Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Poison Pen

 

I saw the most extraordinary thing.

A friend of mine owns a pizza restaurant and though on limited service – to-go food only, per the health department – is having trouble keeping his place staffed. That sounds odd right now when most of the service industry is clamoring for whatever money can be had, but waiters are paid less than three dollars an hour. That’s fine. After tips, they end up making more than just about anybody in the house if they don’t sneer a lot. Sometimes even if they do.

But now there is no table service, so now there are not as many tips to go around. As a waiter you can, if over the course of a pay period you don’t make more than the federal minimum wage once tips are included, require your employer to make you whole – up to the minimum.

He was willing to pay them the minimum despite the dire financial forecast for his business, but that was asking people who were accustomed to and budgeted for making at least twenty dollars an hour. Seven dollars and 25 cents doesn’t pay the bills. The newest employees went on to the hope of other opportunities and he was left with a core of long time folks. With the dwindling number, he was able to pay them more hourly and people have been surprisingly generous with their take-out order tips. No one is making as much as before, but muddling by is probable.

The other day the anchor of his staff, who is dear to me, lost one of her grandchildren. It wasn’t the Chinese Flu. The poor kid had been in a vegetative state since he was twelve. Earlier this week at age sixteen he passed. I used to have her job some 20 years plus ago and as I mentioned, I was friends with the owner.

I volunteered to fill in if needed. It’s not like I had anything else to do. I didn’t so much work as be there to help out as needed. Basically I watched Jeopardy, some old baseball games that were re-aired, and occasionally tested the draught beer to be sure it wasn’t going bad. Occasionally I answered the phone. Take out can be brisk, but it doesn’t require that many people to run it smoothly.

It was interesting to see how different people were reacting to contact with others.

There were exceptions: one guy was basically in a hazmat suit and another delivered a pretty tight and seemingly well-rehearsed diatribe warning that Covid 19 was caused by cell phone radiation and the governments of the world were conspiring to cover up that fact, but most of the drivers for various delivery apps were indifferent to the possibility of infection.

People who were not employed to pick up food were all over the place. Some had gloves, some mumbled about all the nonsense (few used the word nonsense), and some would go so far as to pay by phone and request that their food be left in front of the building. For the most part, I don’t judge. I don’t know how compromised someone’s immune system is so I won’t fault them for their precautions, but there was this one woman.

She came into the building. There were three others waiting for their orders and then there were the three front-of-house employees. It was obvious that she was uncomfortable being in proximity to so many people.

She helped herself to the Purell by the register and then retreated to an unoccupied area. When her pizza was ready, she gave her credit card to the cashier and then started railing about the fact that she was signing with a pen that had been touched by others. She was pretty rude.

“You are spreading this contagion!” she howled before storming out as best you can storm when the register is eight or so feet from the exit.

The pen was a breaking point.

There was a moment of “Wait…what?” after she left followed by customer and employee laughter.

We all started pointing out the obvious. She handed a credit card to another person and was thus complicit in spreading the contagion. She took back the credit card mixing the cashier’s cooties with her own. She took the pizza box knowing it had been touched by others. There was Purell she was welcome to after she touched the offending pen.

I pointed out that she might have an aneurism when she realizes how many people have touched the push/pull door pad thingamajiggy that she used to exit into the rest of the world post kinda storming.

I always thought that adults understood that writing instruments rarely come in single-use sterilized packages. Immediately after writing that sentence, I thought about the fact that to get to whatever is inside any sterilized package you have to have contact with the unsterilized outside of that package. Who touched the outside of your box of latex gloves?

There lies madness.

What I’m seeing, and I’d like people’s opinion on this, is that people have differing views of the world. I hate to be one of those “There are two types of people” people, but divides are everywhere.

I’ve always been of the opinion that the natural world was out to kill me. If you want a sense of my thoughts, to steal an analogy from Robert Conquest, this essay is just over a thousand words. Statistically, by the end of the day, per the CDC, 2,000 children will have died from contagious diarrhea worldwide. That’s two deaths for every word you have just read and that’s just today. We have contained that disease in most of the western world, but threats are out there. I feel like I’m watching more people than I expected waking up to my point of view.

