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Jerome Christenson: Will you have whine with your dinner?

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Jerome Christenson

Jerome Christenson

He darn near spoiled my pizza…

It was a reasonably quiet restaurant, at least until this goombah felt compelled to carry on so that two-thirds of the patrons were his involuntary audience. Haranguing his tablemate and anyone else within a five-yard radius, he was loud, with the self-assuredness granted the terminally ignorant.

He was outraged, of course, and he let everyone in earshot of his increasingly loud voice know he just wasn’t going to stand for a bunch of school administrators depriving his kids of their God-given constitutional right to be infected by a contagious disease and spread it willy-nilly to their teachers, their classmates, the lunch ladies and whoever else might come within range of their unmasked faces.

At full bellicose volume he argued for a parent’s right to let their child get sick and, in the process, sicken others. And by God, because those liberals were trampling his freedoms, he was gonna pull his kids right out of that school and see how they liked them apples!

Poor kids … but good riddance, I thought. This pandemic is tough enough without you and your brood making it tougher.

The bile rising in my throat didn’t go well with sausage and pepperoni, and I was sorely tempted to step over to his table to … to what? Change his mind? Explain contagion, the germ theory of disease and how masks reduce the likelihood of airborne transmission of the virus?

Explain how vaccines stimulate the human immune system to counter infectious agents? Remind him how smallpox, diphtheria, polio and measles filled cemeteries with small graves before being vanquished by a shot in infancy; and how we line up every fall to bare an arm for a flu shot to ward off a virus COVID-minimizers insist is just as bad as the corona virus.

But he was talking politics, not virology. His was the rhetoric of personal animus, not public health. In his fevered brain, ideology trumped epidemiology and if we all suffered for it — that wasn’t his problem…

I didn’t waste my time. Just paid our bill and left him there spouting nonsense.

When I got in the car I noticed the mask looped around the shifter and felt better about the world and the people in it.

Y’see that mask used to be a shirt hanging in my closet.

Not everyone is as fearful, stubborn and stupid as that guy in the restaurant.

Way back when this whole mess started, masks were hard to come by because we were all scared, feeling helpless, wondering what we could do…

Well, my neighbor, Jackie, looked around and started cutting up old shirts, sheets and what have you; stitched in some pleats and sewed on elastic so family, friends and neighbors could protect themselves and others.

She couldn’t cure COVID, but she could make masks.

Word spread. Demand grew and Jackie kept sewing. Wore out one machine and bought another. Kept hanging masks on the picket fence in front of her house, people kept coming to get them.

By summer nearly 10,000 masks had hung on that fence and with three safe and effective vaccines free for the asking, she thought her mask-making days were over.

Seems she was wrong about that. The delta variant and folks too fearful, foolish or misguided to get their shots have all of us back wearing masks and Jackie back sewing them. Doing what she can do.

America needs more Jackies.

Sewing masks in a spare bedroom isn’t going to stop the pandemic. She knows that. But making those masks, wearing those masks very well might keep somebody from getting sick, keep somebody from dying. That’s doing something. Something important.

It’s the sort of thing that’s got us through tough times in the past and it’s going to get us through this as well.

Meanwhile, mask up; get the shot; and quit whining about it.

That’s enough to spoil a guy’s pizza.

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