This morning, I happened to read an article in The New York Times about how the recent Gridiron dinner turned into a COVID-19 “superspreader” event. The annual “A-list” event, is held for journalists and politicians by The Gridiron Club and Foundation. Last week, many famous and powerful people, including Judge Merrick Garland and President Biden’s sister, Valerie Biden Owens, were in attendance at the dinner. One week later, over 50 people who attended the dinner, most of whom mingled maskless for hours, sipping cocktails, enjoying food, and watching skits, tested positive for COVID-19. Fortunately, no serious illnesses have been reported. Everyone who attended had to prove that they were fully vaccinated, although they were not required to present negative COVID test results.
I checked out the comment section. Sure enough, I found the usual reactions. Lots of people had obviously commented without reading. There were some political statements made. Many people were smugly informing the masses of their personal practices regarding COVID prevention, while simultaneously lecturing everybody else on what they should be doing. Some people were derisive, while others were insisting that COVID is no worse than a cold or flu. All I could do was shake my head.
Just as I was about to move on from the article, I noticed a particularly interesting exchange. It reminded me of my “fuckery” with Mary last week, when she left me a nasty comment because I wrote the word “ridiculous” in a comment section. These three women– total strangers– butted heads. And one of them wrote, “I don’t give a hoot about you.” Wow… that comment made me recall the old Woodsy Owl PSAs about and not polluting. “Give a hoot! Don’t pollute!”
So, looking at this discussion, it involved three women. One tried to be empathic, even as she corrected the hostile woman’s use of “affect” vs. “effect”. The other was somewhat “nice” at first, then seemed to get angry and told the hostile one to “f off”. And the hostile one wrote what, I think, a lot of people are feeling right now. She’s “over” the pandemic crap. She’s got compassion fatigue. I can relate to that, even though I don’t think I’m as mean as she seems to be.
I think the hostile woman is tired of caring about COVID, like a lot of us are. It takes energy to be worried, and a lot of us don’t have energy to spare. A lot of us are tired of preachy comments from people like the first commenter, telling everyone to “wear masks”, “socially distant” [sic] (funny how she corrects the hostile woman but doesn’t correct her own mistake), and “get vaccinated”. I know people are frustrated, but I wonder if the folks who feel the need to preach have ever actually changed anyone’s minds when they order people around in comment sections. Why would a stranger in a comment section heed your unsolicited advice about COVID? Hostile lady who says she “doesn’t give a hoot” is being brutally honest about the state of things and how she feels about it. And she obviously doesn’t want to be convinced otherwise. If she hasn’t listened to the experts, why would she listen to a random commenter on Facebook? It’s baffling.
I don’t agree with the hostile poster’s opinions that the vaccines don’t work. They obviously do help people stay out of hospitals. I also don’t think her other opinions about people being “lazy” are accurate, either. Some people are lazy, but not all of them are. To me, she just sounds like someone who’s over the whole thing. I can’t blame her for that.
However, as someone who has lived the last two years in a country where masking never went away, I don’t believe that masks are all that effective. They might have helped in the very beginning, when we had no vaccines or anything, but their current effectiveness is probably pretty marginal. Here in Germany, we’ve been forced to wear the godawful FFP2 masks for awhile now, and yet COVID cases continue to rise. I suspect it might be because while we all have had to wear masks, we haven’t been forced to cover our eyes. The virus can also infect people through that conduit. Also, the masks come off for certain activities, plus people don’t wear them properly or replace them as often as they should. So, in my opinion, mask wearing is largely theater. I also think that we’re all eventually going to get infected, no matter what we do. That’s not to say that I think people shouldn’t try to avoid getting sick. It’s just that it’s probably inevitable… and as another poster wrote, there are a lot of other problems in the world that we need to pay some attention to at this point.
As for the Gridiron dinner, it sounds like the COVID infections are a bit of a non-issue. A week later, over 50 people got the virus, but they’ve all reported mild symptoms, because they were all vaccinated. Pretty soon, COVID spread could turn out to be a lot less newsworthy, since it’s going to spread. That’s what viruses do. So, it’s probably time for us to find ways to either clean the air, block the virus, or treat the symptoms effectively.
I did find it interesting that the first commenter– the one who demanded that people go back to following the rules– felt the need to tell the hostile woman that she’s a “nice” person and doesn’t want to spread COVID. The hostile woman made it very clear that she doesn’t care. She doesn’t give a hoot. She’s like a lot of people right now– totally over the whole thing. So why was the “nice” person trying to engage with her? The other lady who commented– the one who wrote that she worked two jobs and got a college degree– was correct in realizing that the woman who didn’t give a hoot doesn’t care. She told her to “f off”. And yet she still tried to engage with hostile lady. LOL… I don’t know why ANY of them bothered commenting. What a waste of time. But at least it gave me something to write about besides Ex.
I think, when it comes to COVID-19, I’m pretty much middle of the road. Even though the mask mandates were supposedly lifted in Germany last weekend, I haven’t rushed to go out into the world again. It’s not because I’m necessarily “afraid” of the virus. To be honest, watching how things are deteriorating in the world these days, I don’t think it would be such a bad thing to be beamed up, although I would rather that experience not be painful. But I don’t want to deal with the mask bullshit. We aren’t legally required to wear them anymore in most places, but there’s still the whole social pressure crap to deal with and silent judgment from other people who probably ought to be minding their own business. I do think the vaccines are worth getting, and I think they are more effective than the masks are. Like I said– Germans have never stopped wearing them, but people are still getting sick. And I doubt people are going to appreciate being told to wear safety goggles in public. What does work is staying away from other people.
