Since the real-estate tycoon and reality-TV star Donald Trump won the presidency in 2016, bone spurs and porn-star payoffs and all, I confess I’ve sometimes pinched myself to see if I’m dreaming or living in a simulation or something. Even if Trump was your guy (I voted for the CIA fellow), you have to admit his presidency has been, let’s just say, nontraditional.
But that was just the start of our crazy times. We’ve witnessed unexplained brain injuries in Cuba, impeachment, a strange Democratic primary, and more. But all that seems routine in comparison to living through a global pandemic. When news of UFO videos and of invasive, bee-killing “murder hornets” broke, a widespread sentiment was, “Of course there are UFOs and murder hornets in 2020.” (Let’s do remember that “unidentified” does not imply “alien.”)
Here is just one of the strange thoughts to cross my mind: In Colorado, women can legally go topless in public, but in some areas they are legally required to wear a face mask. In case you missed this, last year the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against Fort Collins’s ban on women going topless. As NBC reports, the city’s “decision not to [further] fight the ban effectively makes it legal for women to go topless in the six states that fall under the 10th Circuit: Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, and Oklahoma.” Yet, as the Denver Post notes, “at least 12 Colorado cities and counties—including Denver, Boulder and Aspen—have ordered all members of the public to wear masks.”
Perhaps you’ve heard the strange story of Neil Ferguson, the Father of Global Lockdowns if anyone is. Ferguson was the lead author of the highly influential March 16 report from London Imperial College which discussed “non-pharmaceutical interventions to reduce COVID-19 mortality and healthcare demand.” Ferguson’s middle name practically is “Flatten the Curve.”
But Ferguson’s interest in a different set of curves got him in some hot water. The BBC offered a less-seedy version of a story by the Telegraph, which “reported a woman had visited his home twice during lockdown.” Ferguson stepped down from a government advisory board, saying, “I accept I made an error of judgement and took the wrong course of action.” Honestly, I can’t say I blame the guy’s quest for company: Isolation is rough.
Closer to home, the Texas attorney general investigated Beaumont mayor Becky Ames for going to a nail salon, which was closed by order. She said, “I did not intend to take personal privilege while asking others to sacrifice and for that I am truly remorseful.”
In Illinois, Alton Mayor Brant Walker encouraged police to come down harder on people for violating the state’s stay-at-home order. As Buzzfeed reports, “the Alton Police Department cracked down on a social gathering at a local tavern. Among those they rounded up was the mayor’s wife, Shannon Walker.” Awkward. At least sleeping in the doghouse doesn’t violate the orders.
Last month I wrote about some of the absurdities of Colorado’s lockdown. Liquor and marijuana shops remained legal through the entire lockdown, you no doubt recall. Meanwhile, officials hassled dentists for providing routine and “non-emergency” care and hassled Hobby Lobby for selling supplies for masks along with its many other products. And, as Stat recently reported, “Routine cancer screenings have plummeted during the pandemic,” partly due to the lockdown orders. So buying cancer sticks was perfectly legal, but getting a routine cancer screening was sometimes illegal. We might be tempted to laugh at the absurdity if we didn’t know that some people will die due to the lack of care. Of course we do need to bear in mind that one purpose of the lockdown orders was to keep hospital beds and protective gear available in case COVID-19 got wildly out of hand.
You can also find any number of corny coronavirus jokes online. You can choose your punchline to this Dad Joke: “I’d tell you a coronavirus joke, but . . . it’s only for insiders / you wouldn’t get it for several days.” Here’s a dark one: “Shouldn’t we delay the census by a few months?” Such gallows humor sparked a rash of serious takes on pandemic jokes by such staid publications as the Atlantic and the New York Times. Which is funny.
These are strange times. For people with a serious case of COVID-19, these are terrifying times. I suppose it helps to remember that people have gone through crises before, including far more destructive infectious diseases, and we’ll go through crises again. The “normal” world is one in which we need to keep on our toes and watch out for those black swans and unexpected zebras. It probably helps to smile sometimes and maybe to pinch yourself once in a while. Now, have you heard the one about the epidemiologist and the phlebotomist who walked into a bar? Of course you haven’t.