I know the pictures of dense crowds at Central Park can elicit a gasp or two
Idon’t know about you, but there’s nothing I enjoy more than feeling superior to other people. This has been especially true during the pandemic because it has gifted America a veritable parade of wingnuts, denialists, hucksters, and shitbags whose breathtaking inferiority now constitutes a dire national emergency.
Bereft of national leadership when it comes to virus prevention, we’ve been forced to rely on each other to keep the country safe, or at least as safe as it can possibly be at the moment. The good news is that, this time, we know the basics of how to prevent mass contagion: wear masks, keep your distance, and don’t be inside with large groups of strangers.
The bad news is how many Americans — including fucking governors — are not only ignoring these basics but doing so proudly. Turns out the only thing more contagious than the coronavirus is our collective idiocy. We can’t yet mitigate this at the voting booth because 1) the national election isn’t until November, 2) to find your local voting booth, you must first answer a series of intricate riddles posed by John Roberts, and 3) the voting booth just tested positive. Hence, the only available weapon we have on hand in this fight right now is shame: browbeating Covid-19 slackers into compliance.
Shame may be the only way we make any notable statistical progress as we enter the Second Lockdown.
I won’t lie. I do enjoy Covid-shaming people. Makes me feel like a big man. Shame may be the only way we make any notable statistical progress as we enter the Second Lockdown. But who is most shameable? Who deserves to be scorned for their epidemiological negligence, and who makes for an unfair target? I’m glad I asked. Reader, join me now as I escort you through a rogue’s gallery of possible Covid offenders and whether or not they deserve your open disapproval.
The Trader Joe’s Karen
The offense: Shows up to buy her Trader Ming’s frozen Peking duck in a bag without a mask on and then screams at everyone for daring to question her.
Should you shame her? YES. Oh god, yes. I know it’s disturbing to watch that video and see our Karen (you youngsters out there are getting so, so good at concocting new and lasting epithets for white people) letting her diseased spittle fly in an act of ignorant rage at a grocery store that has taken great pains to keep both its employees and customers safe. But it’s genuinely heartwarming to see the other shoppers call her out for her bullshit right on the spot. Weren’t expecting that now, were you, Karen?
The hair salon people
The offense: They endured so many bad hair days through quarantine that they had to break their shackles to get themselves some goddamn coloring. Inside! With strangers touching their heads! Are they fucking crazy?
Should you shame them? NO! Not crazy! As a matter of fact, Missouri hair salon patrons just conducted a successful ad-hoc experiment in virus prevention. Two stylists at a salon tested positive for the virus. Every single one of their customers who got tested after exposure to the virus (Note: It was only 46 of 140 exposed who volunteered to get tested) came out negative. The key? Everyone at that salon, customers included, wore a goddamn mask the whole time. Who knew Missouri would prove good for anything?
The offense: They jumped the fence so little Johnny could go on a swing.
Should you shame them? Absolutely. Other parents remain the undisputed worst. If a playground is closed, it’s closed.
The offense: They’d like to reopen so that you have the pleasure of sitting next to a random guy coughing both lungs out during a nine-hour screening of Tenet. Look at them disinfect their filthy seats like they’re spraying for fucking termites:
Should you shame them? No. Last week AMC Theatres announced plans to reopen without mandating that audiences wear masks. They were summarily shamed into reversing that policy and falling in line with the likes of Alamo Drafthouse, which does require masks and is enforcing social distancing. If Hong Kong’s success with containment is any indication, there’s a have-it-both-ways scenario in which we can still do a lot of normal activities so long as we do them correctly. So look at that Cinemark tweet again. They’re cleaning that auditorium thoroughly! That’s good! If they left every seat covered in a thick layer of used Jujyfruits, I’d be judgier.
The offense: They’re eating at restaurants and drinking at bars! No masks!
Should you shame them? YES. We’ve fucked up the restaurant part of this so, so badly. What we should have done is shut down every restaurant while simultaneously bailing them out. Instead, we waited until damn near every restaurant was bankrupt and then let them reopen (forced them, really — what other choice did owners have if they wanted to stay afloat?) with restrictions that were destined to be ignored. So yeah, I reserve the right to be both disgusted and horrified when mouthbreathers converge on Kid Rock’s Family Feedbag to drink shitty beer and exhale all over one another. Get some takeout and tip generously instead. Assholes.
