Swatting While Suffering: Some Tips for Surviving at Swarthmore When Your Body Wants to Collapse in on Itself

What may have first appeared to be a garden-variety Swat Plague has, over the past few weeks, hit our campus with the force of a hurricane fueled by snot and despair. It seems like everyone either has a hacking cough, food poisoning via chipotle cream sauce, or the actual flu (get vaccinated, y’all). And if you’re lucky enough to not be ill, you too can still be overcome by some vague sense of physical disgust because it’s not the start of the semester, and it’s not break, and it’s not midterms, and it’s not winter, but it’s not spring either!

I myself had felt fine for the first two weeks back, and was going about my business, feeling tired and stuffed up and a little overwhelmed — but when am I not tired and stuffed up and, most importantly, overwhelmed? But then, on the one day temperatures got above 60 degrees and I went outside with bare legs, I started coughing and feeling chills. I went to Worth and was examined by a lovely nurse who seemed convinced I wasn’t anything more than sleep-deprived, only to learn that I looked otherwise fine but had a 103 degree fever. Well, f*ck.

She told me I had to stay “removed from the community” until the fever went away and so I stumbled back to Dana, carrying a paper bag full of little packets of pain meds and cough syrup and wondering what I was supposed to do. Being a Swarthmore student means that I spend most of my days crisscrossing campus between classes and work and meetings and practices, bouncing from place to place like some sort of vaguely sweaty and knitwear-clad projectile trapped in a giant pinball machine. So how was I supposed to cope with being stuck in my room indefinitely? How would I be able to see my friends when I was clearly contagious and also disgusting? How would I survive without my daily Sharples orange?

The only clear course of action remaining was to, like a good Swarthmore student, make a list of everything I could do (and then develop a moral objection to half the list’s items and forget about the other half). That list is below, a mix of what I wanted to do, tried to do, dreamed of doing, and actually did over the two and a half days I was waiting for my fever to die down. If you find yourself in a similar situation, feel free to try and replicate them (at your own risk).

Things to do while sick at Swat

  • Have a series of stress dreams in which you’re being chased in circles around the amphitheatre by the flying ants from Underhill.
  • Drink a cup of water every half hour — now’s the time to hydrate as much as you’ve always said you would!
  • Become so feverish that you think taking a cold shower is a good idea; realize how horribly you’ve fucked up approximately 0.2 seconds after you’ve turned the faucet all the way to the right.
  • Under no circumstances come even close to touching your homework.
  • Spend an hour talking with your roommate about what would happen if all the people you’ve both kissed were stuck in a room together.
  • Take up all the washing machines in your dorm because you finally have time to do your laundry; sit atop a warm dryer and grin evilly at everyone who comes in wanting to wash their clothes.
  • Embrace your inner 80-year old man and yell at your neighbors for making noise at four in the afternoon.
  • Knit half a hat and the sleeve of a sweater before unravelling both.
  • Curl up inside the weird empty space under your bay window and close the door; it smells like an abandoned summer camp cabin in there and you’ll probably get a splinter in your foot.
  • Go to sleep at 10 a.m. and wake up at 2 p.m. and feel like you’ve been transported into an alternate dimension.
  • Try to talk to your plants.
  • Watch the entire first season of “American Vandal” in one sitting and start to see drawings of dicks behind your eyelids every time you blink.
  • Say you’re going to check your Instagram because you never do. Your roommate leaves for an afternoon seminar and comes back to find you in the same position, two hours deep into a compilation of those videos where people cut into oreos made out of frozen paint.
  • Construct a model city in the middle of your room out of all the tissue boxes you’ve emptied.
  • Lie naked on the floor listening to Gaelic music.
  • Rejoice in the fact that being ill has earned you the ultimate misery poker trump card.

Clio Hamilton

Clio W. Hamilton '22 loves writing, knitting, and sleeping. She maintains that she could be something other than an English major, but so far all signs point to the contrary.

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