Anyway… at the end of the month, we will be taking a trip to three different countries. Hopefully, we won’t get sick. But if we do get sick, at least that particular cherry will be popped. Hopefully, we will survive. I do feel for the hostile lady. She probably isn’t really as mean as she seems. She’s just tired of this shit, as are we all, and being ordered to be “nice”, “kind”, and “compassionate” by a sanctimonious stranger is annoying. She probably just wants to be left alone, yet wants to communicate that to the masses, who feel compelled to respond to her. And I feel for the other ladies who are concerned and want to be helpers– or influencers– or whatever. However, they probably ought to get clued in on the fact that most people really don’t give a hoot anymore. Being empathic and kind is good… but don’t expect to change hearts and minds that are resolutely made up… and fed up.
I had an interesting experience this morning. It was a bit of a mind blower, as I realized the wisdom of George Carlin was, once again, informing me years after his death. Back in the 1980s, I was listening to George do a hilarious routine about driving. It remains one of my favorite bits by him, because there’s so much truth in it. This morning, I realized that some of his thoughts on driving could be applied to other aspects of living.
In “Driving”, Carlin shows us how self-absorbed some of us are when we get behind the wheel. He asks if you’ve ever noticed that “anybody driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a maniac.” When we’re behind the wheel, we often think we’re doing everything right. And everybody else is in the way, and undeserving of consideration. How often have you been annoyed by someone trying to merge into your lane during a traffic jam? Sometimes, they’re really blatant about cutting in line. Other times, they’re just hoping someone will be kind enough to let them in the lane before they run out of road.
Carlin’s thoughts on driving are pretty good metaphors for everyday life. Take, for instance, the pandemic. I was reading my Facebook feed, and came across an article posted by The Atlantic. It was about immunocompromised people and how they have to worry much more about catching COVID-19 than other people do. The article, which was written by Ed Yong, asks what we “owe” immunocompromised people. According to Yong:
Close to 3 percent of U.S. adults take immunosuppressive drugs, either to treat cancers or autoimmune disorders or to stop their body from rejecting transplanted organs or stem cells. That makes at least 7 million immunocompromised people—a number that’s already larger than the populations of 36 states, without even including the millions more who have diseases that also hamper immunity, such as AIDS and at least 450 genetic disorders.
The immunocompromised are now living in “pandemic limbo”, because this super contagious virus is going around, but healthy people have gotten vaccinated and are easing back into a more normal lifestyle. The rules and restrictions made during the pandemic’s height are now being rolled back… at least in the United States. Well, they are in Germany, too, but not like they have been in the USA. Naturally, people who can’t fight the virus as easily as others can are worried about the future. They want people to show them some courtesy and deference.
As is my habit, I decided to check out the comment section. It didn’t take long before I ran into something that made me pause. Two men with diametrically opposed opinions were involved in an argument. This thread was actually really long, but I’m just going to post a couple of segments. I think they illustrate things pretty well. And because these guys are perfect strangers, and their comments can be easily read on The Atlantic’s Facebook page, I’m not going to edit their names.
Greg Johnson begins with a blunt statement that we didn’t owe immunocompromised people anything before COVID. And we don’t owe them anything now. He didn’t name call. He didn’t say anything that was overtly offensive. In fact, if you think about it, before COVID struck, it was pretty much a true statement that the vast majority of people didn’t think about how going about their everyday routines was going to affect their neighbors. But now, less than two years after COVID became an international scourge, some people are expecting their friends and neighbors to change their habits on a dime. And if anyone dares say or write anything like Greg did, they quickly get labeled a “sociopath”.
I think it’s fair to assume that Greg and Sam don’t know each other at all. But Sam, who claims to “care” about the well-being of other people, is very quick to call Greg a “sociopath”, “trash”, a “garbage human”, and an “utterly un self aware lunatic”. I would like to ask Sam if he actually cares about other people, when he labels total strangers as “worthless” (ie; trash, garbage human) without knowing anything at all about them. He also calls Greg “dim”, a “twerp”, then tells him to “climb down off [his] cross”. Looks to me like he doesn’t care much about his fellow human, Greg, does he?
Now, in fairness, once Sam starts with name calling, Greg follows suit. He tells Sam to “stick it up [his] ass” and calls him a d-bag and a moron. Then he refers to Sam and his “friends” as “crony asshole[s].” However, while I can see by the other comments in the thread that most people are on Sam’s side, I will go on record to say that I can definitely see Greg’s point. And, in fact, while his first comment was a bit of a jolt to the system after two years of constant sermons and lectures about the importance of caring for other people, what he stated isn’t untrue. Most of us haven’t historically thought, or cared, much about the immunocompromised. That doesn’t make us “garbage humans”. That makes us normal.
I know a lot of people think that self-centered “ableist” attitudes should change, and I will even agree that it would be really nice if more people did become kinder and more considerate. But the reality is, it’s not going to happen, especially not for 3 percent of the population. I know 3 percent of the US population is a lot of people, but it’s still a tiny percentage of the whole. The simple sad fact is, 97 percent of the population is not going to willingly alter their lives to accommodate a tiny percentage of strangers. They will change their habits to help themselves, and them and theirs. It’s not nice, but I think it is reality.
