Living in a viral world

Richard Lutz re-adjusts to a life that has changed.


I am old school in one or two ways. For instance, a newspaper still drops through my door each morning at six.

I go downstairs, grab it, have a cup of coffee and the day starts.

Then comes routine. I go see a friend. He is sick. He is self-isolating. I can’t come in so we have a conversation on the doorstep. How a viral bug is supposed to know it can’t cross a door jamb is beyond me. But there we go.

I run into someone else and there’s a cup of coffee offered in the kitchen. The day moves on. I sign for something on the door. I grab my mail.

These are all pretty low level things; things you usually carry out without too much care. But now, every unconscious or automatic effort must be thought through. The newspaper, the door, the coffee cup, the post.

And I have to accept that everyone has to face the same obstacles. And everybody is dealing with these new minute decisions in a different way. There is no right or wrong here. We have to accept that. Everyone is going to react differently.

For instance, later today I bring the car in for a check. What bug is on my steering wheel? What invisible viral remnant is left on the paperwork or even the plastic glove the mechanic has on when I hand him the keys? And as for the door and doorknobs…hey, forget about it.

But the car needs fixing. Some people will cancel the appointment. Others will go ahead.

Every manoeuvre, every gesture must be looked at afresh. Thought through. Is this a wise thing to do? Is it stupid or dangerous or anti’social?

We really know so little.

Actually, the only thing I do know is that we all will have a greater knowledge of washing our hands. The latest: a friend said to wash up to your wrists. Right, I’ll take her advice as I’m presently not a great wrist cleaner.


So, with that in mind, I turn my back on proper carpel bone care and head for the dentist. Here I am scrubbing up all the time, talking across front door jambs and some guy is poking my mouth with medieval instruments. Will you shut the office because of the virus? I ask. No, says my dentist  with no sense of irony: “Open for business.”

I leave the surgery with one less tooth (see above stock picture – not my mouth) and a host of things I will never eat for a while: carrots for one, thick steaks for another. With one less tooth, my smile resembles a fragmented landscape. An empty mouth, I find, can force people to cross the street in panic when they see a toothless man approach. I will forever have more time and courtesy towards those with Falling Out Teeth Syndrome.

The health crisis here in the UK – teeth notwithstanding – also means a major change in another way. Theatres are closed – from little places with seventy seats to the mighty Royal Shakespeare Company – and this means my reviewing is at a standstill. My last was Sunday. And now silence. My slow rise to mediocrity has stopped for the time being.

Maybe I can review people shopping at check-out counters or wiping down door knobs. Or taking press conferences on TV about how the disease’s  tentacles are slowly suffocating us.

I don’t know, I really don’t know much about anything these days except today, looking back, I touched a friend’s shoulder, opened a dozen doors, drank coffee at someone’s house, picked a piece of paper off a floor, mailed a letter, filled my car up, slipped a credit card into a machine and used my mobile phone countless times. Am I failing myself, my planet, the undiseased world? Am I?

12 thoughts on “Living in a viral world

  1. unsurprisingly no David Baddiel tonight at Symphony Hall though it took till yesterday to say they were closed and if you clicked the wrong link you could still buy a ticket for it!

  2. Great ‘graph: “Maybe I can review people shopping at check-out counters or wiping down door knobs. Or taking press conferences on TV about how the disease’s tentacles are slowly suffocating us.”

    you have captured it.

  3. Can I afford to get my hair cut now that my portfolio has vaporised?

    Keep on truckin’,

  4. Thought we would take advantage of Sainsbury’s “elderly hour” this morning and drove to their store in Worcester. I think the entire OAP population of Worcester was there, so just drove straight back home again!

  5. I would suggest you review our fellow citizens who now feel the need to corner the world supply of liquid soap…………I’m not mentioning toilet roll you notice

  6. Pandemic

    What if you thought of it
    as the Jews consider the Sabbath –
    the most sacred of times?
    Cease from travel.
    Cease from buying and selling.
    Give up, just for now,
    on trying to make the world
    different than it is.
    Sing. Pray. Touch only those
    to whom you commit your life.
    Center down.

    And when your body has become still,
    reach out with your heart.
    Know that we are connected
    in ways that are terrifying and beautiful.
    (You could hardly deny it now.)
    Know that our lives
    are in one another’s hands.
    (Surely, that has come clear.)
    Do not reach out your hands.
    Reach out your heart.
    Reach out your words.
    Reach out all the tendrils
    of compassion that move, invisibly,
    where we cannot touch.

    Promise this world your love –
    for better or for worse,
    in sickness and in health,
    so long as we all shall live.

    – Lynn Ungar 3/11/20

  7. One has to keep a sense of proportion – and perhaps take a good quality probiotic alongside all the handwashing.

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