Imagine for a moment that you are a father. Now imagine that your 6 year old excitedly shows you a plastic tube that was given to her by a schoolyard friend. Now imagine examining the tube closely, which is filled with a textured, viscous beige-and-green goop, and seeing a medical waste warning label. Wouldn’t you be a little bit anxious at this point? Wouldn’t you immediately put it in a Ziploc bag, wash your hands, wash and quarantine your daughter, take pictures of the offending vial, and contact the principal of the school immediately to find out the source? Wouldn’t you also call Public Health to make sure you weren’t going to become the epicenter of the next SARS-like outbreak?
I would. But I wasn’t that father.
Let’s imagine a separate scenario: Let’s say that over 2 years ago you worked at an ad agency that had a drug company client. Let’s say that the client sometimes had sample kits to give away to doctors. One of those kits ended up in your hands because it was extra, because it was free, and because it came with a cool bag. In this kit were a few ‘realistic’ looking items. One of them happened to be a plastic vial for disposing of insulin needles. You thought it would be cute to put them with the other items in your kid’s Fisher-Price doctor bag and forgot about it. For 2 years.
Then, one Friday on your commute home you received a strange text message from your wife. Your daughter had been caught with a vial of bio-hazardous material. Under interrogation, she told the principal that she got it from… you!
Having absolutely no memory of this vial from 2 years ago, you try desperately to figure out how your child would be in possession of bio-hazardous material. You gave blood a few months ago, but you weren’t allowed to take any of the vials home. You were in the hospital for a day last year, was it from then? Your wife was a practicing doula for a while, was it from her birthing kit? None of these options made any sense.
On your walk home, you pick up your daughter from a play date at a friend’s. You ask her if she got in trouble for bringing anything to school that day. She frowns and doesn’t want to talk about it. You press her gently. Finally she says, “It was YOUR thing! It was from YOU!”
“I know, I know,” you say. “It was entirely my fault. But it scared a few people.” Pausing, you finally ask, “What was in that thing anyway?”
“Cotton balls and hand soap, of course,” is her matter-of-fact reply.
“Of course,” you say, most relieved. Then you go home and write a long letter of explanation to the principal of the school so that everyone can relax for the weekend without visions of viral contamination.
Yup. I was that father.