So many are in complete panic. So many are exasperated. Do we quarantine or resume our lives?

There will be people who say the answer is somewhere in the middle. I’ve never ascribed to that view. If someone wants to kill me and I don’t want to be killed the compromise would be what, a light beating? No thanks. There is a right answer and sometimes it might be an extreme. I’d like to hear what people think.

But for the sake of my sanity, if you are freaking out about the possibility of getting infected, bring your own damn pen.

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  1. Blondie Thatcher

    Ben Sears:

    But for the sake of my sanity, if you are freaking out about the possibility of getting infected, bring your own damn pen.

    Exactly! Don’t get me started on the folks wearing gloves everywhere and never changing them.

    • #1
    • March 28, 2020, at 4:19 PM PDT
    • 8 likes
  2. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… Member

    Ben Sears: Basically I watched Jeopardy, some old baseball games that were re-aired, and occasionally tested the draught beer to be sure it wasn’t going bad.

    I liked the post, but I wanted to double-like this sentence.

    • #2
    • March 28, 2020, at 4:29 PM PDT
    • 11 likes
  3. Ben Sears Member
    Ben Sears

    Blondie (View Comment):

    Ben Sears:

    But for the sake of my sanity, if you are freaking out about the possibility of getting infected, bring your own damn pen.

    Exactly! Don’t get me started on the folks wearing gloves everywhere and never changing them.

    So many people very careful to maintain distance in some places but will mow you over for the last carton of eggs.

    • #3
    • March 28, 2020, at 4:35 PM PDT
    • 12 likes
  4. JustmeinAZ Member

    I am going about my daily life as before – doctor, drugstore, grocery store when I need it. But then I don’t go out much anyway. I even had a mani/pedi on Thursday. I am probably washing my hands a little more than normal, but then today I made chicken tomatillo soup with poblanos and jalapenos which required a lot of scrubbing so my hands wouldn’t break out in hives.

    And I am thanking all sales and delivery people for working hard.

    • #4
    • March 28, 2020, at 4:36 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  5. Ben Sears Member
    Ben Sears

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):

    Ben Sears: Basically I watched Jeopardy, some old baseball games that were re-aired, and occasionally tested the draught beer to be sure it wasn’t going bad.

    I liked the post, but I wanted to double-like this sentence.

    I’m like Mel Brooks in Blazing Saddles: “Work, work, work!”

    • #5
    • March 28, 2020, at 4:36 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  6. Randy Webster Member

    Ben Sears: I always thought that adults understood that writing instruments rarely come in single use sterilized packages.

    You’re busting my bubble here.

    • #6
    • March 28, 2020, at 4:37 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  7. Ben Sears Member
    Ben Sears

    JustmeinAZ (View Comment):

    I am going about my daily life as before – doctor, drugstore, grocery store when I need it. But then I don’t go out much anyway. I even had a mani/pedi on Thursday. I am probably washing my hands a little more than normal, but then today I made chicken tomatillo soup with poblanos and jalapenos which required a lot of scrubbing so my hands wouldn’t break out in hives.

    And I am thanking all sales and delivery people for working hard.

    I spent over twenty years working in restaurants and still, though several years out of it, wash my hands maniacally. It gets to be a habit and even before all this I was overdoing it. I assume that you know the rule when dealing with hot peppers that only one hand touches the pepper. Go to the bathroom once when you let both hands touch the jalapeno and you will never forget it.

    • #7
    • March 28, 2020, at 4:41 PM PDT
    • 7 likes
  8. Nohaaj Coolidge

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):

    Ben Sears: Basically I watched Jeopardy, some old baseball games that were re-aired, and occasionally tested the draught beer to be sure it wasn’t going bad.

    I liked the post, but I wanted to double-like this sentence.

    was it home brew? 

