Occasionally, Japanese soldiers used to emerge from jungles, still blissfully unaware World War 2 had ended 60 years before.
Blissfully probably isn’t the right word in that context, but I keep waiting for similar coronavirus ignoramuses to pop up, or out, elsewhere. In Dinosaur, Colorado, perhaps — yes, it exists — or Uncertain, Texas. And how can I resist mentioning Coward in South Carolina, whose population refuses to disclose the origin of its name, despite being constantly assured they have nothing to fear.
It seems almost impossible to believe that there is anyone left in the world who isn’t aware of, or whose life hasn’t been affected in some way by, our 21st century pestilence. “I’ll pour this pestilence into his ear,” Iago says of Othello. Some might think the Moor of Venice (or Cyprus) got off lightly.
“What about the world’s most sparsely populated places?” I hear you asking, good question by the way. You’re probably thinking of Greenland, with 0.03 people per square kilometre, and even that is crowded compared to Jan Mayen in the north of Norway, which has no permanent population — but does have a postal code, 8099. No Covid-19, though, nor mobile phone signal. Do all of the 0.03 people in Greenland get separate vaccinations?
It is an unfortunate truism that when you introduce a universal rule, at least half of the population then invent a reason to tell themselves (and tell the rest of us) that “it doesn’t apply to me.” So, for example, when told that anyone with half a brain should stay at home, well, you can guess what they would say.
I saw a good example of coronavirus-blindness (or short-sightedness, at least) the other day, when I spotted a crowd of young people milling about outside a local ice-cream shop on a stiflingly hot sunny afternoon, we do get them in Scotland every year or so.
The yellow orb seemed to have addled their brains to the detriment of any attempt at social distancing, just the opposite in fact. Rendered mad by shimmering images of vanilla and strawberry and mint choc chip, they were jostling and pushing each other as they approached the door of the oasis. The pandemic rules didn’t apply to them, you see, not under subparagraph 1 (Assorted Coneheads.)
To be fair, I can remember being young (I’m 74 now) and feeling immortal and that does seem to have worked out reasonably well so far. By which I mean I’ve had both vaccinations, isn’t that how it works? But the insouciance of the unvaccinated is sometimes painful to behold. Not least because my pain would be nothing compared to theirs, should the virus take serious advantage of their casual carelessness.
I want to say, what can I do to help? Should I mention the town of Last Chance, in Iowa? Before we reach The Bitter End in Tennessee? With our wits so scrambled that we go to live in Zzyzx. (In California, where else?)
No less a singer than the great Roy Orbison reminds us that it’s always something cruel that laughter drowns, and endings come to us in ways we cannot rearrange. Unless we take precautions in advance. Let’s not be like those Japanese soldiers.