by Cathy Allie
Every writer gets the gift of a topic once in a while, one that just falls right into her lap and practically writes the column itself. Sometimes the topic is a ridiculous politician (plenty of those for fodder), sometimes it is a speaker’s gaffe or facial expression which leaves us laughing, or sometimes it is fad or challenge that catches our attention. But in 2020, Enter Queen Coronavirus.
Once we moved past the funny memes connecting the Queen to Corona beer and the funny songs to the tune of My Sharona, I got bored with the online stuff. Until we were encouraged to stay home, and suddenly things got interesting.
First there was the viral thread where we were asked to tag our spouse, kids, or pet as a co-worker in our home office and describe their behavior. I couldn’t get enough.
One friend posted that his ‘co-worker’ had paraded into the room, not wearing pants and demanded that he hug him. He had taken his case to the director of Human Resources (his wife and not by chance the co-worker’s mother) and she had said just hug him and help him put his pants back on. Reasonable enough.
Some co-worker reports are closely related to 7th grade boy humor. There was the co-worker who was reportedly licking his private parts and laying in the sun all day. Another co-worker believed he could handle ‘number two’ all on his own and got it all over the bathroom and himself. A very troubling report said the co-worker kept farting and asking for lunch and playing on his tablet while the adult co-worker did all the work. This time when the complaint went to HR, HR replied, “Leave my grandbaby alone.”
There were a number of posts (sometimes accompanied by pictures) of co-workers drinking on the job. Guilty as charged! But my personal favorite was the ‘co-worker’ who clipped her toenails on the carpeted stairs then brought ten clippings to her boss to prove she had picked them all up. It is possible I am related to this co-worker.
Soon we had all the different ways people pronounced and mutilated the name of Queen Corona. I heard it called ‘coronaryvirus’ , ‘coronation virus’ (probably initiated in sadness about Harry and Meghan shedding royal titles) and then later ‘The Corona’, kind of like my grandmother used to say, “Can you take me up to The Walmart?” as though there was just one.
Just in time, they grabbed a name which did not refer to any geographical location, animal, individual or group of people, COVID-19, which just simply means the coronavirus disease, discovered in 2019. But folks didn’t get the message.
It became The Ghost Virus, the illness, the silent problem, the China virus, the Wuhan virus, the novel virus, the invisible threat and many others. In line at CVS, of course six feet away from the lady in front of me, I heard her say,” I am just picking up some supplies in case this cerveza virus gets a lot worse.” Now that is the kind of virus I could handle.
Next came all the 20 second hand washing songs for practicing cleanliness during this time. We were tired of singing Happy Birthday two times through. Newsflash: We needed playlists of 20 second songs! I heard them all from Baby Shark to Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline. But how can I wash my hands to Sweet Caroline? Aren’t my hands supposed to be swaying back and forth in the air during that time as I sing along?
Some of them were not quite so funny—Bon Jovi’s Livin’ on a Prayer, Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive and Lizzo’s Truth Hurts, to name a few. My favorite 20 second handwash is a nod to my former career as an English teacher.
Little known fact: If you recite Lady MacBeth’s Out Damn Spot speech at a measured pace, it fits the bill: “Out, damned spot! Out, I say! One, two. Why, then, ’tis time to do ’t. Hell is murky! Fie, my lord, fie! A soldier, and afeard? What need we fear who knows it, when none can call our power to account? Yet who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him." I realize just by letting you know I have this memorized, I run the risk of you never reading another of my columns.
There was moment when I did not see the humor in any of this corona virus mess. One morning, I woke up in a sweat. I mopped my forehead, certain I had a fever, and charted the best course of action. If my fever was high enough, should I drive myself to the doc or risk my husband being exposed? It was a mere five minutes later when I realized the dog had bumped the controls on the electric blanket to high. Crisis avoided.
Through this, I have learned some new tricks to working from home. For example, as long as you wear a different shirt, you can wear the same pants from the day before for teleconferencing. And since your family never paid any attention when you talked to them about work, they have no idea what you are doing. You can pop in ear buds and point to your computer as though you are very busy. Fearful they might be asked to help, they will surely stay away.
If you are able to find anything on the grocery store shelves except lime Jello and Tuna Helper, you can try any weird recipe and tell your family that you saw on TV it was good to eat this particular food during the pandemic. I have learned to appreciate reheated coffee—didn’t I just brew a pot this morning?
We have reacquainted ourselves with family game night. The only difference from before is wash the dominoes in soapy water after our nightly game. And I now know why my dog is a nervous wreck when I come home at the end of the day—there are lots of suspicious noises on our street, and he has clearly been on patrol.
Frankly this social distancing thing feels like Christmas break, where you lose track of days and wear a lot of flannel, but without the promise of presents at the end of it all. I know people are saying how much they like the time with their family. I admire those people. I think it is also possible they are liars, but I am not pointing fingers.
Queen Corona has, however, given me one really good present. My best old person story used to be that we had to get up and walk across the room to change the channel on the television. But I am thankful that years from now, I will have some corona virus stories about this time to tell my grandkids and young co-workers, since I lost most of my savings in the stock market and am now on a fully retire at age 85 plan to recoup it all.
Stay home, stay safe. Wash your hands, make some memories.
Cathy is a retired public school English teacher and Public Information Officer.