    • #8
    • March 28, 2020, at 5:01 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  9. Percival Thatcher
    Percival Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Do not attempt to reason people out of positions that they weren’t reasoned into.

    At the Walmart yesterday, the checkout lady maintained strict six foot separation upon her customers, instructing those waiting to stay back behind the yellow line. She had to “remind” me, because my toes were on the line. I think the power added to her position has gone to her head a little bit. Between every transaction, she sprayed and wiped the conveyor and the railing beside the conveyor. No one had touched these surfaces. No one had coughed on these surfaces. 

    Fine. Do whatever. I’ll just get my stuff and get out as soon as I can.

    • #9
    • March 28, 2020, at 5:02 PM PDT
    • 8 likes
  10. Full Size Tabby Member

    I am not particularly concerned about picking up germs and bacteria from touching point-of-sale terminals and pens. But when I used my phone to pay for something a few days ago, it did cause me to realize that doing so significantly reduced the amount of touching surfaces that were not already under my control. 

    Even under normal circumstances I generally prefer to use my own pen to complete restaurant sales slips. My pens feel nicer in my hands. I know where it is (no hunting for the communal pen on the cashier’s counter). And I know my pens work.

    • #10
    • March 28, 2020, at 5:08 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  11. CarolJoy, Above Top Secret Coolidge

    People use different issues to release their inner mentally ill patient.

    I think some people are so mental that they really have no outlets in their life. It could be their issues have driven everyone out of their lives. So if they get a chance to interact with someone, anyone, over anything at all, they will. They then end up making those people as miserable as all the other folks they have driven away.

    I see this often in the way some people respond to dog owners.

    One day, a very hot but breezy summer day, I got out of the driver’s seat of the car. The receipt I needed for a refund on a $ 20 purchase flew out of my hands. I slammed shut my car door, raced after the receipt, and headed back to the car.

    When I got back, two people were there to tell me that the next time I leave my service dog unattended on a hot day in a car they would call the police. I explained I had been gone all of 60 seconds. (Maybe less.) One of the pair was happy to find out I had no intention of leaving my dog in the car for more than a moment. She left. But the other woman harangued me to the point, that once in the store, I asked the grocery store manager if in the future I could park in the employee parking lot. He agreed.

    Other dog owners have told me similar stories. I try to feel pity for some of the mental cases out there, but in the moment I often forget.

    • #11
    • March 28, 2020, at 5:11 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  12. TBA Coolidge
    TBA

    I’ve been a glove-wearing OCD guy for years and it’s weird watching all these amateurs trying to get in the game. 

    And yes, I carry my own pens. 

    • #12
    • March 28, 2020, at 5:14 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
  13. OldPhil Coolidge

    Statistically, by the end of the day per the CDC, two thousand children will have died from contagious diarrhea worldwide. That’s two deaths for every word you have just read and that’s just today.

    150 Americans die due to pneumonia every day.

    So many people very careful to maintain distance in some places but will mow you over for the last carton of eggs.

    We were in the store Friday morning, and the egg section, which had been ransacked for over a week, was pretty well-stocked. There were signs on the display saying they were sorry for the high egg prices, but their suppliers were charging them more. My wife said “these prices aren’t bad” (I wouldn’t have a clue). Then as I was looking at the yogurt, a store employee came by and ripped down the “sorry for the high prices” signs. Things are looking up!

    • #13
    • March 28, 2020, at 5:29 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  14. Ben Sears Member
    Ben Sears

    TBA (View Comment):

    I’ve been a glove-wearing OCD guy for years and it’s weird watching all these amateurs trying to get in the game.

    And yes, I carry my own pens.

    Funnily enough, the cashier who offered the pen was wearing gloves too, has been ever since I met her in the mid nineties. 

    • #14
    • March 28, 2020, at 5:34 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  15. JustmeinAZ Member

    Ben Sears (View Comment):
    I assume that you know the rule when dealing with hot peppers that only one hand touches the pepper. Go to the bathroom once when you let both hands touch the jalapeno and you will never forget it.

