On my daily MARC train trip to Baltimore last Tuesday evening, I fell into a head-hanging, drooling sleep so deep I nearly missed my station. By the time I reached home, the fever was on, and I was deep into my worst flu bout since elementary school.

Like a good worker, I called in sick on Wednesday, Thursday, and again on Friday, to spare my coworkers from my germs. After six days, countless cups of ginger tea, a quarter bottle of Tylenol, and the second season of The Wire, I was back on the MARC Monday morning, hoping I wouldn’t spook my fellow commuters with a coughing fit.

I shouldn’t have worried. Although I did let out a few raspy coughs into my handkerchief, the final notes of my sickness were nothing compared to sniffling, sneezing, and full-on hacking of many other riders. A bearded man a few rows ahead of me coughed for so long, I feared he would pass out. The train car rang with sickness all the way to D.C.

It’s going to be a long, germy winter for commuters. Have the rules changed and it’s now all right to go to work with a serious cold or even the flu? If so, I propose we follow certain Asian countries where the polite person with a cold covers his mouth in public with a hospital mask. At least on the MARC train.