Giving up COVID, keeping mask, fist bumps
I gave up my fear of COVID-19 the moment the second shot of the Moderna vaccine went into my arm a year ago.
The point of getting vaccinated was to get out from under the constant worry about the virus and back into the world.
Thanks to a government double-cross, that's taken too long. Now, though, I'm finally joining a growing number of Americans in declaring myself done with COVID. But I'm hanging on to two vestiges of the pandemic life: face masks and fist bumps.
That has nothing to do with COVID. Rather, I have an enormous fear of the common cold. It's genetic. My family has always barricaded against cold germs as if they were zombies on the front lawn.
My aunt, who kept a bottle of Listerine in her purse to touch to her tongue anytime she heard a cough or a sniffle, slammed the phone down when I sneezed during a call, declaring, "I don't want to catch your cold!"
I'm just as irrational. Given a choice between COVID and a cold, I can't say I wouldn't choose the former.
A blessing of the pandemic is I've not had a cold in more than two years — the longest cough-free stretch of my life.
I haven't been fanatical about masks. I wear mine where the rules require, and in places that seem COVID shady.
But I won't ever fly again without a mask, mandate or no. Airplanes are tubes of pestilence. I could always count on walking off one with a scratchy throat. No more. Masks, I believe, are the reason. And they have the added benefit of discouraging conversation with seatmates.
Similarly, I swapped handshakes for fist bumps at the very start of the pandemic. My dad raised me to be a firm grip, look-you-in-the-eye handshaker. But I wasn't sorry to stop shaking.
Too many times I've extended a hand only to have it received by a moist one. I could feel the cold cooties crawling up my arm and could think of nothing else until I could get to a sink for a surgical scrub.
It can be awkward to respond to an open had with a closed fist. But here too there's a side benefit. With fist bumps, you can't be drawn into a bro hug.
Handshaking is a disease-spreading custom that's been with us for centuries. No telling how many people it's killed.
Losing the handshake would be a positive outcome of the pandemic.
Don't assume I'm neurotic or a germaphobe. Far from it. I'll stretch the five-second rule to a full minute without a thought. At the Atlanta Olympics, my kids were horrified when I emptied my pockets into a security tray that had been used by thousands of other visitors, and among my keys and coins was an unwrapped Oreo. When the tray came through the screener, I shouted, "My Cookie!" and popped it into my mouth.
So this is just about colds, and my obsession with avoiding them.
COVID has changed my life forever. From here on out, it's face masks and fist bumps for me.