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Damned if you do, damned if you don't

“Back in 1957we had to dance

a foot apart ...”

Those were the days ... eh, Joni?

The good thing about the two of us — you, the reader, and me ... whatever it is I’m doing — is that we’re already in a Social Distancing relationship. You’re looking at a screen or a page of newsprint ... and I’m nowhere close enough in proximity to make you sick.

(Well, that’s true — I hope — for most of you. Some have said “You make me sick” over something that’s appeared under my name in the newspaper; but — I hope — they were speaking figuratively.)

Medical experts — and those who profess to be — are advising that the proper “social distance” between you and those nearby is between 6 and 10 feet. Pretty much the same distance as the test proctors would seat you for taking the SATs.

So, while Roberta Joan’s hawkeyed chaperones at those Saskatoon, Saskatchewan school socials would need to be holding tape measures (without a heart) to ensure proper dance etiquette, for the purposes of whatever this is I’m doing ... we’re as close as we need to be.

Besides, you really wouldn’t want to orbit the center of this universe. A half-dozen colleagues and I are ensconced in the far reaches of the newsroom — aligned along an alley of partitioned cubicles affectionately called “The Boulevard of the Damned” by a group of previous inhabitants.

And while the building underwent a disinfecting cleanse this weekend ... socially distant, we Damned are not.

At the outset of this pandemic pandemonium, we have sourced each sniffle and sneeze, counted each cough, and compared the cleanliness of our keyboards.

Now that every sports league from high schools to the pros has taken their balls and gone home, such people-watching is right up our alley.

Well, that ... and following the media-borne flame wars that have broken out like a computer virus — the finger-pointing, the blame-casting, the political grandstanding and the Us vs. Them nature of today’s America. Even in a national emergency, everybody’s in it for their own gain. You can’t please ’em all. There’s always somebody calling you down.

That bottomless pit of nonsense already is in midseason form — just wait until the full effects of this coronavirus circle game play out. When our urge for going runs smack-dab into the dwindled-down options of some place to go.

If only there were some humor to be found in all this ... and it’s not as though there haven’t been openings:

-- At one of the myriad press conferences across the Rogue Valley this week, an official handed out news releases ... after first licking their finger to help separate the pages. KFC, perhaps wary of being blamed, soon afterward pulled its series of “finger lick’ good” television ads. It was worthy of a face-palm ... except that, faster than you could break into the HammerDance, you remembered that when it comes to your face, you can’t touch that.

-- Forest Gump, meanwhile, is stuck in Australia (unable to run even if Jenny were nearby screaming for him to do so), as production of movies and TV series has been shut down to the extent that the set for the NBC drama “New Amsterdam” — a vacant floor at Kings County Hospital in Brooklyn — has been turned into a quarantine center for actual COVID-19 patients.

-- The president this week ruminated, as he as wont to do, about erecting travel borders around heavy-hit states such as Washington and California ... and as tempting as this was to joke about how this might finally stop our neighbors to the south from invading, the thought of 54 isolated states wasn’t worth touching with a social-distance-approved 10-foot pole.

-- As for politics, the thought crossed what’s left of my mind that “Coronavirus” would seem the perfect running mate to add to those “Giant Meteor 2020” bumper stickers. Until you consider that we’re about six weeks out from the April 29 appearance of the asteroid known as 1998 OR2 ... a space rock estimated as being as much as 2.5 miles in diameter that will pay a visit to our small planet, close enough to be considered a “near Earth object” by NASA.

So, while the partisan yahoos will mock others overstocking on hand sanitizer or scoff at those claiming the threat is overblown because “we’re the United States of America, dammit” the truth is — outside a friendly aside between those in line at grocery stores — trying to make light of the current situation is best left to the late-night comedians who haven’t shut down production of their shows.

Otherwise, it’s a fool’s errand.

(Hey, now. I like you better when you said I made you sick.)

Something about this feels different. Open-ended, with no clearly identifiable villain and no modern comparison from which to learn.

The doubters point out the other health threats that have broached our shores with little harm to be seen. But those illnesses didn’t stop our society in its tracks the way we’ve seen in just the past week.

Something about this is different. And the sad irony is that as we need to pull together, we’re separated by polarizing divisions and social-distance protocols.

I saw a photograph this week of a man standing on the grounds of a nursing home, unable to enter to see his father on the other side of the window.

It froze me for a moment. It made me wish I had a river I could skate away on.

Mail Tribune news editor Robert Galvin can be reached at rgalvin@rosebudmedia.com.

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