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Over Easy: Let’s not go viral

  • President Donald Trump, left, and Vice President Mike Pence, depart a news conference about the coronavirus in the press briefing room at the White House, Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik) Andrew Harnik—AP

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    Gondoliers chat as they wait for customers near St. Mark's square in Venice, Italy, Tuesday, March 3, 2020. Venice in the time of coronavirus is a shell of itself, with empty piazzas, shuttered basilicas and gondoliers idling their days away. The cholera epidemic that raged quietly through Venice in Thomas Mann's fictional "Death in Venice" has been replaced by a real life fear of COVID-19. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco) ap photographs

  • Army soldiers wearing protective suits spray disinfectant as a precaution against the new coronavirus at a shopping street in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, March 4, 2020. The coronavirus epidemic shifted increasingly westward toward the Middle East, Europe and the United States on Tuesday, with governments taking emergency steps to ease shortages of masks and other supplies for front-line doctors and nurses. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon) Ahn Young-joon—AP

  • Airline passengers wear masks in the terminal area of Orlando International Airport on Wednesday, March 4, 2020, in Orlando, Fla. Many travellers are wearing masks because of the coronavirus outbreak. (Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel via AP) ap photographs

  • Dan Mackie (Courtesy photograph)

For the Valley News
Published: 3/6/2020 5:02:23 PM
Modified: 3/6/2020 5:02:11 PM

Because this column usually looks at the lighter side of life, I have been trying to size up the coronavirus threat and chuckle about it. So far, that hasn’t been a complete success.

There was one funny thing: News reports claimed that Corona beer sales are down because of a weird association in consumers’ minds: Corona beer, coronavirus. Even the Centers for Disease Control can’t cure stupid.

The beer maker, meanwhile, insists that sales are up. Who knows what to believe anymore?

As for me, I am a little rattled by the current state of affairs. I have been discreetly telling people for weeks that this virus could be a big deal. Maybe that’s because I have been reading about the Middle Ages and the Black Death, and thinking about the 1918 Spanish Flu. Meanwhile, the Red Sox are going to stink, quarantines are trending and the stock market has wild mood swings. Good Times!

My wife, Dede, has been taking the news from China, Italy and closer to home in stride, but I sheepishly went out Saturday to search for hand sanitizer. I struck out in several stores. At one pharmacy they told me they sold out the day before. I gently mocked the antibacterial alarmists, not wanting to be seen as the sort of person who panic buys as I squelched minor feelings of panic.

At my urging we went to the market Monday night to lay in supplies. Many canned goods had already flown off the shelves and I settled for a grab bag of potatoes, tuna, soup and beans. I also landed two of the last oatmeal containers. I got steel-cut oats, not the wispy instant stuff. I snagged six boxes of pasta, two bottles of pasta sauce.

All this in case of, umm, in case of what? The supply chain snaps? We run out of lentil soup? Worst-case scenario: There’s nothing left in the stores but Hot Pockets and Twinkies. If the virus doesn’t get us, junk food will.

I sought assurance about the essentials. “Dede, do we have extra toilet paper?” I called out the next day. “It’s in the basement,’’ she answered. We are ready for come what may.

At church on Sunday, some people bowed toward each other rather than shaking hands or hugging. Like a lot of mainstream churches, it’s an older crowd, and older crowds have more at stake. Already the virus was turning people inward, making them unsure, wary. Or was it just me?

Because it is Lent, we recited and sang the Great Litany, a long, chanted prayer. Its origins go back to the fifth century in Rome. We beseeched the Almighty to protect us from all manner of trials and tribulations:

“From all blindness of heart; from pride, vainglory,

and hypocrisy; from envy, hatred, and malice; and from all want of charity,

Good Lord, deliver us.

“From lightning and tempest; from earthquake, fire, and

flood; from plague, pestilence, and famine,

Good Lord, deliver us.”

And so on. My church is modern in perspective and liberal leaning. The language seemed from another time. I had not used the word vainglory in casual conversation for as long as I could remember. I raised my eyebrows, which is not exactly in keeping with the liturgy. I did not roll my eyes, which would be worse. After a bit, I decided to let go of my feelings and flow with the rhythm of the words and responses, to see if I could enter the spirit of a prayer that asks for mercy and peace.

Where viruses are concerned, I am more inclined to ask for deliverance from doctors and epidemiologists, to be perfectly honest. But I hear words and phrases from them right now like “might,” “maybe” and “we don’t know,” and there’s something inside me that craves more assurance, blessed or not.

The medical advice often comes down to this: Frequently wash your hands for 20 seconds at a time — sing Happy Birthday twice as you do it (if you’re singing Bohemian Rhapsody you’re just stalling at work). And don’t touch your face. But as soon as someone tells me not to touch my face my whole being twitches and nags me to touch my nose, cheeks, eyebrows, ear lobes, etc. It’s as if I had hives, the heebie-jeebies, the creepy crawlies.

I keep seeing stories that state that the coronavirus mortality rate is much higher for seniors. I’m certain they mean everyone older than 67, which just happens to be my age. Funny coincidence, that.

Still, I am keeping my spirits up. I think I am healthier than many and luckier than most. I have a war chest of soap and cannellini beans at my disposal. And steel-cut oats, surely the food of virus warriors.

Or is that all just so much vainglory?

We’ll see, I suppose.

Dan Mackie lives in West Lebanon. He can be reached at

Valley News

24 Interchange Drive
West Lebanon, NH 03784


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