The Zombie Apocalypse is Really Not That Far-Fetched

...And the Airlines Won’t Care

Graphic by Paku Daoust-Cloutier

The scene at the annual Canadian University Press national conference, NASH 74, played out like a clichéd zombie flick, dirtying bathrooms and Twitter alike in Victoria this past weekend.

The conference’s title, Archipelago, was re-christened #archipukeago by tweeting casualties from around the country as the Norovirus, the virus formerly known as Norwalk, a highly communicable gastroenteritis-causing virus, visited dozens of CUP delegates at the Harbour Towers Hotel like a cruel, stomach-haunting ghost.

It was gala night at #barfipelago and the room was filled with attractive, intelligent 20-somethings listening to smart-ass ESPN feature writer and Esquire blogger Chris Jones recounting a story of the time he bled on George Clooney’s couch and his preference for putting two hard cocks in his mouth and banging them around like microphones rather than doing a story on his college nemesis.

While many in the crowd felt their guts busting with laughter, others’ guts were busting in a different way. The crowd slowly began to lose members as journalists slipped away to the bathrooms.
They managed not to raise a fuss, however, and so, as planned, 300 student journalists were piled onto yellow school buses to make their way to the gala.

And the gift of the Norovirus kept on giving on these sunshine-coloured wonder-mobiles. Buses are the best places for widespread vomiting, and the virus becomes airborne when puked up. These buses were just glorified disease vectors.

It was a huge expense to those among us who didn’t relish the prospect of 200 people all trying to fight the virus in a tin can with one bathroom 20,000 feet in the air.

Upon arrival at the scheduled drunk-fest/dance-off, more puking ensued—but, strangely, this time the puking came before the heavy drinking, not afterwards.
For those not immediately affected, because of their obvious biological superiority, it was a waiting game. And like any good zombie movie will show you, no matter how careful you are, resistance is futile.

Total zombification comes for you slowly, inexorably, as members of the group experience the magic of the disease one by one.
But the real tragedy of #pukeipelago was not the actual puking. It was the red-tape geniuses at WestJet and Air Canada, whose response to the outbreak seemed ripped right out of the script for Contagion.

As generally responsible members of society, many at #pukegate decided to push back their departure dates, not wanting to re-created the earlier schoolbus scenes while airborne. The airlines were slightly less concerned about the transfer of a virus that could make people poop uncontrollably within half an hour of contact, however.

When contacted, WestJet advised infected delegates to fly, which is weird considering that the Vancouver Island Health Authority made it clear that those very same people should remain in their hotel rooms.

As a result, many of the infected were forced to choose between their wallets and the well-being of their fellow humans. When you switch a flight you have to pay a “change of flight” fee, and you also have to pay the difference in cost between the original flight and the new one.

So the airline decided to pretend that they weren’t completely incompetent, deciding to wave the “change fees,” which is really tricky language, as it implies that changing the flight would have no costs associated with it. Wrong.

It was a huge expense to those among us who didn’t relish the prospect of 200 people all trying to fight the virus in a tin can with one bathroom 20,000 feet in the air.
Aside from essentially forcing many people to board planes, it appears that airlines do not even have a contingency plan to deal with viral outbreaks that may or may not turn the entire population into brain-eating zombies.

In a tweet, WestJet said, “We do not encounter this very often. We always team up with health authorities to determine the best course of action.”
That’s, if you will, hard to stomach. What about SARS, the bird flu, and H1N1? Were there no contingency plans for those situations?

It’s frustrating to see a big corporation like WestJet tacitly encouraging people to turn their Boeing 737s into flying toilets, but it’s worse when one considers what the ramifications would be like if the virus had been a more dangerous one.

The moral of the story? The zombie movies were right—the real villains aren’t the affected, but those who make the spread possible. One way or another, the end of the world will come down to money matters.

As for the delegates filtering home? Well, just call them the #NorwalkingDead.