Wednesday, 25 March 2020

The Virus Times: Where are all the huggers now?

Last week as I strolled the aisles of a local grocery store wearing a medical mask and rubber gloves some people were staring at me as if I had turned up to do my shopping in full gimp regalia.
This week people were oblivious to me. I am no longer an eccentric novelty. Now I am just one of a growing number of people doing all we can to minimise the risk of contracting and spreading Covid 19. Only two weeks ago no one would have imagined just how this pandemic would alter every aspect of our lives. Within a matter of days it has transformed everything from our finances to the most mundane aspects of social etiquette that we rarely consider. We are realising that in the suspension of the humdrum how the prosaic defines much of our lives and how in its abrupt absence we pine after it like a once neglected lover we had failed to fully appreciate.

On my walk home from the supermarket I watched a few people on the mostly deserted main street strictly observing social distancing, some even stepping aside in to the almost trafficless road to allow others pass so as to leave the required space between them. I even saw a few people cross the street to avoid getting too close to others coming in their direction and then crossing back over when the path on the other side was clear again. It is possible that in these cases though someone just spotted a person they had a fling with decades ago and they couldn't be arsed with the awkward don't I know you from some orifice some where eye-contact that would ensue. I am sure such things occur in small towns everywhere.

Even someone like myself with misanthropic sympathies and a touch of the curmudgeon recognises it's hard to find any upsides to a global pandemic with a worryingly high mortality rate that can also do permanent damage to the lungs of survivors. However, the one perk of this new social distancing dispensation over the past few weeks is that with the decline in social interaction I am no longer being introduced to complete strangers who feel the need to try and hug me as an initial greeting like a needy Koala bear who has met his first Eucalyptus tree. I am awkward enough with physical affection with friends and family that I am close to, so there's not a hope some effusive millennial is throwing their arms around me the moment we meet. One of the reasons that I dislike superficial displays of affection with strangers is that it is not beyond the realm of possibility that once they get to know me, even a little bit, they won't like me. I have had such experiences with the kinds of people who are unable to tolerate or see good in others who don't share all of their supposedly progressive political opinions. Besides, there is the possibility that as this pandemic plays itself out I will have to reserve any physical displays of affection for an elderly family member in intensive care or a friend who has lost a loved one. With all of my heart I hope not to have to hug any of them any time soon.






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