As I was reading this comment thread, I was suddenly reminded of George Carlin’s “Driving” routine from 1988. Toward the end of it he launches into a tirade about what he called “courtesy bullshit”. You will find it in the above clip at about the nine minute mark. He starts to complain about the “courtesy bullshit” going around. He says he puts it that way because he doesn’t think it’s real courtesy. It’s a “counterfeit generosity”. Carlin sneers, gesticulating wildly:
“Everybody wants me to go first! ‘You! Go! Go ahead! Please! Go! Go!'”
Then he breaks out of character and says, “Even when I leave the house in the morning, there’s a guy there at 7:00AM waiting for me— ‘I’m waiting for you to come out so you can go first, go ahead! Go! Go!'” as he gestures with his arm to go.
George explains, “I think it’s a post Vietnam guilt syndrome of some kind. You know, America has lost its soul, so now it’s gonna save its body. It’s like the fitness craze in this country well (hilarious fart sound effect that I can’t reproduce here) — doesn’t work that way, you know what I mean? Doesn’t work that way. And I’m sittin’ in the driveway… I know I’m sittin’ there and I’m stuck. It looks like I’m stuck. But I’m not asking for any help. I’m not asking for ANYTHING. Just sitting there! And some yo yo, some putz… some world-class, high-tech, state of the art yo yo, who hasn’t had a generous thought since St. Swithin’s Day, slams on his brakes (hilarious car screeching tires sound effect), kills three people behind him… and doesn’t ask me to go… TELLS ME TO GO!”
And then George furrows his brow and says in a deep, menacing, tone of voice, “YOU! GO!”
He pauses for dramatic effect and concludes, “FUCK YOOOOU!” with his middle finger locked and raised. Then he points with an angry frown and says, “YOU GO! I like it here! (sarcastic smirk)” He makes another sarcastic expression and says, “I come here all the time!” He sneers and points again and says, “You go!”
Then Carlin concludes, “Then when he goes, crash into him! And if he gets out to complain, say ‘Hey, you said to go!'”
What Carlin is describing is a kind of fake “virtue signaling” push for superficial kindness that isn’t based on reality or genuine courtesy. When it comes down to it, the vast majority of us actually are pretty selfish. It’s pretty much a feature of self-preservation. If you aren’t occasionally selfish sometimes, you will end up living a very short and unproductive life. While courtesy and kindness are good things, sometimes they can go too far. Just ask my husband about his first marriage and where being too kind and generous led him. Moderation is the key.
Imagine what would happen, for instance, if everyone insisted on always thinking of everyone else instead of themselves. Seriously, stop and think about this for a moment. First of all, if every single person was always considerate, kind, and thinking of everyone else, nothing would ever get done. We’d all be too busy holding the door open for the next person. There could be no progress in a world like that. No one would actually be walking through the door so that it could be closed, and we could all go on with our lives. We’d all be stuck. Someone has to be the recipient of that generosity. And to be the recipient of generosity, one must be a little bit selfish.
That means, on occasion, graciously accepting the kindness and thinking of your own needs. That means that thoughtfulness should extend to everyone, including the healthy people who have been living drastically altered lifestyles due to COVID-19. It includes the people who, for whatever reason, legitimately can’t tolerate wearing face masks. There are people like that in society– people who have sensory disorders, hearing problems, psychiatric issues, allergies to paper products, or even physical problems that make wearing masks problematic. Very few people seem to have much regard for people in that category. They automatically get labeled selfish, sociopathic, or uncaring, when the person labeling them doesn’t know the first thing about them or their personal situations.
It’s true that immunocompromised people are in an especially tough bind with the COVID situation. But it’s not reasonable to expect everyone to extend courtesy to them in all situations. Once again, I’m reminded of a Carlin truism. In the same “Driving” routine, Carlin talks about things that annoyed him when he was behind the wheel. One of his pet peeves was the “Baby On Board” signs that were so popular back in the late 80s.
And let’s not forget the 3 most puke inducing words that man has yet thought of, baby on board. I don’t know what valueless, soulless, yuppie cocksucker thought of that idea. No idea who. Baby on board. Who gives a fuck? I certainly don’t. You know what these morons are actually telling us, don’t you? I know you’ve figured this out. They’re actually saying to us, “we know you’re a shitty driver most of the time but, because our child is nearby, we expect you to straighten up for a little while.”
Fuck these people. I run them into a goddamn utility pole. Right into a pole huh? Roll that car over. Bounce that kid around a little bit. Let him grow up with a sense of reality, for Christ’s sakes. Life doesn’t change because you post a sign. I’m supposed to alter my driving habits because some woman forgot to put her diaphragm in. Isn’t that really nice? Isn’t that a real treat for me? Baby on board. Child in car. Don’t tell me your troubles, lady.
Why don’t you put up an honest sign? Asshole at the wheel! Asshole at the wheel. They don’t sell many of them, do they? No. They give them away free with Volvos and Audis. God help us. And Saabs. Some of these misfits buy Saabs. We bought a Saab. Well, what’d you buy a Swedish piece of shit like that for? It’s a safe car. These people think if they buy a safe car, it excuses them from the responsibility of having to learn how to drive the fucking things. First you learn to drive, then you buy your goddamn safe car.
George is describing the same mentality some people have in the wake of the pandemic. Lots of people are climbing on a moral high horse, shaming people who just want to live normally again. Living “normally” means not constantly being so worried and concerned about everyone and everything else.