    Actually I wore rubber gloves, but I have to be careful not to touch the outside of the gloves when I take them off. I have princess skin.

    • #15
    • March 28, 2020, at 5:35 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  16. Weeping Member

    Percival (View Comment):

    At the Walmart yesterday, the checkout lady maintained strict six foot separation upon her customers, instructing those waiting to stay back behind the yellow line. She had to “remind” me, because my toes were on the line. I think the power added to her position has gone to her head a little bit. Between every transaction, she sprayed and wiped the conveyor and the railing beside the conveyor. No one had touched these surfaces. No one had coughed on these surfaces.

    She may have just been following orders. I know when I went through the self-checkout the other day at Target, the attendant told me she had been instructed to wipe down the entire area of each checkout kiosk between each customer. When I went to Kroger last weekend to buy groceries, the cashier cleaned the conveyor belt between customers if she could. And today, my daughter spent the whole time she was at work (8 hours) cleaning things around the store she works at. So it seems like stores have gone into overdrive on the cleaning.

     

    • #16
    • March 28, 2020, at 6:29 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  17. Jon Gabriel, Ed. Chief

    A few days ago, a Manhattanite tweeted about how terrible her neighbors were behaving. According to her, she stepped out of her apartment building for “an isolation walk,” then she was outraged at all the other people outside doing basically the same thing.

    She uploaded several photos of people on the sidewalks, in the park, etc., shaming them for spreading the virus. Photos that she took while she was outside spreading the virus.

    The odd thing: Twitter peeps were applauding her and shaming the people in her photos.

     

    • #17
    • March 28, 2020, at 6:49 PM PDT
    • 14 likes
  18. Bruce Caward Thatcher
    Bruce Caward Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Blondie (View Comment):

    Ben Sears:

    But for the sake of my sanity, if you are freaking out about the possibility of getting infected, bring your own damn pen.

    Exactly! Don’t get me started on the folks wearing gloves everywhere and never changing them.

    Yeah, this has been going on for years, at fast food places. I assumed they were wearing gloves so that they gave me pristine food – protecting my order from their hands. I always laughed because they had just taken the money from the last guy and given him his change with those same gloves.

    Maybe it was never to protect me from them? Seriously, I don’t get the whole glove thing. Makes no sense.

    As far as the virus, if it’s as bad as they’re selling it, I’m going to get it sooner or later. I just wish I’d get it, get over it, and move on. If I haven’t already – my last seasonal “cold” has lasted about three weeks, which is unusual. And it never really got as bad as they usually do – just held on. (Gone now.) So who knows? Maybe I’ve already had it.

    I honestly don’t fear the virus at all right now. I fear my fellow man and his propensity for craziness a lot more, and my government at all levels to always overreact and make counterproductive decisions. I don’t think I’m cynical, just observant.

    The Media and all their “news” reports on the subject, I treat with the same attitude I do about everything they report, the attitude they have taught me over many years: “Hmm. Interesting. What if that were actually true?”.

    • #18
    • March 28, 2020, at 7:22 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  19. Bruce Caward Thatcher
    Bruce Caward Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Whoa. That DID sound cynical. I don’t mean it to.

    I take the virus seriously, I just don’t fear it. I am willing to enthusiastically comply with what seem to me to be common sense measures.

    I am not willing to comply, without compulsion, to things I think are bat-guano crazy.

    They closed the rest stops along the PA turnpike. They locked the doors of the building and rented 12 Port-o-johns for us to use instead. So it’s safer to open the door of a little plastic room and go in where god only knows how many other people, people otherwise safely segregated from me by their cars, have been in the past hour, without any provision made to disinfect each one between uses?

    This is better than letting us continue going into a big building where we touch nothing and no one, wash our hands with the same automatic soap and water dispensers we always have? There is usually a guy on duty keeping the place clean – they couldn’t get him a backup and quickly spray down each stall after use, just for the duration? This seems cheaper and 12000 times more clean than the port-o-johns, which nobody is doing. It wouldn’t be onerous, as so many fewer people are traveling.

