In the middle of winter in the Upper Midwest, strange things can happen. Epidemics can sweep through towns as fast as the temperature can plummet below zero. Several years ago, in my hometown, a strep throat epidemic became so terrible so quickly that the schools were shut down for a week. Doctors ordered patients diagnosed with strep throat, along with those they came in contact with, to be quarantined for 4 days.

My best friend Mindi called one morning with a very raspy voice. I asked if everything was alright. She said she had a sore throat, but she was fine. She asked if I was planning on coming over later as usual. I told her I was. I went to a church function with my mom and took some soup from the function with me to Mindi's house later in the day.

When I got to Mindi's house, our friend Mandy greeted me with bad news. Mindi had been to the doctor and ordered her to be quarantined. The doctor said anyone she had come into contact with in the last few days also had to be quarantined. Since Mandy and I went to Mindi's house every day, we had obviously come into contact with her. Mindi apologized profusely for causing us to not only be exposed to strep throat but also for causing us to be quarantined as well. She asked us if we wanted to go home right away. Mandy and I decided that since we were already at Mindi's house, we may as well stay there.

The three of us stayed in quarantine at Mindi's house for the next several days. Since the strep throat and resulting quarantine was so prevalent at the time we had no problem explaining to our employers that we weren't coming in for the next week or so. We had a friend of ours drop off some food and cigarettes every two days. Mindi had a walk-up apartment, so our friend would drop the stuff off on the front porch and leave. We would leave money for him in the mail box.

Even though Mindi had strep throat, Mandy and I never contracted the illness. The three of us had a great time in quarantine. We spent our time watching old movies Mindi had. Mandy and I would clean Mindi's house while Mindi was sleeping. And yes, we all still smoked the whole time. Mindi claimed the menthol in her cigarettes made her throat feel better. I don't know if there is actually any truth to the claim, but she did get better with rest and antibiotics.

At the end of the quarantine we felt like new people. On the last day of the quarantine we sat on Mindi's front porch together drinking coffee and talking about how we had a new found appreciation for the outdoors and the freedom we now had after quarantine.