Maybe that sounds callous and selfish, but it’s reality, isn’t it? It’s not realistic to expect the whole world to permanently change in order to protect the tiny percentage of the world’s most vulnerable people. It’s certainly not realistic to expect everyone to adopt that generous attitude on a dime. It takes time for people’s attitudes to evolve, and even then, some people will never change. What good does it do to call those people “garbage humans” for being who they are?
If every single person did nothing but consider the other guy all the time, not only would nothing ever get done, but we would probably all be legitimately mentally and physically ill in short order. We’d be overanxious, starving, homeless lunatics. Life requires some basic selfishness. You have to take care of your own needs before you can help other people most effectively. If you’re constantly giving away what you need to help the next person, you’re going to have a short, and probably very boring, life. Yes, it’s good to give to others, but you also have to take some things for yourself. And before anyone comes at me, condemning me for being cruel, stop and think for a moment. You really do have needs that require some selfishness to fulfill. We all do.
In the above comment section, these two strangers quickly became uncivilized because they have different perspectives, and I suspect, different political leanings. Imagine what might have happened if the two of them had shown some basic respect and consideration for each other’s perspectives. What if Sam had taken a breath and, before labeling Greg a “sociopath”, softened his approach a bit and been more thoughtful? What if he hadn’t sanctimoniously qualified himself as a “caring person” as he hypocritically called Greg a “garbage person”? What if he had acknowledged that the pandemic has been hard on EVERYONE? Yes, it’s been especially hard on the immunocompromised, but the truth is, it has affected everyone. And everyone is entitled to a little bit of grace… and a little bit of selfishness.
Has it occurred to Sam that the prospect of living the COVID lifestyle has been soul crushing for some people? Does he think about the people who have suffered real losses, even though they aren’t immunocompromised? What about people whose businesses have failed? How about people who have been so burdened by loneliness and despair that they have considered or even actually committed suicide? Or people so overwhelmed at the prospect of following the rules for social contact that they avoid doing things like going to the doctor or shopping?
Why can’t there be compromise? For some people, the prospect of this lifestyle dragging on forever is unbearable, even if it might benefit the immunocompromised. They deserve some good news and hope for the future. And, the sad reality is, every single one of us is going to die of something at some point. However, I do think it’s reasonable for the immunocompromised to get some consideration. Like, for instance, I think the ability to work from home should be normalized. That would be beneficial to a lot of people and the environment as a whole, not just those who are at a higher risk of being around other people due to their health.
I will agree that some people truly have been very selfish. Some people have not cooperated at all, and have taken belligerent and downright reckless attitudes toward the public health guidelines, especially when COVID was at its most dangerous. This post isn’t about those people. I’m referring to regular folks who have been patiently waiting and hoping that they can have some semblance of their lives back. It’s not wrong for people to want to get back to a normal lifestyle. That doesn’t make them “garbage human beings”.
Everybody has perspectives that have been formed by their own experiences. Before you go labeling someone a “sociopath” because they don’t agree with you, stop and think about whether or not you’re being a total hypocrite, and whether or not your virtue signaling shaming routine isn’t just “counterfeit generosity”. If you call someone trash just minutes after you praise yourself for being caring and kind, you might want check yourself… and maybe take down that “Baby On Board” sign on the back of your Volvo.
For those who would like to see George Carlin’s hilarious routine in its entirety… all sales made through my site result in a small commission from Amazon for me. That would be nice for me, but really, this is just one of my favorite Carlin shows.
Fair warning… this post is kind of cranky and negative. You may not want to read it, but I really felt like writing it.
A couple of days ago, a friend of mine shared a stale Facebook post about the importance of getting COVID vaccines, even if we don’t know what’s in them. The post also reminded everyone that we don’t know what’s in a lot of things we consume. My friend added the comment that people who refuse to be vaccinated should not be shown compassion or mercy when they eventually get sick with COVID-19.
That post, along with an accompanying judgmental, frustrated, angry attitude, was one I have seen many times since the vaccines first became available. I couldn’t help but feel a slight twinge of irritation as I prepared to scroll past it. I mean, it’s been two years. Most people have made up their minds and don’t necessary want or need a stale PSA/meme/recycled social media post to change their views.
But then I noticed that one of my friend’s friends had written a rebuttal– not against the wisdom of getting inoculated, but against the attitude that people who don’t get vaccinated are undeserving of medical care. I liked what the man said– that there is no “sin” in not getting vaccinated, especially since the initial promises regarding vaccination turned out to be somewhat invalid.
Let me make it abundantly clear that I do believe the vaccinations are good, and I certainly recommend that people get the shots. I have been fully vaccinated and boosted against COVID-19, and I spend most of my time alone in my house. I take my dogs for walks, but other than that, I don’t go around other people. When I do go around others, I wear a mask as required. And it’s not even so much COVID-19 that has forced me into this isolated lifestyle. I kind of fell into it years ago, when I found myself outside of the work world.
I used to enjoy going out on the weekends, visiting tourist sites, and eating in restaurants. But now, thanks to the miserable and ever changing COVID-19 rules in Europe, even that’s unappealing to me. It’s too confusing, inconvenient, and potentially embarrassing to go out into the world. So I stay home and read hyperbolic comments from high and mighty people in the United States, bitching about how uncaring other people are, and how if they get sick and aren’t vaccinated, they totally deserve to suffer.
