Just a smoker’s cough. Nothing to fear here.

So today I was on the metro, minding my own business, when I coughed. It wasn’t a big cough. It wasn’t wet or hacking. It was just a cough. Kind of like the small cough to get someone’s attention. I even covered it with my book (which is currently The Watchmen graphic novel — surprisingly boring, in case you were wondering). Plus I was leaning against the window, so it didn’t even go in anyone’s direction. All bases covered, no big deal.

Apparently, though, it was a big deal to the person in front of me, because immediately after I coughed (if you could call it that), she tensed up. Like a flinch.

Having ridden the metro for years, I knew this tense. If someone were watching me at that moment, they would have seen me smile.

I put my book to my face and coughed again, this time intentionally and with a bit more force than the last one.

Another flinch from Helen Hypochondriac.

Another cough from me.

Flinch.

This game I was playing was not unlike poker. You don’t go all in on the first bet. You have to make the other players feel safe. Secure. Guard down.

I waited for the lady to relax a bit. I saw her shoulders slump, and I read a few more pages of The Watchmen (which is still shockingly disappointing). When I got to the end of my chapter, I put the book to my mouth and let out a string of coughs.

My girl did not disappoint. She glanced to her right, not quite far enough to look at me and raised her coat collar. Not the whole thing, mind you, just the right side of it, where my germs of death were coming from. I barely stifled my laugh.

My station was coming up in a few stops, so I had to get another reaction before I had to exit the train. I read another page of the book and coughed once more. Not a big one, a small one. Like the first one. I was going back to basics. And, as small as it was, it was enough to get her to move.

She stood up in a huff and moved to the back of the car, where she had to share a seat with someone (as before, she had a coveted solo seat).

Honestly, what a fantastic way to start the day.