I hate the color purple. It just doesn’t do it for me. What colors other than Red, White and Blue could I love?

You see, the problem with purple is that it doesn’t look good with anything. I can’t think of one thing that I would eat or drink that is purple either. Wine is technically red, and no I will not eat grapes. [SPEAKING OF GRAPES, SOME GIRL IN VERMONT GOT BIT BY A BLACK WIDOW SPIDER THAT WAS INSIDE A BAG. WTF?!] Grapes are just gross.

Purple is a tough color to wear. Is it warm? Is it cold? Is it a “happy” color or is it “sad”? I have no idea, I had to work really hard not to fail art class.

The only people that willingly wear purple are guys that play for the Minnesota Vikings, or their fans. I hate the Vikings. Go Pack Go. Really, I just hate the color purple. It reminds me of the time Randy Moss caught a touchdown pass and mooned the Lambeau Field crowd in 2005.

Purple, unfortunately, is the color that I am stuck with.

Purple classifies me as a CF patient. It is the color arbitrarily chosen to represent a group of people that are in a common struggle – the struggle to overcome cystic fibrosis. People say this or that about CF awareness month, May, and it seems like there is purple all over the place on social media, but what does that accomplish? How do people become more aware just by seeing the color purple? Is awareness achieved when people blindly donate to the cause or when they understand what a fraction of the world’s population go through on a given day? And that’s just it, a small fraction of the total population suffers from CF. There are fewer people with CF worldwide than the total number of fans that go and watch the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on Sundays. Do people truly understand what we go through? I bet some do, but the real problem is that unless the disease directly impacts someone that you may know, then chances are that you know very little about it. I would even make the argument that most patients and families have no idea what they are up against. I think I have a pretty good handle on it some days, but out of nowhere anything and everything can go wrong. Cystic fibrosis is not a commonly understood thing, and here’s the perfect example.

During my senior year of college, I developed a pretty nasty cough and got sick one way or another, so I needed to be seen by the doctor back in New York. There wasn’t anything special going on, no exams or wild parties, so I figured a weekend home wouldn’t hurt either. I could have driven home no problem, but my parents didn’t want me driving since they weren’t exactly sure how poorly I was feeling, so they put me on an evening Delta shuttle out of Boston. The shuttle, if you have never flown on it, doesn’t go to space, unfortunately, rather it’s an affordable commuter plane for people who frequently have to travel to do business in New York, Boston, DC or Chicago. It’s also pretty convenient for college students who live near airports.

I was in such a rush to get to the airport that I didn’t have time to stop and grab a surgical mask from the drug store. You have to remember, I was in college, so I didn’t just keep things like that on hand like I do now. I got to the airport about 45 minutes before departure and needed to get my ticket, get through security and board. As a result, I had to hustle to the gate with a couple heavy carry-ons, my backpack filled with homework that I was probably (not) going to do over the weekend at home and a bag bursting with essential laundry that was obviously not folded. Looking back, I must have seemed pretty banged up because people were avoiding me in the airport.

By the time I boarded the plane and sat down, I was totally out of breath and was neck deep in a coughing fit. The passengers around me were clearly pretty unsettled by the whole thing. Luckily, I didn’t have anyone sitting next to me, so I didn’t have to deal with that, but I could tell the people in my immediate vicinity, were not happy. It came to the point where the guy in front of me pulled out a bottle of hand sanitizer and said, just loud enough for me to hear, “since we practice good hygiene, let’s all Purell together and stay safe.” First of all, that’s not an exaggeration. He actually said that. I will never forget that. Second, who uses the word “hygiene” in everyday vernacular? No one. What a weirdo.

Even after five or six passengers used this guy’s Purell, it was pretty evident that he still wasn’t happy. He started talking about how someone he knew got the flu because of a passenger that was coughing on the subway, or something to that extent. I couldn’t hear that well because I was sort of listening to my iPod, but had one earphone out just to keep tabs on the whole thing. It was as if he was talking to me, without actually talking to me. He went on and on and on about his buddy with the flu, and by that point, I really was trying to suppress my cough, but it wasn’t working at all. In all honesty, I was just as annoyed with my cough as the people were around me.

After about five minutes (for some reason it took forever for us to depart, who knows why) of him creating allies amongst the passengers on the plane, he finally stood up, walked to my seat and confronted me. He said, “Son, if you don’t cover your mouth and figure out that cough, I am going to have you removed from the airplane, then you’ll be hearing from my lawyer.”

First of all, I was covering my mouth. Let’s get that straight. More importantly, though, I suddenly found myself in a pretty unique situation. To make matters worse, all the passengers had their eyes on me – all his allies. There were about a million different ways I could have handled it, but my first instinct was to stand up and get in his face, so that’s exactly what I did. I stood up and quickly realized that I was towering over him. This guy was feeling all high in mighty in his $5,000 suit when he was standing over my seat, but he was shocked to see that I had about 6 inches and 20 pounds on him, so he took a step back. Just as soon as I started to open my mouth to reply, it suddenly dawned upon me that I didn’t want to say something too stupid and actually get into the type of altercation that would lead to an Air Marshal, who may or may not have been on board, tazing me. Mom definitely would not have been happy with that, so I kindly tried to tell him that he should just sit back down and not try to press me on this.

Instead of listening to me, he kept at it.

I have to imagine that it was probably pretty entertaining for the passengers around us.Just think about anytime you’ve been in a bar when a fight is about to break out. The intensity is through the roof. I saw enough of those in Boston during the college years to know that this is exactly where we were headed. His face was turning red, his voice was rising and he was a man on a mission. Seriously, who knows where the flight attendants were, it was about to cross the line.

Finally I had to break it to the guy, I said, “I have cystic fibrosis, you’re going to be fine, it’s a normal cough. I can promise you that I am not contagious.” I could have sworn I heard a gasp or two from the audience when I said that. It was my ace in the hole, and I was kind of hoping this whole thing wouldn’t go there, but of course it did, because there are lots of idiots out there.

The passengers were now clearly on my side after that, and it felt like we were waiting forever for him to respond. He finally said something to the effect of, “I don’t care what you have, just be on the lookout for a call from my attorney.”

I mean, the whole thing was beyond stupid. The two people directly across the aisle from me looked like they had just seen a ghost. I just laughed, sat down and put my music back in my ears. I was over it.

I never heard from his attorney.

The moment I landed in New York, I couldn’t wait to tell some of my friends what had happened. I think they were more disappointed in the fact that I was actually back in New York and not needing to be bailed out of some jail inside Logan Airport.

Well, it turns out violence is not always the answer, kids. I did have every right to start swinging, but it struck me that he probably had no idea what I was dealing with. He also probably had no idea what CF was, when I told him. He was in his mid-40s and what; maybe he spent a week learning about it in Biology class in 9th grade, like, what 25 years ago? His biggest concern (other than me coughing) was handing out his business cards and Purell to other passengers.

I will admit, when I cough, to the casual ear it probably sounds like I’ve been smoking two packs a day since I was 12. I’m also going to admit that I am giving him the benefit of the doubt here to the nth degree, but like I said, I didn’t want to get tazed. That’s really the bottom line here. Getting tazed would have sucked. I’ve seen it happen once, and it looks like it really ******* hurts.


The root of the problem is that while more and more people do know what CF is, at least somewhat, there is a larger portion of people out there who have no idea what’s going on. They are not at fault for it, most people have no connection whatsoever to the disease. That doesn’t mean it is not a problem, though. The world is full of issues, large and small. Cystic fibrosis is one of those issues. No killer is more or less important than any other. CF is a silent killer. It is a problem.

I hate the color purple.