My friend had posted about how irresponsible and uncaring unvaccinated people were running around “murdering” people by being infectious. From the very beginning, I have cringed when I’ve read or heard someone accuse someone with COVID of “murder”. Folks, at best, someone who spreads COVID-19 might be guilty of negligent homicide or involuntary manslaughter. And even that is a stretch, given that people pick up germs all the time, in all sorts of situations, and there are many variables that influence how well their bodies will cope with, and hopefully recover from, any of the germs they pick up.
Murder generally requires premeditation and malice, and using the extreme and alarmist term “murder” is, in my view, an unnecessary overstatement– especially since most people who get COVID do eventually recover, at least to some extent. This situation sucks plenty already, and it’s already caused incredible hardship and grief. We don’t need to make it worse by calling people who spread COVID “murderers”, when they would never fit the definition of “murderer” in a court of law– at least not in the United States.
My friend also wrote that people who are unvaccinated should not have access to medical care. And again, as I have repeatedly stated, I highly disagree with that view– especially from someone who professes to be a devout Christian, as my friend does. I am not particularly religious myself, but I did go to church for many years. And I was taught that Jesus Christ had compassion and mercy, especially for the sick. Jesus would not deny medical care to someone who needs it, even if that person could have avoided severe illness by getting vaccinated and taking precautions.
Moreover, even if the unvaccinated person has wantonly avoided vaccination and adopted an uncaring, callous attitude, chances are good that the person will still be missed by someone. Chances are also good that someone relied on that person and now no longer has them. That person in need could be a child, or an elderly person, or someone with special needs. Now, their life is going to be upended because someone they needed got sick and died unexpectedly… and people are mocking them, to boot! These people who call for us to have compassion and consideration for others are actually laughing at people who have died of COVID. Of course, dead people aren’t the ones who hear the laughter; it’s their grieving friends and loved ones who are left to deal with that.
Ah– but you might say, if that was the case, then the person should have made it a priority to get vaccinated. To that, I might agree– except we never know why a person has avoided getting the shots. It could be because they simply don’t care, or it could be because he or she has to work, and can’t afford to take time off to recover from potential side effects of the vaccine. Or maybe that person lives in an area that isn’t near a place where he or she can get the shots. There are a lot of “food deserts” in the United States. I would imagine that the food deserts are also pharmaceutical deserts. In any case, I don’t think it’s helpful to laugh about someone’s death. It happens to all of us at some point.
So, I found myself responding with most of the above points to my friend, even though I hesitated at first. I added that here in Europe, lawmakers have tackled the problem of unvaccinated people by trying to make life harder for them. In some areas, for instance, unvaccinated people are being fined, and some are losing their jobs over lack of vaccination. Here in Germany, an unvaccinated person often can’t go into a restaurant or a non-essential retail outlet. They can’t go to theaters or sports arenas. Even those who have been twice vaccinated have to show a negative test result or proof that they’ve been boosted. And guess what! The virus is STILL spreading!
That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be taking precautions. It just means that all of the preaching and yammering about masks and vaccines, as if they are going to save humanity, is not necessarily based in truth. Vaccines make severe sicknesses and deaths from COVID less likely, but they don’t entirely stop sicknesses and deaths from happening. So shaming people for not doing exactly what they’re told is kind of pointless, since even if they do what they’re supposed to do, they still might get sick. And no doubt about it, every person WILL someday die of something.
Last night, Bill took Noyzi to the vet to get routine doggy vaccines. Before he could get services, he had to show the receptionist his ID, plus his “COVPass”, which is an app on his phone that provides proof that he’s had his three shots. And then, he STILL had to wait outside. Then he was ushered into the treatment room where our sweet Zane was euthanized in 2019, before all of this stupid shit started.
So what prompted this post? Over the past couple of days, I’ve seen several other “tut tut” posts from supposed friends about the importance of masking and vaccines. And folks, I’ll be honest… I am so sick of seeing them. It’s been two years. If people haven’t gotten the message by now, I doubt they ever will. These kinds of PSAs tend to elicit positive responses from those who have already jumped on the bandwagon, and derisive, snarky responses from those who think masking is a waste of time. And then there are people like me, who just want to get on with life and be done with this shit, for better or worse.
Also… as someone who never saw Star Wars, this reference is lost on me, anyway. Bill is a Star Wars fan, so he clued me in. I know people are going to share this shit anyway, so writing this post is really my only action against this practice. I’m also a firm believer that people should share what they want to on their social media accounts. Still, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t vexed by the constant preaching and lecturing.
While I agree that it is responsible to wear a mask when you’re in a crowd of people, I find these kinds of shaming posts irritating and offensive. Because again– those who don’t believe in masking are not going to be swayed by something like this, and those who are onboard with the program will be cheerleading, and people like me, who believe in science, but are fucking sick of reading and hearing about COVID, are just going to be aggravated by it. When I see these posts, I’m just reminded of how much this sucks. Ditto to those who argue with strangers online, and implore them with comments like “Please educate yourself.” as if they are the authority on all things.
I do hope that COVID-19 will present us with a “silver lining” of sorts. Like, for instance, I think our healthcare system needs a massive overhaul, particularly in terms of the financial aspects of it. Obviously, we all need access to affordable healthcare. In the case of a contagious disease like COVID-19, it’s absolutely crucial and essential that people be able to access competent healthcare, even if some people think the unvaccinated shouldn’t get treatment or comfort measures. That person who stubbornly refused to be vaccinated can still spread the virus, you know, even as they writhe in the death throes that some think they richly deserve. It’s in our best interest to take care of the sick people, even if they chose not to be vaccinated or, in some cases, simply were unable to access the shots. You probably won’t know which case they fall under, and honestly, who’s got time to ask?
