An Encounter with “Karen”
BY TIM MUNKEBY
Current headlines in the News:
CALLS FOR EMERGENCY CREWS ?THROUGH THE ROOF?
COVID BURDENS STATE EMERGENCY SERVICES
SWAMPED HOSPITALS SCRAMBLE FOR NURSES
TOO FEW WORKERS TO CARE FOR ELDERS AS VIRUS RAGES
90% OF HOSPITALS IN RED ZONE; BEDS NEAR CAPACITY
No room at the inn (hospital, in this case)?! Here in the most developed country in the world?! Medical facilities actually placing critically ill people in hallways, because ICU beds are full?! Or sending them away?!
Is this even possible in the most developed country in the world?
It actually appears that way. As I write this, ill patients are being transported from full hospitals to other care centers, sometimes miles away. And as the headlines above indicate, we also have a disastrous shortage of critical care workers, as well as critical care beds.
With an immunization on the horizon, will things get better soon? Or will some people become, irrationally, even less cautious and careful about doing what they need to do to protect themselves and others from contracting Covid-19?
Can you even imagine a scenario where you’re deathly ill but are turned away at a hospital? Surely people realize that they must prevent that from happening. We are, after all, not in a Third World country! Or, is it possible that this unfortunate scenario is more likely in a country of selfish, entitled people with a ?leader? who actually discourages his citizens from being mindful of their own health and safety as well as that of others?
Case in point: The other day, my wife and I were shopping for some essentials (no, not toilet paper) in a home goods store in a southwest suburb of Minneapolis, Minnesota. The sign at the door told us ?masks are required,? seeing that face coverings in public places is now a state mandate. Everyone we saw had one on ? except, we noticed, one well-dressed, silver-haired, middle-aged lady. We even saw her go in and out of the store several times, almost as if to flaunt the mask sign.
After my wife and I, firmly masked, rounded up what we needed, we ended up behind this woman in the check-out line. We stood a good six feet back from her, as the floor markings directed. She, however, was almost bumping the obviously anxious masked customer in front of her ? basically breathing directly over her shoulder. The woman ? yes, let’s call her ?Karen? ? had this defiant expression on her well-appointed, tanned face, obviously proud of invoking her personal ?rights.?
I wanted to ask her if she also drove drunk. Isn’t that really the same thing? By following the rules, and the laws, we’re protecting both ourselves and others, aren’t we?
By defying them, we’re not.
It struck me, standing there watching her, that the customer Karen was breathing on could be a critical care worker. Or, I thought, what if Karen, after possibly contaminating a nurse and potentially causing the quarantining of other critical care workers, ended up in the last ICU bed herself? Maybe after her last mask-less, non-socially-distanced cocktail party?
Ironic, if not reprehensible, wouldn’t you say?
I wanted to rip Karen’s head off, but I forced myself to consider other more moderate options. Should I step-up (as apparently the clerks were apprehensive about doing), and explain to her why it’s necessary to not infect others, that’s she’s actually breaking the law? But then I thought, hell, for all I know she’s a QAnon believer ? and what good does it do to try to reason with those people? I’d only be creating a scene, and not accomplish any convincing. They have rights, don’t ya know!
But then, it occurred to me that non-maskers, so proud of standing up for their ?personal rights,? would probably agree to a kind of visual manifestation of these freedoms they demand. They should proudly, with a permanent marker, emblazon ?USA? in red, white and blue on their foreheads. (We won’t tell them the USA stands for Uncivil Selfish Assholes.) Maybe even, for flair, they should add a flag decal, reminiscent of a song by the late John Prine, ?Your flag decal won’t get you into heaven anymore.? (Prine died of complications caused by COVID-19 on March 19.)
Then, if the emblazoned Karens (or ?Kens?) ended up taking up all the ICU beds?leaving, for example, your conscientious but inadvertently contaminated mother gasping in a hallway or, worse, sent back home to die?we could move the Karens and Kens to, say, a stairwell (Stairway to Hell?) where they could rally and vehemently shout ?USA! USA!? (or ?Stop the Steal!?) until their lungs give out. Let’s save the beds and the emergency crews for our mothers and other deserving sick persons.
Karen and Ken could be joined in their stairway to hell by all of the appalling politicians across the country who have eschewed masks and social distancing, yet want to be first in line to get vaccines. Holy Christmas! Can you believe that? Maybe Rudy Giuliani could get the courts involved: ?Politicians first!?
As she grabbed her purchases and left the store one final time, I could tell from the recalcitrant look on Karen’s face that she’d proudly brandish her USA and flag decal, and shout ?USA,? from the highest stairwell If asked. (I also ultimately decided that ripping her head off in line at a home goods store wasn’t in keeping with proper social distancing guidelines.)
Although my tone here is, of course, sarcastic, it’s serious sarcasm ? deadly serious, as a matter of fact. We’re running out of critical care beds and providers. If need be, do those who don’t wear masks and don’t socially distance really think they should receive critical care before others who follow the rules?
Sadly, these USAs (Uncivil Selfish Assholes) think they?re entitled to every benefit, without any sacrifice.
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