Join me in singing the ‘Boring (and Infuriating) Pandemic Blues’

A sign advertising protective face masks is taped in the window of a coronavirus pop-up store. Photo by Samuel Corum | Getty Images.

I’m bored.

Nearly seven months into my one and only pandemic, I’m totally over it.

This vile, deadly germ.

It’s thrown a blanket over life in this country and world, and killed nearly 200,000 in the U.S. Wholly politicized in this country (no surprise there), it doesn’t appear to be going anyplace soon. Maybe not its worst offense, but it’s boring.

Apologies to Iggy Pop, I’m bored.

You want specifics?

I’m bored of…

  • Trying to talk through a face mask. Even without a mask, I was never the best enunciator. Just call me ol’ mush-mouth.
  • Not being able to go out to eat unless it’s outside dining — but still feeling reckless and nervous anyway. (Scratch that option when Ohio’s fall turns cold in a month or two.)
  • Washing my hands 30 times a day. All of my decades of willful exposure to germs, to build up resistance against future germs, have gone to waste. Surely I wasn’t the only kid to pretend to wash his hands, water running, rather than actually doing it?
  • Not being able to see and hear live music. My wife and I recall the last live-music outing we had in March, seeing the great Columbus band The Randys at the crowded Casa Nueva/Cantina in Athens (Ohio) after chimis and margaritas in the restaurant. Old friends, shouting spittle at one another above the rhythmic din of the music, elbowing past one another in the aisles, the occasion in hindsight had the feel of doomed innocence described in accounts of pre-WWII Paris and London.
  • Countless social media posts that run along these lines: “I went to (insert store name) and couldn’t believe it, hardly anybody was wearing masks!” Don’t get me wrong; the anger and frustration is warranted. I’m just puzzled why there’s an element of surprise in these reports.

I’m bored of…

  • Countless videos on social media of furious mask deniers who have been refused entrance to a store, blowing a gasket in public, spewing shotgun blasts of COVID-19 all over the poor saps who happen to be requesting their compliance or standing nearby.
  • The people who express dismissive opinions about COVID-19 risks to healthy people, while totally ignoring the potential for asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic transmission to people for whom the disease could be fatal. It’s the sort of sanguine indifference one can imagine asymptomatic “Typhoid” Mary Mallon exhibiting as she infected 53 people, three of them fatally, with typhoid fever between 1900 and 1907.
  • The head-spinning pivot from “the pandemic is an overblown hoax” to “the president just didn’t want to induce panic” when he downplayed, dismissed and even ridiculed the serious threat from this dangerous disease early this year, as confirmed by recordings of Trump in Bob Woodward’s new book “Rage.” Then there’s the president’s instant pivot back to holding packed, largely maskless political rallies, which will result in the coronavirus spreading and most assuredly hurting and killing more people.
  • The idea that Donald Trump has ever given a sliver of a thought to not inducing panic and fear. Listen to outtakes from his Michigan rally on Sept. 10. Fear, panic, fear, panic, fear, panic… Or just listen to any recording of Trump over the past five years.
  • The obscenity of Donald Trump channeling Winston Churchill’s leadership of Britain against Hitler and the Nazis in World War II — as reflected in the “keep calm and carry on” poster slogan. The idea was calm and steady perseverance, determination and aggressive action. If the Brits had been plagued with the flaccid anti-leadership that Trump has shown during the pandemic, the Nazis would have been marching through Trafalgar Square by 1940.

I’m bored of…

  • People who tout the importance of in-person schooling (no kidding) while ignoring the health risks of attending school during a pandemic. We get the same thing with climate change — deniers advancing arguments wholly focused on the negatives of taking action to slow global warming, without addressing the cataclysmic consequences of not acting (e.g., apocalyptic wildfires happening right now on the West Coast). It’s like complaining about mandatory hurricane evacuations without acknowledging the risks of sticking around for a 30-foot storm surge.
  • Ohio House members who sacrifice the principles of freedom and patriotism on the altar of selfishness, ignorance and stupidity. I’m looking at you, state Reps. Candice Keller, Paul Zeltwanger, John Becker and the most deplorable of all, Nino Vitale. The four COVID-19 deniers, among other things, have called for the impeachment of Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine for his mainly effective leadership during the pandemic. Apologies for another WWII analogy — one can imagine Nino decrying mandatory lights-out orders during the London Blitz. “My rights!”
  • The perversion of American patriotism, where people fully supportive of an autocratic monarchy led by a mad man (Donald Trump > King George III) are the most likely to wave Old Glory (and sometimes the Confederate battle flag) in order to prove their fealty to king and country. Do you know what’s worse than burning an American flag? Wrapping yourself in it while perverting what it stands for.

I’m bored of…

  • The inability of sentient human beings to understand the basic winning formula — masks and other public health restrictions = quicker defeat of coronavirus = quicker reopening of economy. Behaving like a spoiled 6-year-old when asked to take basic safety precautions in order to slow the spread of the coronavirus only prolongs the pandemic and the closings and restrictions related to it. If you resisted social distancing and wearing facial coverings during this pandemic, you can thank yourself that the economy still hasn’t fully reopened.
  • People who insist on embarrassing themselves by producing half-baked nonsense they find on the internet that backs up their desire to continue being selfish and stupid about the pandemic. If I decided to hunt for support on the web for the idea that eating year-old squirrel shit increases male virility, I’m sure I could find it. (Please don’t try this at home.)

And I’ll end with this. I’m bored with the utter failure of America’s constitutional democracy to respond meaningfully to this historic national emergency. It’s compelling evidence that our system of government has failed miserably. This is not the republic’s finest hour.

And now I’ll tell the truth. I’m not so much bored as I am pissed off.

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Terry Smith in May left The Athens NEWS in Athens, Ohio, after editing that award-winning publication for 34 years. His columns and editorials have placed first in the Ohio New Media Association’s annual weekly newspaper awards in recent years. Before returning to Athens and his alma mater, Ohio University, in 1986, Smith reported for newspapers in Ohio, Arizona, Idaho, Colorado and West Virginia. He is currently freelance editing and writing from his home in Athens (send potential work queries to [email protected]).