Private party types
The offense: They threw a goddamn wedding. With 100 people! Inside a hotel ballroom!
Should you shame them? You should. Also, don’t buy them a gift.
The offense: They got on a plane. Can you imagine?
Should you shame them? No! Air circulation aboard a 737 is, surprisingly, more sanitary than you might believe. The safety of airplanes is gonna get a more thorough stress test soon because American Airlines is planning to book flights at full capacity once again. But they’re also enforcing mask usage. Again, we see that you can’t shame people for engaging in a potentially infectious activity when they take the correct precautions. However, you can very much shame this guy…
The offense: Can I only name one offense here? Because there are a lot of them. When you waste millions upon millions of municipal treasury funds beating and tear-gassing protesters, at least wear a mask when you do it.
Should you shame them? Every day. Every hour. Never stop.
The offense: They didn’t go into the restaurant, but they still went to a restaurant.
Should you shame them? Nope. Restaurants are, arguably, the trickiest victims of the pandemic because you can’t wear a mask if you wanna eat in one (unless you wear the dining gimp mask currently being developed). But experts have already noted that outdoor transmission of the virus is far less prevalent than indoor transmission. Other people have pointed this out, but America desperately needs to open up every last street and patio to keep as much activity outside as humanly possible, especially during these warmer months when the virus can die outside even more quickly. So if you can’t resist the urge to eat a grilled chicken Caesar salad out on a deck, you’re taking on some risk but not all of it. I won’t stop you. Would I eat outside at a restaurant right now? FUCK NO. But I won’t shame you for it. Do it in Missouri.
The offense: They may reopen.
Should you shame them? Honestly, I have no idea. We just got a survey from our county asking where we stand on sending the kids back to school this fall, and I answered “I don’t know” when asked if school should be 100% virtual for the rest of the calendar year. A group of U.S. pediatricians said it was vital that kids go back to physical school and that children might also be superhumans who are invulnerable to the virus? Gonna need that Fauci guy to weigh in here. Meanwhile, I’m torn because I want my kids safe, but I also don’t want them to experience a long stint of arrested educational and social development that could potentially mar their respective intellects for years to come. Please God someone tell me what to do.
The offense: They’re crazy lonely and will walk right up to you and just start talking! No mask!
Should you shame them? Yes, but I don’t have the balls to do it. I’d feel awful.
Protesters/beach people/people at crowded parks
The offense: Look at them all, like, together! Seems pretty irresponsible! The cops may discriminate, but Covid doesn’t!
Should you shame them? No. I know the pictures of dense crowds at Central Park can elicit a gasp or two, but I’ve been at parks since the outbreak. I’ve taken my kids to protests. I just spent all week at a beach. In every instance, the participants were all, in general, responsible. All the protesters wore masks. Protest volunteers wore gloves while handing out water and snacks. Stats already show the Black Lives Matter protests caused no discernible virus spikes, perhaps because people cared about one another at them.
At the beach, people stayed in their little packs: clusters of human granola out on the sand. Everyone stayed out of each other’s way, even along a coastline that looked densely packed from certain angles. Last week, I was in the ocean and a beach ball went past me. I let it pass and then told the owner I was sorry but I just couldn’t risk touching it. Then the ball went farther out into the ocean, and I felt shitty, so I swam after it as a courtesy. But I was too late to rescue the ball. It blew out to the horizon, never to return. I still have mixed feelings about the whole affair.
Covid does indeed discriminate. It infects those without care and without a plan. It infects those who are either dependent upon or too trusting of the irresponsible. It infects those who think this is a hoax or a panic or a danger worth blowing off to eat at a fucking Chi-Chi’s. It seeks out those without shame and quickly works its way into them, knowing it can thrive in such wanton obliviousness. Shame is the best disinfectant we have in cutting off that exchange right now. Use it wisely.