Column: Learning to speak the new language of the novel coronavirus

Lisa Versprille Burkett [Courtesy]

SANDBRIDGE — I was talking to a friend on the phone recently when I realized we were speaking a new language – Covid.  

Rather, our vocabulary contained words and phrases used in a new way: words that people all over our socially distanced world are using to describe life during the pandemic.  

I drove to the pharmacy, and I asked my friend how her elementary school age son was doing attending classes online while isolating at home.

She said he doesn’t like it. He doesn’t process things well online. And, just the other day, the school was “Zoom bombed.” What?

Some jerk had hacked the computer learning system they are using, and classes had to be canceled online until the next day. 

My friend explained that he was supposed to have a quiz, but the teacher told the parents via email that she would spot all the children 10 points on the rescheduled quiz to make up for learning time missed. That’s flattening the curve, all right, I thought. The grade curve.

My friend wondered if her son should return to school when they open back up. I pointed out that, even if her son ends up back at school, he’s not in a high-risk group.  

But my friend’s 82-year-old mother lives with them, and she is high risk. If he brings home the virus, she could die. My friend told me her mom smokes, and she doesn’t want to see her on a ventilator.

Further, her mom is totally panicked.  She can’t make herself stay home all day. drives herself to Kohl’s to shop, then signs up the next day to get a Covid test. She won’t cough into her elbow. Then she “doom scrolls” all night. 

Doom scrolls? She means her mom watches bad news all day, which may or may not be fake.  

I argued we are not in a hot zone, not even in a red zone.  I suggested the kids would be okay as long as they don’t say words that start with p, t or k – words that may use more saliva to spit out the sounds, spewing droplets everywhere.

Maybe that’s why our coronavirus case numbers are as high as they are. Maybe we should ban hard consonants.

I parked at the pharmacy. I told my friend we’d bump elbows next time we got together, but, for now, I had a coronagenda to accomplish.

I entered the building, mask on, hands freshly sanitized, I sought a pulse oximeter and my prescription. The pharmacist said she was busy and to come back in 15 minutes. 

Busy? Epidemiologists are the ones who are busy — busy trying to save the world.  

I walked around the pharmacy being careful to stay at least six feet away from everyone else. Lo and behold, a male covidiot came down my aisle and entered my six-foot space. I pointed out marks on the floor. He went on his way.

When I got home, I was stunned to see my fiancé, Bob, had bags of mulch on the driveway.  He had been to Home Depot.

Give me your finger, Bob.

I whipped out my new pulse oximeter to check whether his oxygen saturation was right. Bob admitted that he had gone out but said he had stayed outside. 

I placed him under a stay at home order because who has to do the contact tracing if he gets sick? Me. Who will make an appointment for him to get swabbed? Me.

Bob asked whether he should make me a quarantini. He was speaking my language.

Make it a double, I said.

The author is a new grandmother and lives in Sandbridge.

© 2020 Pungo Publishing Co., LLC

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