I have spent a lifetime as an observer of the silly, senseless, useless, stupid and inane. In recent years I have had the privilege and opportunity to write about much of it in this blog, which, I suppose by extension makes it silly, senseless, useless, stupid and inane. And the entire COVID experience has given me the chance to observe a lifetime of inanity, crammed into the microcosm of just a few short months.
I started thinking about this last week, after a visit to an orthopedic surgeon's office. I arrived at his facility, a large multi-floor building, and found myself in the lobby waiting for the elevator with several other people. All of us were dutifully wearing our masks and were smartly distanced while we waited; each of us occupying one of the herd controlling stickers on the floor advising us of proper social spacing during these challenging times. Then, without a word or thought, the elevator doors opened, and we all crammed into the little box. Social distancing be damned. We had another floor to get to.
It felt like a rather inconsistent approach that nullified our earlier obedience. The COVID controllers did not think this one through.
In reality, much of the reaction to COVID has been haphazard and poorly thought out. That is probably because no one really knew what to do. As a result, it became essential to do something, thereby showing we were being responsible, even if what we are doing really doesn't do much, and in some cases, can make things worse.
Even the experts seemed confused. In the early days we were told masks were harmful, as cloth masks provided no protection and lead to people constantly touching their face. They also gave a false sense of security resulting in people ignoring social distancing recommendations. Then experts told us masks were not harmful, and "might" be helpful, recommending they be worn. Today they are portrayed as a life saver and seem to be required virtually everywhere. Personally, I will wear a mask in public buildings, but won't wear one outdoors. They may reduce the risk of infection 2-3%, but they are in my mind not an effective tool in the fight against COVID. If that position annoys you, it is not my fault. Blame the experts, who seem to be making it up as we go along.
I will say one thing for masks. Watching how many people wear them, I now understand why some forms of contraception have such a high failure rate.
Food outlets offer a great example of mask inanity today. Actually, they are a great source of observation for all sorts of COVID silliness. Here in Florida, we must put our mask on to walk in the door and stroll 20 feet to our booth, where all the masks come off again. Then when we leave, we place the masks on for the same 20 foot walk out of the building. We can deduce from this that COVID is only contagious when we are vertical or walking. Several fast food outlets have started deploying a “tray transfer” method at their drive-thru windows, ostensibly to minimize contact between employee and customer. It consists of sticking a “tray” (usually the lid to some food storage box) out the window for the customer to drop their money in. Then the same tray returns with your change. The first time this happened, as I was clawing around the tray trying to collect my money, I wondered how many hundreds of other customers had done the same thing. Instead of reducing the risk of exposure, I believe this method actually increases it, since we are all pawing around in the same upside-down lid. The same lid, by the way, that your food is placed on when handed to your vehicle.
Like I said earlier, it doesn't have to be effective so long as you look like you are doing something.
And speaking of an illusion of safety, what is with the stupid plastic shields that now separate me from virtually every cashier in any store?
It is as if the COVID virus is incapable of floating 3 feet over or around the barrier, keeping everyone perfectly safe. I suppose they are useful when dealing with a customer with active saliva glands who produces a great deal of spittle when they talk, but we will never know. That is because virtually everyone leans to the side of these barriers to actually talk with the employee.
Not far removed from these barriers are the plastic face shields now making inroads in the fight. It is a good thing COVID-19 is not a smart virus, and will simply bounce off that shield, not knowing that 3 inches in any direction and it could be conveniently sucked into the wearers nose.
The inconsistency continues with incessant temperature taking. Many places, including my office, are checking the temperatures of everyone entering the facility. Now Dr. Fauci, the lead guy in charge of making things up, tells us that this is not a reliable method for detecting an infected person. Not everyone with COVID shows symptoms, like a temperature. Also, he slammed the digital thermometers now ubiquitous in America as being unreliable and inaccurate. I wish they had told me that before I shelled out 80 bucks for one. I guess the one solid thing we can learn from that is that Dr. Fauci is not heavily invested in digital thermometers.
I knew we should have stuck with the rectal thermometer. I should never have listened to the whiny folks in HR.
And even though we are on the topic of inanity, we won't even touch the notion that exercising your first amendment rights in protest is not contagious, while doing so in church will kill you.
Ultimately, much of the COVID response appears to be based on, well, appearance. As long as you are doing something that you either think helps or looks like it helps, it is not questioned by the masses. Fortunately, COVID numbers in many places are starting to drop, and the death and hospitalization rates are exponentially reduced. COVID will eventually fade, but we will likely never know if many of our efforts to protect people actually helped. It is possible they did through their very ineffectiveness; by actually allowing herd immunity to do its thing.
Except we haven't been able to discuss the concept of herd immunity. It is the one concept not easily accepted by the experts. Yet for all of the prognostications and safety precautions, it may be in the end what actually solves the issue.
In the meantime, do something. Anything. To paraphrase Lorenzo, an old SNL character played by Billy Crystal, it's not how you feel, it's how you look – so look like you're doing something and you will be ok.
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Robert Wilson is President & CEO of WorkersCompensation.com, and "From Bob's Cluttered Desk" comes his (often incoherent) thoughts, ramblings, observations and rants - often on workers' comp or employment issues, but occasionally not.
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