    I’m not complaining. Just pointing out a panicked decision some genius in government made that seems to me to lead to a totally worse outcome. 

    • #19
    • March 28, 2020, at 7:37 PM PDT
    • 9 likes
  20. Bishop Wash Member

    Ben Sears: A friend of mine owns a pizza restaurant and though on limited service – to-go food only, per the health department – is having trouble keeping his place staffed. That sounds odd right now when most of the service industry is clamoring for whatever money can be had, but waiters are paid less than three dollars an hour. That’s fine. After tips, they end up making more than just about anybody in the house if they don’t sneer a lot. Sometimes even if they do.

    We ordered out from a local pizza place tonight. We’d gone on a hike and wanted to support a local place as well as not cook. I was surprised at how busy it was. One guy was at the counter picking up his order so I had to stand back. They had it so you exited out a different door than you entered. Shortly after he left someone came in after me. There were seven to ten people behind the counter. I counted seven but couldn’t see everyone in the back room. The phone kept ringing as I waited for my food and to go boxes kept being filled.

    • #20
    • March 28, 2020, at 7:50 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  21. TBA Coolidge
    TBA

    Full Size Tabby (View Comment):

    I am not particularly concerned about picking up germs and bacteria from touching point-of-sale terminals and pens. But when I used my phone to pay for something a few days ago, it did cause me to realize that doing so significantly reduced the amount of touching surfaces that were not already under my control.

    Even under normal circumstances I generally prefer to use my own pen to complete restaurant sales slips. My pens feel nicer in my hands. I know where it is (no hunting for the communal pen on the cashier’s counter). And I know my pens work.

    Also it won’t have a daisy taped to the end or embellish your signature with pink sparkles. 

    • #21
    • March 28, 2020, at 7:54 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  22. Ben Sears Member
    Ben Sears

    Bruce Caward (View Comment):

    Whoa. That DID sound cynical. I don’t mean it to.

    I take the virus seriously, I just don’t fear it. I am willing to enthusiastically comply with what seem to me to be common sense measures.

    I am not willing to comply, without compulsion, to things I think are bat-guano crazy.

    They closed the rest stops along the PA turnpike. They locked the doors of the building and rented 12 Port-o-johns for us to use instead. So it’s safer to open the door of a little plastic room and go in where god only knows how many other people, people otherwise safely segregated from me by their cars, have been in the past hour, without any provision made to disinfect each one between uses?

    This is better than letting us continue going into a big building where we touch nothing and no one, wash our hands with the same automatic soap and water dispensers we always have? There is usually a guy on duty keeping the place clean – they couldn’t get him a backup and quickly spray down each stall after use, just for the duration? This seems cheaper and 12000 times more clean than the port-o-johns, which nobody is doing. It wouldn’t be onerous, as so many fewer people are traveling.

    I’m not complaining. Just pointing out a panicked decision some genius in government made that seems to me to lead to a totally worse outcome.

    I’m trying to divine some of the logic behind various policies. A distant cousin was telling me about his most recent visit to the OBGYN in anticipation of their baby’s birth. He wasn’t allowed past reception. His wife went in for her ultrasound and came out with printed pics but he waited in the parking lot. 

    Aside from spending the last weeks in close confinement with each other at home, they sleep together. I’m not asking for the details but a reasonable person would at the very least assume that they kiss on occasion. What germ does he introduce to a room (or building) that his wife doesn’t?

     

    • #22
    • March 28, 2020, at 8:02 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
  23. Architectus Coolidge

    Jon Gabriel, Ed. (View Comment):

    A few days ago, a Manhattanite tweeted about how terrible her neighbors were behaving. According to her, she stepped out of her apartment building for “an isolation walk,” then she was outraged at all the other people outside doing basically the same thing.

    She uploaded several photos of people on the sidewalks, in the park, etc., shaming them for spreading the virus. Photos that she took while she was outside spreading the virus.

    The odd thing: Twitter peeps were applauding her and shaming the people in her photos.

