I assure you this wasn’t easy to arrange, it required calling in some very big I.O.U.s, a great deal of legwork, even some begging and, not a little bit of luck, but finally, I was able to secure ten minutes of time with the Novel Coronavirus for a one-on-one interview. I was, of course, sworn to secrecy about where and when our meeting would take place, and the Virus demanded the last word on the final product. But I considered these to be small prices to pay for an interview with what is sure to be Time Magazine’s Newsmaker of the Year.
Let me point out that there were numerous restrictions placed on me including absolutely no photography, not even a simple selfie (did anyone really think I would put my arm around the Virus for a selfie?), in fact, no electronics were allowed. I had to observe strict adherence to the ten-minute limit and, no interaction at all with his handlers before or after the interview would be tolerated. Oh yes, and under no circumstances was I to refer to the Virus as COVID-19, it’s a sensitive issue best left alone.
… absolutely no photography, not even a simple selfie (did anyone really think I would put my arm around the Virus for a selfie?)
Armed with several pages of questions and a handful of pens I arrived in plenty of time to be patted down by handlers in HazMat suits, looking for hand sanitizer I was told. I was bundled into my full HazMat outfit. Once securely sealed in my yellow cocoon, looking a little like the Michelin Man with jaundice, I was shown into a room where the interview would take place.
I recall reading about a journalist who had been granted access to cover a Rolling Stones tour. She had never met them but would do so just prior to their show at Madison Square Garden. She wanted to make sure she recalled in detail her first impression upon seeing them in person. When she first clapped eyes on them backstage before the show her first thought was … they were so much smaller than she thought.
Once securely sealed in my yellow cocoon, looking a little like the Michelin Man with jaundice
We’ve all seen the Virus’s photo countless times in the media and on signs and posters around the world, yet I can assure you, like the Stones’ journalist, I was taken aback by just how little the Virus is. It perched on a chair and I had to squint to see it, eventually, a long microscope-like instrument was brought in that allowed me to see my interlocutor. But what the Virus lacks in stature it makes up for in vocal volume.
Below is an excerpt from our meeting; I am hoping Time will buy the entire interview for their Newsmaker issue. Not surprisingly we did not exchange pleasantries but got right down to the interview. Time being of the essence.
DCMontreal: Let me begin by thanking you for granting me this opportunity to ask a few questions and try to help the world understand you.
Coronavirus: You’re welcome.
DCM: You have caused massive losses around the world since you came to visit us. Deaths, financial ruin, illness. I guess the first question I have is very simple – Why?
CV: As the song goes, Fish Gotta Swim Birds Gotta Fly. I’m a virus, it’s what we do. And let me just point out I am a real virus, not one of those silly computer things. Mere inconveniences that they are.
DCM: Okay, so you’re just doing what a bug does …
CV: Whoa, whoa, whoa sunshine. Hold it right there. Let me make this as clear as crystal. I am a virus. Cockroaches, silverfish, centipedes, beetles (not The Beatles), and the like are bugs. Not me. If I was a mere bug, you could have exterminated me. Virus, not bug. Common influenza has no problem with being called a bug. That’s why it’s common.
DCM: Speaking of which, is it possible you could use your abilities to rid the world of annoyances such as cockroaches? Or even something as hideous as cancer.
CV: Nope. We viruses do not discriminate.
DCM: You say you don’t discriminate, yet some segments of our population are harder hit by you than others. Lower-income people, older folks, people of colour have all been hit much harder than others.
We don’t discriminate; humans discriminate.
CV: Let me stress this, viruses do not discriminate. Those segments of your society have been harder hit because they tend to be less able to fight a virus due to the fact they are undernourished and have less access to proper affordable medical treatment. Why would that be I wonder? We don’t discriminate; humans discriminate.
DCM: So if we had taken better care of our seniors, and provided quality medical care to all, even those without financial means, and did much more to have a level playing field for people of colour, we might not have been hit so hard by you?
My favourites are anti-maskers and anti-vaxers. Thanks to them I’m still going strong
DCM: You arrived in my part of the world in late February or so. Can you give me some idea when you plan to leave?
CV: Oh, I’m not leaving. I really like it here. You’re just going to have to learn to live with me. You seem to be on the right track, you know what to do – masks and social distancing until a vaccine is available – but getting people to do those things will just keep me in my position of power. Until you guys figure me out and concoct an effective, affordable, and easily available vaccination, the morons among you will keep me going. My favourites are anti-maskers and anti-vaxers. Thanks to them I’m still going strong. And those who just won’t do what is asked or told because it allegedly takes away their rights – I just love them!
There is much more from our ten minutes, but I’ll leave it here for now. It struck me during our time together that I couldn’t help but think that part of what the Virus wants to do is illustrate – harshly no doubt – how we all depend on each other. Silver lining?