COVID’s moving front line


The COVID19 pandemic has thrust some people, some positions, onto the front lines. These positions, such as shelf-stocker, usually required a minimal amount of social interaction. Traditionally the term front line workers referred to doctors, nurses, indeed most medical workers, police, firefighters and, other life-and-death professionals. Now, because the front line itself has been moved in an effort to thwart the virus, and given that no longer does someone have to be present at an emergency to be in danger, other, less perilous jobs are deemed front line. I’m thinking primarily of teachers who in non-pandemic situations, face relatively little physical danger (this, of course, depends on the school and students). However, with the arrival of COVID19 teachers find themselves encountering, on a daily basis, potential infection.

The evidently indispensable task that falls to these newly deputized front-liners is to make absolutely certain no one gets in without a squirt of hand sanitizer.

Most of the teachers I know, including my wife and many of her colleagues, are weathering the recent return to in-class teaching quite well. Certainly, appropriate personal protective equipment is a must, yet the threat of contracting COVID19 from one of the little super-spreaders in the classroom is in the back of most teaching minds. Yet, this newfound role for teachers has not gone to their heads. Trying to keep young ones in place is tough at the best of times, add a requirement for masks and you’ve got an herculean task on your hands.

Speaking of hands, and things going to heads, a position that has given many people a sense of authority that they probably would not have enjoyed had there not been a pandemic, is the ‘hand-sanitizer-police” (HSP) agent. These are employees of supermarkets, restaurants, big-box stores, sports venues and, shopping centres. The evidently indispensable task that falls to these newly deputized front-liners is to make absolutely certain no one gets in without a squirt of hand sanitizer.

Because of the volume of sanitizer required, most places rely on cheap, alcohol-based slop. This is not a L’Oréal product. One of the many ironies of the pandemic is that I can recall medical professionals, before the need to sanitize hands constantly, advising against using too much alcohol sanitizer as it tends to dry skin and strip it of natural oils.

I was immediately reminded of those old Cold War movies in which something goes wrong at Checkpoint Charlie, resulting in lights and sirens and shouting

The other day I entered a shopping mall, I nodded to the HSP agent, and obediently stepped on the pedal. I managed to catch the handful of sanitizer or at least most of it. I applied it and, put my hands directly into my pockets. Upon arrival at the supermarket in the mall, I made the egregious error of walking by the dispenser, pondering why I would put more of that shit on my skin, I haven’t touched anything at all since the last application. I was immediately reminded of those old Cold War movies in which something goes wrong at Checkpoint Charlie, resulting in lights and sirens and shouting. In honesty, there were no lights nor sirens, but the HSP agent made it clear he wanted me to go back and spritz.

The incident was a lesson for me, one through which I learned not to try to explain to someone why you did what you did, or in my case didn’t do what I didn’t do. As I tried to explain that my hands were as pure as the driven snow from my first encounter with an HSP officer mere seconds earlier I could see his eyes glaze over. He clearly had been tasked with making every single person sanitize their hands, no logic to be applied, just squirt, squirt, squirt.

He clearly had been tasked with making every single person sanitize their hands, no logic to be applied, just squirt, squirt, squirt

What makes this whole endeavor even more inane is the recent elimination of the second step in the process; the sterilizing of the used shopping carts. No longer does this particular supermarket, nor others I have visited, bother to spray down the shopping carts. At one time pre-COVID19, if you put your hands on a grocery cart and it was wet it was nothing short of disgusting and led to, ironically, much hand-washing. Then along came the pandemic and that same sensation of a wet trolley handle, gave one a small sense of security, believing the cart had been purified. They don’t seem to do that now. So after slopping the cleaner crap on your hands, they still insist you take a cart, even if you only want one item, as it helps with social distancing. But said cart has often just been placed at the doorway by its previous user and not wiped down. How is this logical?

Published by DCMontreal

DCMontreal - Deegan Charles Stubbs - is a Montreal writer born and raised who likes to establish balance and juxtapositions; a bit of this and a bit of that, a dash of Yin and a soupçon of Yang, some Peaks and an occasional Frean and maybe a bit of a sting in the tail! Please follow DCMontreal on Twitter and on Facebook, and add him on Google+

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