing to get out and join the other sickies further up the train?

Will people go quietly or will they be forcibly ejected? And who's going to do the ejecting? Will there be a sneeze police soon on our transportation system? And what constitutes a cough or a sneeze? Will it be a case of three sneezes and you're out? Or one cough and you're off?

This one, like the noses of so many of Britain's wintry commuters, could run and run.
By Simon Bates