"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

COVID Panic - Billy Baxter Was Afraid Of His Own Shadow But Became A Progressive Because Of It

Billy Baxter was always risk averse – he always hung back when his friends were climbing trees, jumping over winter streams, doing daredevil stunts on his bike down Mohawk Hill.  Perhaps it was his mother who kept him at home at even a hint of inclement weather; or his maiden aunt who enforced her ‘five feet at all times’ rule – five feet from a lighted stove, five feet from the fireplace, five feet away from suspicious strangers  - or her father’s ‘it all comes down to numbers’, a penitential look at any judgement other than one based on facts and figures, but it all ended up the same.  Billy had become a timid, fearful boy.

His timorousness only got worse as he got older.  His mother’s hectoring about ‘catching something’ from girls cast them as viral threats.  His maiden aunt’s flailing panic about drugs and ‘bad influences’ isolated him from even the safest and dullest boys; and if that weren’t enough the nuns at St Maurice made sure that he took no risks to his soul and enforced their own rules – catechism, stations of the cross, confession, and pure thoughts. 

Image result for images sexy teenage tramp girls

Given all this, it was amazing that Billy Baxter could function at all.  There he was walking carefully and dutifully to school , so far off the road as his maiden aunt had insisted that he was half in the weeds and briars which stuck to his pants and socks by the thousands by the time he got to class which was bad enough if it weren’t for the fact that he couldn’t sit down or go to the bathroom without getting prickered.  Every good counsel seemed to have an unforeseen consequence; and by the time he reached adulthood he was literally afraid of his own shadow.  His mother and maiden aunt had consigned him to a psychological gulag; and it was no wonder that he became more and more unhinged. 

There was a woman who from morning till night walked the block between 116th and 115th Streets on Broadway doing military turns.  She always dressed in black, was pale and weirdly focused – she always looked straight ahead, her posture rigidly upright, her gait measured and stiff – and everyone moved aside when they saw her coming.  At first it was out of curiosity (where did this Black Maria come from?); then it was out of safety (who knew when some long pent-up rage would explode?); and finally out of prurient fascination.  The woman was weird, uncommon, and creepy; but no one could look away.

Image result for images scary witches dressed in black

Billy Baxter was certainly not as off the grid as Broadway Black Maria, but he was aware of his growing eccentricities.  As much as his mother and maiden aunt tried to police the perimeter of the gulag and keep him from escaping, Billy did have some emotional independence.  He knew that he was getting creepier and creepier and began to worry some about it.  He knew that those incidental, meaningless bits of life that everyone ignored – a chill wind, a bad driver, a loose branch – were for him life-threatening; and as much as he tried, he could not help seeing everything as a menace to his well-being, life and limb, and his very existence.

Then came the COVID virus, and to his surprise everyone was afraid of their own shadow.  Women scrubbed sinks and counters with Clorox until their hands were red, chafed, raw, and bleeding.  They sprayed every piece of mail delivered, and every Amazon box had to remain untouched on the stoop for three days.  People did not touch each other, moved far away at any approach, covered their nose and mouth at any sign of proximity, pulled up their face masks and tightened them like armor, and ordered everything online.  Billy Baxter was finally among friends.

He remembered when as a young teenager he went through a phobic phase.  He too had covered his mouth and nose when any adult talked to him, opened doors with his elbow, stayed clear of crowds and classmates, sat in the very back corner of the classroom, washed his hands after every class, and showered with factory floor soap twice a day; and now what had been considered his irrational, psychotic fears, had been validated. 

Image result for image frazzled housewife scrubbing the sink

He wore his mask everywhere and not only respected the six-foot social distance rule but enforced it.  He called out every infringement, chastised those whom he thought cavalier and selfish, and became known as the most health-woke person of his neighborhood.  To his surprise, people for the first time in his life warmed up to him.

His leafy corner of the city was passionately liberal – Black Lives Matter, the environment, women’s rights, gay marriage, the gender spectrum, and now wearing a mask were all part of the Canon.  In this great progressive moral sweep, if you espoused one of these causes, you espoused all of them.  Modern progressivism was no different from religion.  One could not dismiss Confession or Communion as irrelevant and still be a Catholic.

So the nods and knowing smiles he received because of his firm and principled stance on masks and social distance morphed into a political embrace; and more and more people opened up to him about the evils of Donald Trump, no-nothing Republicans, and the Stone Age culture of the South.  Without saying a word, Billy became part of the social justice warrior cancel culture. Of course he had no interest in any of it.  He had been too busy keeping his own personal threats at bay to worry about black people or the glass ceiling. Sorting out one’s own littered lot was a personal matter.

Yet the years of being left out, marginalized, and dismissed had taken their toll; and Billy was delighted at the attention he was getting.  Now he could live out his old fears in an atmosphere of universal, unequivocal approval – a vindication – and be accepted by a sympathetic, supportive band of brothers.  His masks, Clorox, and social distancing were most definitely a reprise of this old risk-averse paranoia, but they surprisingly and happily conferred the social inclusion that had for so long escaped him.

As another unintended but welcome consequence of COVID was Billy’s forgiveness of his mother and his maiden aunt.  They were right, after all.  The world is indeed filled with demons, dragons, and pitfalls; and their counsel now stood him in good stead.

Of course COVID-ites were deadly serious about the threat of the virus, and could not see that their fears were as fanciful as‘ Hansel and Gretel’ or ‘Little Red Riding Hood’.  Without realizing it they had locked themselves into a gulag far more punitive than any of Billy’s youth.  Not only were they fearful of getting sick, they were afraid of death in a trembling, timid way; and they devalued life and living because of it.  They willingly closed themselves off from friends, family, and church out of irrational fear.

Image result for images people wearing masks covid

Risk assessment, weighing pros-and-cons, analyzing cost-benefit - whatever you want to call rational analysis of events – has been largely ignored in the Panic of 2020.  Policies of hysteria replaced objective reasoning, and the country has suffered enormously.  Whatever the epidemiological reality and the need for considered decisions to control the spread of the virus, such emotionalism and fearful secular deception have not helped.  It will take a long, long time for the country to recover.

Meanwhile, Billy Baxter was a happy man.  He could live out his paranoiac fears with thousands of other.  He had community, respect, and admiration.  He had made up with his mother and his maiden aunt.  And, as it happened he met a lovely, masked, committed progressive woman at a distanced gathering in Turtle Park.  She of course had no clue how deformed Billy actually was, how twisted his sense of reality, how badly his psyche had been messed up.  COVID-itis covered all.  As far as she was concerned he was a like-minded, thoughtful, and politically passionate man.

Billy, like any red-blooded male, took advantage of this misconception, reveled in it, and made masked love at a Holiday Inn in Gaithersburg for hours on end.

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