Be Careful of Flesh-Eating Bacteria

  • Greensboro, North Carolina, United States

Author:  Kelly Swanson

Short Description

Me to My Husband, Bill:     Bill – look! My phone is blowing UP with all these stories about people getting this flesh-eating bacteria from getting into the ocean! Bill:    You’re kidding. (Not even breaking stride in his email checking) Me:     It’s true! It’s right here. A man who’s about to lose his arm. A 12-year old who is about […]

Me to My Husband, Bill:     Bill – look! My phone is blowing UP with all these stories about people getting this flesh-eating bacteria from getting into the ocean!

Bill:    You’re kidding. (Not even breaking stride in his email checking)

Me:     It’s true! It’s right here. A man who’s about to lose his arm. A 12-year old who is about to die. And here’s a woman whose face is disappearing as we speak! This is crazy. It’s like an epidemic. Maybe we should cancel our trip to the beach. I can’t be a speaker with only half a face!

Bill:   Hhhhmmmm.  (Translated: I’m not even listening. This is the sound I make when I’m answering an email and you are saying something to me. This is a good time to tell me about that $200 dress you just bought.)

Me:    Are you kidding me? You’re not the least bit concerned that our son could lose his leg? Oh my heavens, here are two more! This is unbelievable. Somebody needs to DO something about this. I’m going to share this RIGHT NOW on Facebook. To raise awareness. Somebody should plan a parade. What color would the arm bands be? Flesh-colored?

Bill:   Honey. The odds of us catching a flesh-eating bacteria are very slim. Better chance you’ll be hit by a car. (It’s his favorite go-to phrase.)

Me:    Tell that to @HoneyDue in Memphis whose feet look like she put them in a blender. Do you want ME to have feet like that when I wear sandals? I can’t BELIEVE Congress isn’t talking about this. They didn’t even bring it up on Grey’s Anatomy! This is a travesty (Note to self: Look up “travesty” to make sure I’m using it right.) 

And you don’t even seem to care. Sitting over there in your ivory tower. (Note to self: Look up “ivory tower.”)

Be Careful of Flesh-Eating Bacteria

Bill:     (Extremely audible sigh).   Let me see your phone.

Kelly:    Seriously? You don’t even believe it when I’m reading it directly from the flipping news itself? Well, let me just call the Associated Press. “I’m sorry, please delete your news reports. Bill in North Carolina doesn’t believe you.”

Bill:      (No comment. Just that look he gives me when he’s sure he’s about to be right. He motions for me to hand him my phone.)

Me:      Well, see for yourself, big shot.   Maybe THIS will wake you up to the state our world is in.

Bill:    (After two seconds of scrolling he stops and looks at me over the top of his glasses with his “I’m trying to be patient” look, which I hate.).

Yes, honey, these articles do seem to be legitimate. (Stand down Associated Press, Bill Swanson believes you. You can proceed.)

But there’s one heading here that I think you overlooked.

Me:     Oh, that’s just an ad for Viagra.

Bill:    No. THIS heading. (He calls me over and points to my phone where there in huge betraying letters are these words.)


Me:    (Silence)

Bill:    This one happened in 1927. And this one, in 1935.  And this one in 1952. In fact, there hasn’t been a case of this reported in this country in over a year – among millions of people. I think we’re safe.

Me:     Well, I’m still not getting in the water.


Yep. He was right again. Apparently, when I clicked on one story of a man who got a flesh-eating bacteria, my phone arbitrarily decided to pull up every other flesh-eating story ever written since Adam.  And in minutes, one story became an epidemic.

That is the power of the world’s storytellers – choosing what stories we see, when see them, and in what order. And, in essence, helping to dictate what we care about.

That is the power of how one strategically placed story and a buried heading can create the impression of an epidemic.

That is the power of our own mind to take the story we see and create a bigger one we don’t.

What’s the point? I’m not sure. Maybe it’s just a warning to be careful of flesh-eating bacteria.

I do think there’s a deeper lesson here, but I don’t have time to figure it out. I just saw an article about an 800-pound shark off the coast of New Jersey. We are definitely cancelling our trip to the beach.

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