state-sponsored dishonesty (about a cough)

This morning, as I came off a plane in Rio de Janeiro, health authorities gave me a short form to fill out.  At the top it said SWINE FLU in Portuguese.

In the last ten days, have you had

COUGH             _____

FEVER              _____

NONE                _____

As a matter of fact, I have had a cough during the last ten days, a leftover from catching my dear son’s case of croup.  Do I have any other swine flu symptoms?  No.  Do I want to spend time in a quarantine or get sent back to the USA?  No.

I decide to be honest and check the COUGH box.  When I get to the health authority, she says, Do you have a cough?  No, but I’ve had one in the past ten days.  Do you have one today?  No.  Then let’s fix this: You don’t want lots of trouble.  She scratched out “cough” and marked the “none” box.

As I waited for my bags, I coughed.  [Oops; but I hadn’t as of when she asked me.]  But why didn’t they make the question for the day, then?

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