Maybe this situation will help us prepare for the next pandemic, and you know there will be one. Hopefully, by the time it hits, I’ll already be dead. But maybe some people will learn from this… maybe. Or maybe some really smart person will come up with ways to make mitigating this virus easier and more effective, so life won’t be so shitty anymore. One can always hope. But for now, I’m probably going to continue to be really crabby. At least I still have my dogs.
I have a bunch of travel writing to do, and I am definitely going to get to it. But before I dive into travel blogging, I have to rant about something that happened yesterday as we were driving home from Austria. I’m sure some people reading this will come to the conclusion that I was being a “Karen” (a term I loathe, by the way). If you want to think of me in that way, it’s your privilege. However, I think my complaint makes some sense… especially if you live in Europe, where COVID rules and regulations change at every border, and at the whims of whomever is in charge.
Alright… so now that I’ve issued a disclaimer of sorts, here’s my story.
Bill and I just took a trip that took us through Germany, Austria, Slovenia, and Croatia. In every place, there were different COVID-19 rules in effect regarding mask wearing, vaccines, and what not. In Austria, if you have been vaccinated, you don’t even need to wear a mask, unless you’re on a bus, in a grocery store, or visiting a medical facility. In Slovenia, masks were supposedly required, but very few people wore them properly, or at all. Same with Croatia, where almost everyone who wore a mask had it under their noses or chins. Croatia and Slovenia are supposedly COVID “hot spots”, although the places we visited were almost completely devoid of people.
In Germany, masks are still required indoors, and some regions have rules that are stricter than others. In Bavaria, for instance, customers are supposed to wear masks. However, a surgical mask is evidently not enough. You’re supposed to wear a FFP2 mask, which is thicker and looks like a coffee filter. Because they’re really thick and close fitting, I can’t stand to wear them. So I don’t. That’s not a problem in Hesse, where I live, because here, a surgical mask works. And people, on the whole, are less anal retentive in Hesse than they are in some of the more southern regions of Germany.
Anyway, I guess Bavaria had loosened up on the masking protocols over the summer, because on our way to Austria on October 26th, we stopped at a roadside McDonald’s for lunch. We had to show the cashier that we were vaccinated, and of course, we wore masks. However, I, and many of the other people in the restaurant, wore surgical masks, and no one said a word about it. No one said anything at the rest stops we used in Bavaria, either, going to or coming back from the more southern countries we visited.
On the way home yesterday, we ended up stopping at the same McDonald’s for lunch. I hadn’t wanted to stop there again, but when we tried to stop at a different roadside restaurant, there was no parking available for cars. The spaces were all taken up by tractor trailers. The next available stop was the same one we visited on the way down to Austria on October 26th. Again, we visited that restaurant not two weeks ago and had no issues, even though I wasn’t wearing the much vaunted FFP2 mask, nor were many of the other people in the restaurant.
We walked into the McDonald’s, which was pretty empty. To get to the counter, we had to walk past the restrooms and up a flight of stairs. We approached the cashier who, without saying “Hello” or “Welcome” or “Kiss my ass” or anything, pointed to me and said I needed a FFP2 mask. I probably gave her an extremely annoyed look. Then I turned to Bill and said, “Nope. Forget it. Let’s just go.”
So we turned around and left the McDonald’s. Then we went to the neighboring Burger King and got lunch there, although we decided to eat it in the car. I probably will never return to that McDonald’s, because I will always remember the rude way that cashier in an empty restaurant told me it wasn’t enough that I have been fully vaccinated and was wearing a medical mask. I also needed to be wearing the coffee filter for the ten seconds I would be face to face with that woman, who was, herself, along with her fellow crew members, wearing a simple surgical mask.
I actually did have a brand new FFP2 mask in my purse, but I realized that in order to comply with the rules, I’d have to leave the restaurant, take off my surgical mask, put on the FFP2 mask, then go back in, climb the flight of stairs, show my vaccine certs, and then sit down at a table, where I would promptly remove the mask so we could have a rather crappy lunch. It seemed like an unnecessary and pointless exercise, when all I wanted to do was pick up some food and quickly eat before I turned into a hangry Godzilla.
Frankly, that exchange, while likely in compliance with Bavaria’s current COVID-19 rules, was very off-putting. The experience of eating at a McDonald’s is, in and of itself, pretty off-putting, anyway. It seemed absurd to me that just 24 hours earlier, Bill and I visited a beautiful restaurant in Salzburg, where we wore masks inside and were advised we could remove them entirely, once we showed the hostess proof of vaccination.
I realize that the cashier was just doing what she was ordered to do, and I did, after the fact, read that the rules changed again as of yesterday morning. I know that working at McDonald’s, even in a civilized country like Germany, is probably not the most fun job there is, and I know it doesn’t pay very well. I don’t know how much anxiety was involved for her in pointing out to me that my medical mask wasn’t suitable. My guess, given that it was Bavaria, is that she probably enjoyed enforcing the rules. She probably doesn’t care that we left the restaurant disappointed and unsatisfied. However, if enough people end up doing that, I’m not sure how long that restaurant can stay in business.
My complaint isn’t even so much with the cashier who was following the rules, as it is with the fact that the rules in Bavaria differ so much from the rules in other areas. Since that restaurant is at a truck stop, it serves people who are coming from all over Europe, driving from places that have different rules that change by the region or the ever changing hospital rates. A lot of them may not be aware of or prepared for Bavaria’s quirkier rules which, to be honest, are probably not much more than optics that make it look like Bavaria is doing “more” to stop the spread of the virus.
