Agonising over coronavirus

Image: Getty
Image: Getty
"Uncle Norm" Fossil is renowned for the erudition of his advice and his common sense. 

Dear Uncle Norm,

I’m fed up with months feeling bad about coronavirus. Isn’t it time for some black humour and satire, so that we can smile, albeit grimly? In the South we enjoy a tart madness, so why not take a moment to give Cov-19 the finger, the up-yours, the go-stickit-up, etcetera.

Besides, we’ll all be rooned byGuy Fawkes Night. (November 5, if you’ve forgotten).

E. Jones, president, Southern Satire Society.

  • I think you’ll find the do-gooders have pretty much sunk Guy Fawkes Night, Your point is well taken, but a caution, Mr Jones. Many misunderstand satire. Prepare to find your efforts roundly condemned.

Dear Uncle Norm,
I’ve heard this virus started because somewhere in aWuhan animal market, an anteater had congress with a bat and, as aresult, the world is on its knees. You wouldn’t believe this in a Batman script. (I am a country vet, so I’m familiar with odd outcomes). Surely this can’t be true?
Name withheld. (Lumsden).

  • You’ve almost got it right,but the detail is worse. Geneticists think a virus carried in bats was transmitted to a rare smuggled pangolin. This unusual mammal was sold at a ‘‘wet’’ market where fish and animals are slaughtered on the spot. The pangolin is a scaly type of anteater that is meant to be highly protected. Unfortunately for pangolins, their scales are treasured by what we shall politely call ‘‘traditional’’ medicine. And at $850 a kilo raw, its illegal flesh makes the ultimate stir fry for the gourmet poseur. Somewhere the virus was transferred via that market’s stink of corruption to humans. The pangolin virus is a 99% match with Cov-19. So what began in Wuhan with crime, cruelty and greed, has in 90 days unfolded into a world catastrophe. A black joke? It sounds more like some biblical punishment.

Dear Uncle Norm,
 Upon hearing people in the know were investing big in toilet paper, I hired an Avis van and made a swoop on supermarkets. I soon acquired a stash of 3518 rolls — all top brands in their original wrapping, and untouched by human bum. Frankly, I’m not an experienced collector, so I’d appreciate your wisdom on how I now cash in. (I made sure to buy only rolls with printed patterns).
Bess Bottom, Kew.

  • I’m sorry Bess Bottom, but you’ve missed the point. To become valuable, a collectable must be a rarity. You will know it is impossible to find a one-off roll of toilet paper in a modern supermarket. Like bananas, toilet rolls now grow in large bunches. What you needed was not 3518, but one carefully wrapped solitaire that (with no sheets torn or foxed) is as rare as the four-leaf clover.

Dear Uncle Norm,
Most wars are about money. The coronavirus war will send many millions broke, and cause mass starvation — all to stop an illness that causes little harm except to the elderly. In past wars we sent the younger generations to the front line. Surely weshould save the economy by simply letting the virus spread, and have the older generation —the wealthy boomers — take their turn facing an enemy. I gather the worstcase fatality rate is 15% amongst the oldest infected. Surely that’s bearable?
Darren (aged 22) North Dunedin.

  • It seems that for several days Boris Johnson had similar thoughts, and this won’t be the last time we hear them expressed because ageism is rampant. But forget history — your argument ignores a basic truth. All lives have an equal worth as long as the people who own them value them.

Dear Uncle Norm,
The Prime Minister urges us to ‘‘Be Prepared’’. Taking her advice, we go to the supermarket and stock up so that our household is prepared for isolation. Next thing we’re viciously castrated for panic buying. What’s up?
Geraldine, Geraldine.

  • I think you meant ‘‘castigated’’, but Gerry, you’ve got me there. Still, toilet paper?

Dear Uncle Norm,
Covid-19 should eradicate our unsanitary greeting habits — the germ-laden British handshake, the Maori hongi’s viral nose rub, the disgusting kissy-kiss of the French. To replace these, Kiwi culture could develop ashort, personalised haka, or if that seems O.T.T, we could decorously poke out our tongue. This would be more distinctive than the Thai’s ‘‘wai’’ — their little bow with the hands together as if in prayer. Or the stiffer bow of the Japanese ‘‘ojigi’’. What do you suggest?
Percy Greet. (by email)

  • The inventor of the telephone, Alexander Graham Bell, believed that when you picked up its handpiece, the appropriate greeting was ‘‘Ahoy!’’ For some reason this hasn’t proved popular. But go for it, Percy.

Correspondence to

 - John Lapsley is an Arrowtown writer.

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