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

Tuesday, July 12, 2022

COVID Panic - No Refuge For The Faint Of Heart

The current wave of Omicron variants are infecting everyone, and it has now become 12  month flu season.  The good news is that most people cough, hack, and sniffle for a few days, and then go back to life as normal.  Fewer people are headed to hospitals and intensive care.  We are now in the endemic phase of COVID where most people will come down with it, recover, establish immunity for at least six months, and then prepare for the next round.

Image result for Images COVID Virus

One would think that this epidemiological turn of events would finally get rid of COVID hysteria – the big one, the existential one, the horrible, choking, breathless, mortal one.  One would have thought that even the COVID hysterics would come out of their caves, breathe fresh air, and say que sera sera; but no, each variant no matter how innocuous is considered the new apocalyptical wave.  

Those who scrubbed their surfaces in 2020, bleached their incoming mail, sequestered Amazon-delivered food, and deployed industrial strength air purifiers throughout the house, have not changed.  The threat has not gone away.  It is still deadly, life- threatening and the existential threat of the millennium.

Nonsense of course.  No one likes to feel dodgy, out of sorts, and peckish but office work continues, cardio walks increase, dinners are disrupted by notions of quarantine, but all in all life goes on.  As it should be.  Only the frightful outliers, the quaking worriers, and the Armageddonists refuse to hew to the new reality.  They retreat to caves, poking out for a few spoonsful of gruel of a crust of bread.  It would be immoral to do more, to breathe in public, to risk the lives of others.

All well and good but the others in question here have moved on, are willing to take the risk of minor ‘flu-like’ symptoms, and frankly don’t give a damn about the continuing dire warnings and proscriptions.  Let it be, they rightly say, we have come through the gloaming, are ready to take whatever comes, but refuse to be hostage to a relatively minor,  if not innocuous illness.  This is not cancer, for God’s sake.

Antoinette Barkley was one of the first responders to COVID.  She had secured her home with tight, hermetic sealant; refused any delivery without industrial strength fogging and disinfection; deployed thousands of dollars worth of cleansing, purifying agents and machinery.  Her daily routine was a function of risk-avoidance.  Never go out unless protected with nuclear-strength protective coverings, bio-threat Level Five masks, gloves, and shoes. Take no undue, unnecessary, frivolous measures.  Families were relegated to the nether reaches, lovers dismissed, and grandchildren archived.  Nothing was worth the risk of getting COVID.

Two years passed and Antoinette still tested negative, not surprising for one so hermetically sealed in so robust a protective environment; but lo and behold, a cousin, profligate and irresponsible in his cavalier approach to COVID, came down with the disease, his positive status revealed in all places at a family gathering to which Antoinette had feared attending, but was convinced by nieces and nephews who felt that she, a beloved and close relative was sealing herself off from them and the world.  

The horribilis horribilis had happened.  The two plus years of confinement, containment and social penury all erased in one irresponsible fell swoop.  The cousin had probably gotten drunk at a dive bar, picked up a whore, and gotten himself infected  there and then, only to pass on the infection to the innocent.

Antoinette’s world came crashing down.  It had been all for naught.  While others went out dancing, she had listened to Guy Lombardo alone.  While her friends caroused, had sex, danced the light fantastic, she did the right thing, masked, sealed, interned, and prophylactically quarantined.  Two years for nothing, she concluded as begrudgingly as an old maid.  Why me? She wondered.  I did everything right.

She lashed out with recriminatory blame, heaping opprobrium and moral censure on the cousin and the equally reprobate frequenters of his haunts.  Blame turned into hate which turned into vendetta.  Her world had become a nasty, virulently horrible one.  From which there was no exit.

If Antoinette had felt alone before COVID she felt even more so after infections.  She suffered the double whammy of guilt for having been so stupid to expose herself to the profligacy of a male relative, and punitive isolation for having done so.  A lonely self-enforced, isolated life as bad enough, but this new isolation had social opprobrium attached.  Nothing could be worse.

Of course she had only the predictably mild case of the disease, stayed in bed with the sniffles and a raspy cough for a few days, and then was back on her feet. Her friends and family, generous to a fault, never once uttered an ‘I told you so’; never once implied censorious arrogance; never danced around her quarantine.  She was to be forgiven if she recovered her moral equilibrium as well as her health.

It took her months to come to grips with her fate, to let go of the immodest censure she leveled at those who were ‘stupid’.  After all she had been brought up to believe in absolutes, right and wrong, no give or accommodation permitted, so it was difficult to even consider anything other than a hair shirt self-punitive purgatory; so when she emerged from the virus, none the worse for wear, but most importantly having become like the millions of fellows who through no real negligence or cavalier notions of que sera sera, caught COVID, she rejoined the human race.

There are always consequences to one’s actions, some regrettable, some enlightening. The story of Antoinette Barkley is one of the good ones.  She went on to live the rest of her life more or less chastened and without COVID panic, but never gave up her censorious side, so friends were as scarce as ever.

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