It might be hard to imagine, but I try to premeditate my columns, to consider possible ramifications before clicking on the “Submit for Approval” button. Is everything spelled right? Are my facts all in a row, quacking happily? Will I be frog-walked sobbing away from my career and into early retirement? But when I rolled out “Mr. Covid Answer Man” late last month, there was one response I never imagined: that readers actually would, as requested, send in questions. Sincere questions, some of them. So even though I like to flit nimbly from one topic to another, with this crisis reaching whatever nightmare crescendo we’re heading toward, I feel duty bound to address a few.
Dear Mr. COVID Answer Man: What is the polite way to say to your brother who you are very close to that his girlfriend is acting recklessly in regards to the virus and is putting his and anyone he sees lives at risk?
A destination wedding in South Carolina should not have been gone to, nor a trip to Colorado to support her friends’ MFA project.
What the best way to say, “I don’t know if I can see you while your girlfriend acts like a member of the Trump administration?” — Not My Brother’s Girlfriend’s Keeper
Dear NMBGK: The best way is the simplest. Try, “See you in two weeks.” Americans today are terrible when it comes to self-denial — that’s why we’re all so fat — and just because the journey might kill you is no reason to miss your Tri-Delt sister exchanging vows at Hilton Head. In her defense, we’ve been locked down for over six months and certain slippage is expected. Just don’t use it to justify further lapses. If you take a revolver, put a bullet in one chamber, spin it, then put the barrel to your head, pull the trigger and come off unscathed, that means you were lucky. Not that you should go, “All right!” and give it another go. Encourage him to encourage her to quit while she’s ahead and stay home scrapbooking her adventures.
Dear Mr. COVID Answer Man: I cannot suppress my glee at the news that Pres. Trump has tested positive for the COVID-19 virus. Mr. Answer Man, how can I rid myself of these wicked thoughts? I am sure NOBODY shares them with me. — Not Quite Contrite
Dear Contrite (Not): First, keep in mind that you are allowed to have thoughts, wicked or otherwise, that you don’t express — that truth is often lost in the era of social media. You would expect that the president referring to himself on Twitter as “an indestructible hero” would be provocation enough to wake the vengeful God of Deuteronomy from his 5,000-year slumber and send Him raging back into human affairs to reduce a certain jabbering traitor to a smoldering puddle of orange grease. So of course otherwise decent Americans will have malign thoughts. But just as we don’t put children in cages, no matter how disordered their parents’ paperwork might be, so we don’t publicly applaud the suffering of anyone, no how monstrous and callous a traitor.
Dear Mr. COVID Answer Man: I don’t have enough money to buy a car, and I have to use CTA to go to work. Because mask wearing is not enforced, there are always some people traveling alongside me in these mobile metal tubes that aren’t wearing masks. If I smack them, I’ll probably wind up in the hoosegow — where I’ll probably be subjected to even more people not wearing masks.
Why are these people able to ignore the science and infect hard working people like me? — In Hell on the ‘L’
Dear In Hell: Maybe because they know nobody is going to smack them. Seriously, you are wise to keep your hands to yourself. Do what you’d do if any other obnoxious, unhinged person is sharing your ‘L’ car — rowdy teens, noisome unstable individuals arguing vehemently with persons unseen — slip into the next car. It’s hard enough to confront your relatives (see “Not My Girlfriend’s Keeper” above) without also deputizing yourself as an officer in the Idiot Police and lecturing random wrongdoers encountered in public. On parting with a friend, I sometimes say, “Stay safe.” I don’t say, “Keep everyone you meet safe.”
Thank you for your questions; sorry I couldn’t answer them all.