The Petty Virus

By Marc Dion

May 22, 2020 4 min read

The French philosopher Pascal said that human beings are so easy to comfort because we are so easy to afflict.

Big deal. So, I went to college.

Still, the columnist who begins a column with a quote or paraphrases from someone you've never heard of establishes himself as intellectually superior from the git go, just as he can lay claim to being one of the common folk by using the phrase "git go."

As a species, we do get afflicted, bothered or irritated mighty easily, something I've seen a lot of during the COVID-19 outbreak and its big pile of closings and regulations.

Oh, sure, the virus is big stuff. I'd give the number of dead in the U.S., but it'll change before this column makes print (or makes the internet). It's a big number, nearly twice the number of soldiers we lost in Vietnam and, like the Vietnam War, COVID-19 has produced a number of street demonstrations. In both cases, the demonstrations expressed a simple desire to make the whole thing go away. The Vietnam War, of course, never went away, and it's dead never came back to life. This may well be the case with COVID-19.

Because I have to do something besides work and shelter in place, I've started to pay attention to how much we all miss our petty little comforts.

I love to eat breakfast in diners. The ham. The eggs. The waitress. The potatoes. The greasy smell. The guys sitting next to me at the counter. I love it all.

The diners are closed where I live, and that petty little fact is the one that pokes me. Sure, I could die, but what I think of most is the fact that I haven't eaten pancakes in a storefront restaurant for many weeks.

My wife, Deborah, a hardheaded ex-newspaper reporter who recently became a Realtor, is pining for a professional haircut.

"It's just breaking off," she says, sadly peering at the ends of her long, yellow hair. She misses coffee at her favorite herbal tea and birdseed muffins place, too.

Another fellow I know, a solid workingman, is depressed because the casinos are closed, and two of his three favorite Chinese restaurants are not doing any business, not even takeout.

Others mourn the loss of professional sports, the suspension of bowling leagues, the closing of bars and nightclubs. A local television station led its news this morning with the tremendously serious announcement that the strip clubs in the state next to me will open next month.

Humans are as foolish as puppies. We're happy when we're fat-bellied with warm milk. We're sleepily overjoyed when we are being petted. And we bite futilely with our sharp tiny teeth when the toy is taken away.

I have seen whole street demonstrations composed of human puppies, snapping uselessly at fate, biting the wrong person, mewling for the warm milk, forever round-eyed and whimpering at some discomfort without really knowing who to blame.

It is a sad and sweet way to think of us humans, and it lets us off the hook for a lot of the things we do, even some of the very bad things.

Someone has moved the food bowl, and the "CLOSED" sign hangs a little crookedly in the window of a glass and aluminum diner five blocks from my house.

That diner is offering takeout, but it's not the same. I want MY food in MY bowl, and I want the waitress to make soothing sounds and bring the hot sauce to my table, so I don't go looking for it on my own small feet, maybe getting lost in the process, and never finding my way back to the table.

Puppies grow up. People don't.

To find out more about Marc Dion and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com. Dion's latest book, a puppy-ish list of grievances, is called "Devil's Elbow: Dancing in the Ashes of America." It is available in paperback from Amazon.com, and for Nook, Kindle, GooglePlay and iBooks.

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