Before we were all nudged, advised and ordered to repeatedly wash our hands, wear face masks, stay home and social distance, some of us did so by choice. You know who we are, the ones you mocked, at whom you rolled your eyes, and for whom you made up nicknames.
Now after years of putting up with you, we are getting a vicarious thrill watching you — our former tormentors — sing “Happy Birthday” as you soap up and rinse your hands, don rubber gloves as you once did calfskins from Bergdorf’s, and walk around looking like you’re about to perform surgery.
It’s not enough though. We want (read: deserve) a tail-between-your-legs mea culpa — and speak up so we can hear you through your N95.
The Hand Washer
You labelled her obsessive compulsive and joked that Ms. OCD wore eau de Purell (when it was still available.) She never touched her own face let alone deigned to shake anyone’s hand. You claimed that refusing to participate in the gesture was alienating. Who’s alienated now?
Prefers you apologise via email.
The Masked Man
OK, he didn’t wear his all the time, only to and from work, and if he went out to lunch — including the elevator ride. When you were both passengers, you would alternate between throwing your hands up and in faux distress stammering, “My wallet’s in my back pocket, don’t hurt me,” and cupping your hands around your mouth to get that P.A. announcement effect, “Doctor, you’re wanted in surgery.”
Wants his “sorry” on YouTube. You embarrassed him in public so that’s where he wants his apology.
“Can’t we just video conference?” he’d bemoan upon deaf ears. When he’d mentioned that this alternative to sending him and his colleagues (a.k.a. you) to the out-of-state client four or five times a month would save the firm a ton of money, your head-shaking chief executive would talk up personal service while you gave your co-worker the side eye, all the while fearing the loss of your airline reward miles.
His pointing out the dangers of recycled plane air got him disinvited to the firm’s unofficial Friday night cocktail parties and his name deleted off some memos.
He would like a group atonement via Zoom.
Often advised to get a “real” job, the contract worker was also frequently asked if she worked in her pyjamas all day, had her work ethic questioned and called crazy for isolating herself by turning her home into a job site. Who could work like that?
She would like a large greeting card with “#WFH” written by hand a thousand times and twice her usual fee on the next assignment.
If he had a dollar for every time he was called boring, he wouldn’t need his $1200 stimulus check. After work when he’d reach his fifth-floor walk-up, he was hunkered down and that was all right by him.
He’d read, watch Netflix, do puzzles, and go Marie Kondo on his closets and kitchen cupboards. When he said he didn’t need to leave his house to be entertained, you and your peers would mime yawning.
Please make your apologies in skywriting where he can view them from his apartment window.
Lorraine Duffy Merkl is the author of several novels