Seriously… stop and think about it for a minute. Bill wore a FFP2 mask, but it’s one he’s used repeatedly for I don’t know how long. Those masks cost significantly more than surgical masks do, so people tend to reuse them for long periods of time, which hinders their effectiveness. Changing out the masks is also something that people don’t necessarily think to do, even if the cost of them isn’t a burden. People tend to put them on for as long as required, take them off, and stuff them somewhere convenient for quick and easy compliance.
For that reason, I am convinced that this rule is just about optics and trying to “look” more aggressive. It’s probably a political move more than anything else. As long as you wear the “right” mask, it doesn’t matter that it’s months old. You just have to look like you’re in compliance. I’m sure my fresher surgical mask was less polluted and probably “safer” than Bill’s nasty, overused FFP2 was. But because his was a FFP2, he was deemed as following the rules in an otherwise empty restaurant, while I didn’t pass muster.
The disposable masks also create pollution. I’ve seen quite a lot of them tossed on the ground. And it also doesn’t look like the FFP2 masks are even that much more effective. Though Bavaria has required the heavier masks since January 2021, they’re obviously still having issues with the spread of the virus. That’s not going to improve until more people get vaccinated or develop antibodies. The stupid mask procedures are just a Band-Aid, especially when they are arbitrarily enforced, and not required of staff members.
I didn’t argue with the McDonald’s cashier. I didn’t flip her off, threaten her, swear at her, or even say anything particularly snarky. I just looked really annoyed and said, “Nope. Forget it. Let’s go.” Then we turned around and left, not having done any business with the huge American monstrosity that is McDonald’s. That pretty much means that McDonald’s doesn’t offer a product worth jumping through hoops for, nor did the cashier’s less than friendly and welcoming attitude make me want to cooperate with her. So we went to their competitor, instead. The food wasn’t any better there, but at least it satisfied my hunger long enough to get us home before I went full on Godzilla.
And now, I’m thinking I won’t be voluntarily doing any business in Bavaria until this COVID bullshit is mitigated. Nothing against the Bavarians, but there are other places I can visit where I don’t have to jump through endless anal retentive hoops to accomplish the most basic activities of life. Sheesh… I know I’m complaining, but give me a break. I come from the United States, where people are actually coming to physical blows over COVID rules. Americans aren’t the only ones, either. Some Germans are starting to get fed up, too. Recently, a German man shot and killed a cashier at a gas station because he felt constrained by the rules and was upset about government overreach. Sadly, some Germans who are similarly fed up were laughing and cheering about the murder.
I also read a fascinating story yesterday about how some American McDonald’s employees in Bradford, Pennsylvania are fed up with the crappy working conditions and low pay there. Almost the entire day shift walked off the job. I can’t blame them at all for that. I don’t know if it’s better to work at a German McDonald’s… it probably is. The food is only marginally better, anyway. I do think it’s kind of funny to be so concerned about FFP2 masks when McDonald’s is unhealthy on so many levels. Properly worn, the FFP2 masks supposedly protect the wearer from viruses, but then they get exposed to the food at McDonald’s.
To be clear, I certainly don’t think it’s appropriate to resort to physical violence or kill people over face masks… but I’m not going to voluntarily accept being forced to wear a FFP2 as a condition of doing business, unless that becomes the norm everywhere, is required of everyone, and is consistently enforced. Bavaria and its hyper-controlling powers-that-be can just stick that shit where the sun doesn’t shine… and that sure does describe my disposition yesterday, as we left the Golden Arches for the more welcoming Burger King next door.
Come to think of it… it’s healthier all the way around not to visit the Golden Arches. Maybe I should thank the Bavarians for that. 😉
Yesterday, The Washington Post ran an article about how the declining birthrate in the United States is going to be a problem and outlining how other countries have tried to encourage people to have babies. This isn’t the first time I’ve read about how the declining birth rate is causing concern. However, after years of hearing how overpopulated the world is and how our natural resources are dwindling, it does surprise me that now people are being encouraged to breed more. I get that it’s mainly because a steep decline in the birth rate will cause a shortage of people available to work as our population continues to age. However, I think that’s a pretty stupid and selfish reason to encourage people to have children, particularly when the world is so completely fucked.
After I read the article, I checked out a few of the comments on Facebook. Someone posted about the lunacy of encouraging people to breed and a guy named “Ken” made a crack about how we’ll have robots working in nursing homes.
God bless the people who are willing to take care of the elderly, especially if they enjoy doing it and are good at it, but it’s not right to expect people to do it if that’s not what they want to do with their lives. Moreover, the sad reality is, if a robot does become available that can do the work of caring for the elderly, chances are the robot will be made. Robots don’t have to be paid; they don’t need to take vacations or maternity leave; and they can be programmed. Companies that make money by hiring robots to do jobs humans once did will do just that, because money is more important to them than putting humans to work. Having a surplus of babies will not change that reality. It’ll just be more people to feed, clothe, educate, and find work for.
I know I should have kept scrolling, but I couldn’t help myself. I posted that the prospect of robots working in nursing homes is a dumb reason to have kids. I didn’t add this part, but I was thinking about how selfish it is to have babies with the expectation that they’ll grow up to do a specific job… like wiping my ass when I’m an old lady.
