Perhaps I should have subtitled this post The Lighter Side of the Worldwide Coronavirus Panic? Remember the popular TV show, about the neurotic detective, Monk? He was not only brilliant, but obsessively germophobic. He employed an assistant to follow him around, not just to take notes and shield him from unwanted attention, but to hand him antibacterial (and anti viral?) hand wipes after every handshake and whenever he had to touch something that was not sterile…dead bodies being absolutely off limits, even with disposable gloves. What would Monk do about the Coronavirus? Can you say, “recluse”?
According to World Economic Forum, WEF.org, the handshake is a super-efficient way to spread germs, given that we also touch our faces unwittingly about one or two dozen times per hour. “Indeed, around the world, governments are recommending alternatives to handshakes (and kisses or nose-to-nose touching) to prevent the spread of the virus behind Covid-19. But none of those facts do you much good when you’re standing in front of someone, who, apparently having missed your anti-handshake nonverbal messaging, extends a palm and expects you to take it. In the moment, chances are you will return the gesture out of a sense of obligation, out of fear of looking like a jerk. What else could you do?” I think of the Curly technique (Three Stooges, remember them?). He would extend his hand as if to shake yours, then once you were committed and leaning forward, he would take it back, extending his thumb backward as if hitchhiking, and chortle nyuk, nyuk. These days, you could substitute “my Uber is here, have to run” for the nyuk, nyuk. Or not.
Adeodata Czink, who runs Business of Manners, a consulting company in Toronto, says you could do this: “Put up both your hands like a five-year old is holding a pretend gun against you, and say, ‘Please forgive me, I don’t dare, I have this coronavirus phobia.’ The key to this response is tone, she says. It must be playful, which makes the image of a five-year-old posed with a squirt gun useful to keep in mind. “Make it a light thing,” Czink advises, “rather than ‘I don’t want to shake your hand,’” the latter of which is insulting and only adds to current hysteria. Another option: “Say ‘I’m so sorry, but I don’t want to shake hands with anybody,’” she adds. “Throw in the coronavirus right away. Then you have not singled them out, but the virus.” If you already have gloves on, you could keep them on and shake someone’s hand, but only if you explain, “I know it would be polite to take my gloves off, but I’ve got this coronavirus phobia,” she says. In other words, don’t pretend the weird behavior isn’t happening.”
Wow, what a choice, a) act like a five-year old with a squirt gun, b) allow people to judge you as stuck-up or excessively paranoid, c) imitate Curly, d) chance getting the virus and die. The WEF article continues: “Doctors, who have been dealing with handshakes-or-no-handshakes debate for several years, understand the significance of this social habit. In their arena, a handshake establishes trust. It helps allow a patient to feel they are being seen as a whole person, not just another body, in an era when medical appointments are often rushed. Nevertheless, some physicians believe you can (and should) send the same message with an alternative greeting that also appears intentional and warm. In an op-ed in 2014 in the Journal of the American Medical Association, for instance, three US doctors suggest either waving, putting your hand over your heart like you’re about to make a pledge, or holding your hands in the “namaste” prayer position in front of your chest. Any of these actions could signal that a greeting has happened, with the certainty that a self-conscious half-greeting could not.” Or convey the idea that you can’t make up your mind (Whom can I pretend I am waving to, or should I pledge, but where’s the flag, or should I pray to Vishnu or some Hindu god, but where’s my yoga mat?). Or, you could shake hands, then whip out the wipes, while casually asking “did you ever see that TV show Monk?” Be sure to offer a wipe……a clean one, not the one you just used!
Of greater concern to me is the economic fallout, which is as certain as the progress of the virus is uncertain. Thankfully, the entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well. An arcade owner in England might just cash in on the coronavirus outbreak by stocking his claw machines with must-have sanitary products in the fight against the viral disease. Rob Braddick, after noticing that the toilet paper was in short supply at his local grocery store, and stocked up on the household essential. Then, this owner of Devon’s Ho Barts Amusement Arcade mostly swapped out the toys that filled the claw machines with TP, as well as in-demand hand sanitizer and soap. “We also have a large machine that used to have a Spider-Man doll, but now there is a large Curex soap in there — that’s the Rolls-Royce of hand sanitizer,” Braddick told news agency South West News Service (SWNS) of the new prizes. (I think the term, “the Rolls-Royce of…” is now saturated).
In Australia, newspapers have been printing extra pages because of an ongoing toilet paper shortage, thus proving what you and I already knew about newspapers. In New York, state officials are combating price gouging with a germ-killing hand sanitizer produced by maximum-security prison inmates (I hope they’re not in Gen Pop). The new sanitizer will be provided to New Yorkers free of charge, as well as those in high-risk areas that need it most. An even better idea would be for the New York Times—All The News That’s Fit To Print or, as Mad Magazine once wrote, All The News That Fits We Print—to print their rag on actual toilet paper (instead of The Paper of Record it can be The Paper of Rectum). Who needs hand sanitizer when you can read brain sanitizer? But I digress.
The real clincher that this virus, or the hysteria (not sure which is which), is the real deal is the premature end of the NBA season. From TheAthletic.com: “The tweet notifications buzz across my phone: ‘The NBA has postponed its season.’ I’m in the media room when this happens, right at the end of halftime, so I don’t see Mark Cuban’s reaction when Scott Tomlin immediately goes and shows him. It’s an all-timer.
People will use his as a reaction gif in group chats 10 years from now, if we even have group chats (or people) then. Wednesday was only supposed to be the final Mavericks game played with fans. When the evening started, it still felt like a novelty, an attraction, a strange quirk caused by a foreign virus that still hadn’t truly affected American consciousness, much less many Americans personally. It was known that at least one team would play the next day in front of an empty arena, with expectations that the league mandate other teams follow suit. But at least games were still being played. Would we hear the players scream and curse, we wondered. Would there still be public address announcers and music piped into these abandoned arenas? It was still more novel than scary, a news story moving at an appropriate pace. We could still handle what it threw at us. And then the season ended. For the time being, at least, and maybe much longer than that.
“All it takes is just one player, one coach, one staff member to get infected and their entire eight-billion-per-year-in-revenue operation could be in jeopardy for the foreseeable future. Here’s why: Once someone gets the virus, that person would have to be quarantined for two weeks. What’s more, every person within the organization (and elsewhere) who had come into contact with their Patient Zero would likely need to be quarantined as well. It’s not hard to see how brutal the butterfly effect would be from there. And with owners slated to have a league-wide conference call on Wednesday afternoon, with calls also lined up for team presidents and general managers on Thursday, it’s not an exaggeration to say that this entire season is in jeopardy.”
Okay, it’s just sports…..or is it something more? Soon I will be heading to the largest ghost town in the country—Seattle. My daughter works for Amazon there. The major tech employers in the area—Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook, Google—are having employees work from home. What about businesses that depend on foot traffic from those employees? There’s the Covid-19 Response Fund. Amazon, Microsoft, Starbucks, and Connie & Steve Ballmer are just a few of the many companies and people that have contributed to the Covid-19 Response Fund, hosted by the Seattle Foundation. These and other contributors are establishing grants for non-profits and small businesses in the area hit by employees working from home. Over $11 million had been contributed as of March 11. Some folks know when to step up.
Then there’s this. John Paul Watson wrote: “The coronavirus has triggered our inherently ingrained fear of our own mortality, its a reminder that we are all going to die, so panic buying restores that sense of control over death, temporarily alleviating the deep-seated fear of our own fragile mortality”
But the bottom line is: And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”
And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.” But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” – Luke 10:25-29. WE ARE ALL NEIGHBORS NOW.