     

    I saw one who had taken shaming photos along sidewalks and on the subway. Ummm, YOU WERE ON THE FRIGGIN’ SUBWAY TOO! 

    • #23
    • March 28, 2020, at 8:05 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
  24. Ben Sears Member
    Ben Sears

    TBA (View Comment):

    Full Size Tabby (View Comment):

    I am not particularly concerned about picking up germs and bacteria from touching point-of-sale terminals and pens. But when I used my phone to pay for something a few days ago, it did cause me to realize that doing so significantly reduced the amount of touching surfaces that were not already under my control.

    Even under normal circumstances I generally prefer to use my own pen to complete restaurant sales slips. My pens feel nicer in my hands. I know where it is (no hunting for the communal pen on the cashier’s counter). And I know my pens work.

    Also it won’t have a daisy taped to the end or embellish your signature with pink sparkles.

    I’ve got a G2 in my pocket almost all the time. Not for germ reasons – for not looking like an idiot with a daisy or troll doll head on the end as I write the means of which are on offer more often than I would have believed.

    My wife has a fountain pen collection and has given me several over the years but I press too hard or something and ruin the nib and occasionally the shirt. Cheap plastic pens for me.

    I’m pretty predictable at the start of the day. I put on my pants, put my Swiss Army knife, some Chapstick, and a pocket notebook in my left pocket and the wallet goes back right. Front right gets my phone, keys, and unless I’m wearing a button up with a chest pocket, a pen. I’m usually wearing a button up though.

    • #24
    • March 28, 2020, at 8:13 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  25. Architectus Coolidge

    Ben Sears: to steal an analogy from Robert Conquest

    Ahh, from the preface to The Harvest of Sorrow. One of the most compelling, lasting and haunting passages I have ever read. 

    • #25
    • March 28, 2020, at 8:13 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  26. Randy Webster Member

    TBA (View Comment):
    Also it won’t have a daisy taped to the end or embellish your signature with pink sparkles. 

    The daisy’d be OK. I draw the line at pink sparkles.

    • #26
    • March 28, 2020, at 8:22 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  27. EB Thatcher
    EB

    Bruce Caward (View Comment):
    Maybe it was never to protect me from them?

    It’s not. It’s to protect them from you.

    After a surgery one time, I had a Home Health nurse come several times the first week to draw blood. She was wearing scrubs that she had worn all day, in and out of her car, visiting other patients, getting lunch, etc. She put on gloves and prepared to draw the blood. In the meantime, she leaned toward me and rested both of her gloved hands on her scrubs-covered upper legs while she spoke to me.

    I saw the same type of behavior in the UK ICU where my father-in-law was after surgery.

    Whatever the original purpose of the gloves was (protecting the nurse and the patient), it is pretty clear that sub-consciously many healthcare workers think of the protection as being all one-way.

    • #27
    • March 28, 2020, at 8:31 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  28. Ben Sears Member
    Ben Sears

    Architectus (View Comment):

    Ben Sears: to steal an analogy from Robert Conquest

    Ahh, from the preface to The Harvest of Sorrow. One of the most compelling, lasting and haunting passages I have ever read.

    There are things that stay with you. I’ll never forget that.

    • #28
    • March 28, 2020, at 8:34 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  29. Ben Sears Member
    Ben Sears

    Randy Webster (View Comment):

    TBA (View Comment):
    Also it won’t have a daisy taped to the end or embellish your signature with pink sparkles.

    The daisy’d be OK. I draw the line at pink sparkles.

    But do you draw the line with a daisy taped pen?

    • #29
    • March 28, 2020, at 8:35 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  30. Randy Webster Member

    Ben Sears (View Comment):

    Randy Webster (View Comment):

    TBA (View Comment):
    Also it won’t have a daisy taped to the end or embellish your signature with pink sparkles.

    The daisy’d be OK. I draw the line at pink sparkles.

    But do you draw the line with a daisy taped pen?

    Possibly.

    • #30
    • March 28, 2020, at 8:42 PM PDT
    • 2 likes