Children should be wanted and loved by their parents. They shouldn’t be born simply to fill a quota. It’s not right to expect people to have babies if they don’t want them or can’t have them. Note– I did not call Ken “dumb”, I said having babies simply for the sake of making bodies is a “dumb reason” to have children. Especially when there are families like the Duggars who are having enough babies for many single people.
“Ken” then proceeded to tell me that I’m “not the sharpest knife in the drawer”, then demanded to know if I’d read the article. Uh… I ALWAYS read before I comment. So I responded, explaining to Ken that I’m definitely “sharp enough”. I criticized the idea of having babies just to boost the population– especially since there’s no telling how the people resulting from those births will turn out in the future. I also advised him not to insult total strangers.
He came back and insulted me again, claiming that I’m “ignorant” and “obtuse”, and inviting me to go visit nursing homes so I could see the true state of things. Of course he doesn’t know anything about me at all, and obviously doesn’t want to know. He just lashes out with random insults and assumptions about complete strangers. I wonder if he has any friends.
I was tempted to rip “Ken” a new one, but decided to block him instead. Because when it comes down to it, there’s no point in getting into a war of words with someone who feels the need to insult people they don’t even know. In two comments, this total stranger called me “not the sharpest knife in the drawer”, “ignorant”, and “obtuse”. While I know that none of his comments about me are true, I was really inspired to rip his head off and shit down his neck. Fortunately, I realized that not only would that be unproductive, but it would also make me a hypocrite. I don’t like hypocrisy, or getting into pointless arguments with people I don’t even know. Still, I would be lying if I said his words weren’t offensive, even if I know they shouldn’t matter. They’re not personal, because he would have to know me for them to be personal. He obviously isn’t interested in knowing me or making a connection. He just wants to be rude to people who don’t agree with him.
I am grateful I had enough sense not to waste time arguing with “Ken”, who really should go out and get pregnant, since he’s so worried about the future. I wanted to ask him if he routinely responds to people with such tackiness. I guess he thinks I should have gotten pregnant a couple of times instead of wasting my time on higher education. Maybe he’s right, although if I’d had children, my life would probably be very different. Either way, arguing with him would have been a waste of time, so I decided to just block him and move on. Obviously, no one taught him any manners or regard for others, and that’s sad. But it’s not my job to give him a clue, nor should I be spreading the epidemic of incivility on the Internet.
I’m not sure if the stresses of the last year have made people more insufferable and disrespectful or I’m just worn out by the stress and have a much lower tolerance. It could be a bit of both. I did catch myself feeling hopeful yesterday as my arm twinged with the slight pain of my first COVID-19 vaccine. I had a red, slightly swollen oval around the injection site– maybe two inches wide and an inch tall. My body is mounting an immune response to the vaccine, which I hope, after my second Moderna shot, will mean I can finally have some fun again. Maybe the prospect of a trip will have a good effect on my mood.
Actually, the COVID-19 news seems to be getting better, even here in Germany. Last month, there was all this doom and gloom about how no one could get vaccines, and the illness was killing people and overloading the hospitals. Angela Merkel was wanting to lock everything down indefinitely, even though we’ve been locked down in some form since November. But now, about the vaccines are finally being rolled out and there’s talk that the restrictions could be loosening soon. I am dreaming of a trip to Stuttgart to see our dentist and get a cleaning, at long last. Noyzi the rescue dog needs a test run at the boarding facility, too. I suspect in a few weeks, we’ll be able to get out of town and maybe even take a short trip to another country. I’d settle for a short trip in Germany that isn’t in Hesse.
It’s hard to learn the lesson that what other people think of you is none of your business. However, it’s also hard not to know what’s “none of your business” when people like “Ken” so freely share their negative and uninformed opinions about people they don’t even know. It bothers me that a perfect stranger feels perfectly okay calling a total stranger “dull”, “ignorant”, and “obtuse”, simply because of a disagreement. But when it comes down to it, saying those things is more revelatory of Ken’s character than my level of intelligence. He just happened to hit a raw nerve. My whole life, people have underestimated me and called me “silly”, “giddy”, “giggly”, “blonde”, or “jolly”. Then, when they eventually realize I’m not *just* those things, they give me another label– usually a negative one. My father used to say I was “arrogant”, as he added that I would never make more than minimum wage. Then he wondered why I didn’t like him very much and wasn’t interested in spending time with him.
I suppose my run in with “Ken” makes me glad that I married a man who values a woman with a brain. Bill does listen to my opinions and think I’m plenty “sharp”. So even though it stings when I run into people like “Ken”, it probably is best to just block people like him and go on with my life. What he thinks of me is none of my business. The fact is, he couldn’t be more wrong about me, and he’s not interested in learning the truth. So his opinions about my intelligence or lack thereof are irrelevant… and his opinions about the birthrate in the United States are irrelevant to me, too, especially since I’m not tasked with procreating with him. If he’s wrong about my intelligence, he’s probably wrong about a lot of other things. Moreover, he clearly doesn’t understand that there are real people behind the computer screens. The fact that he and his ilk aren’t sharp enough to get that is just one more reason why it’s better not to reproduce.
Sorry… I know this is kind of a “brently” post. I’m just fed up with a lot of stuff. I realize I’m luckier than many people are, but the older I get, the more I think that having a bunch of children is a foolhardy thing to do. Give me my rescue dogs and that’ll be fine. If that makes me “dull”, so be it. At least I haven’t spread any of my defective DNA to any unsuspecting descendants.
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