An Effin’ Shovel

My late friend KT, a freelance reporter, logged her fair share of public meetings. At one of them, many years ago, she ran across possibly the best public meeting comment ever.

I heard about this during a discussion of what is quotable and what ought to be paraphrased, and we should keep in mind that this discussion is now probably 20-some years in the past, in an era where swearing was kept off camera and off the printed page.

I don’t know what the meeting was or who the speaker was, but someone at the meeting KT was covering got tired of people dancing around some issue. “We need to call a spade a fucking shovel and move on,” he said. KT thought is was a great quote, but didn’t think it would play well in a local newspaper.

Maybe it doesn’t work great in a family-friendly blog, either, but sometimes I think we need to quit being polite and call those spades as we see them. And I think, as our entire country’s hospitals are in danger of being overrun, that it is way past time to stop suggesting there are two points of legitimate view and start calling not quite half of Americans what they really are: stupid and selfish.

The story that started me over the edge yesterday involved some town of 3,000 in Kansas. It wasn’t a town I’d ever heard of, and I forgot the name right after I read it, but their hospital is beyond capacity, and beyond the grossly overstretched staff.

One man, the last standing radiologist, brought his RV to the parking lot and lived in it for a week, begging the hospital laundry staff to wash his scrubs when he ran out of clean ones. For awhile the hospital lost its lone doctor due to a quarantine, and there was no option to ship patients out — every hospital around is in the same tight spot. A patient died, waiting for a transfer to somewhere with a ventilator, because this little hospital doesn’t have any. It was kind of an “oh, well”: he was too sick, they said, and he would have died anyway.

The kicker in all this? The Kansas governor has implemented a mask mandate, and this little unnamed town voted specifically, purposefully, not to abide by it. Willful stupidity is what we need to call that spade.

Covid is creeping closer and ever closer — something like 1 in 43 Coloradans has it. Right now. My worry is that by the time it comes for those who have been taking precautions, hospital staffs are going to be completely burned out. I don’t know at what point these overworked front-line respondents no longer answer the call.

That little hospital in Kansas, with a budget, can’t find much in the way of fill-in help. The administrator is pushing for overtime, which only costs him 20-25 percent more, versus the 120-140 percent the cost overrun of bringing in a nurse. If he can find one to bring in.

Here in Gunnison we’ve had 25 positives over the first seven days of December, with 24 tests still outstanding, and at the moment no one is in our hospital. So we’re okay, but you can feel the infections creeping ever closer.

A neighbor from my old ‘hood reported last week that she, her daughter and grandson all rode to Montrose with a friend, a friend who came up sick the very next day and did end up testing positive. So my neighbor stayed home for a week, but when I walked into her business yesterday, it was to confront an unmasked customer and all three employees barefaced.

Over the weekend, Vann tried to take his daughter into one of her favorite stores downtown, but it was the exact same situation: employees and a customer unmasked. Vann and Mahthilda opted to leave without shopping. It’s very hard to want to help our fellow merchants when they don’t seem interested in basic consideration for their customers.

We had a customer come in yesterday, masked, who announced she’d just arrived via airplane and the entire plane was packed. People on planes come from all over. We all were wearing masks; we had our new, county-provided air purifier running; and Kara promptly sprayed Lysol throughout our retail area. But what if we were stupid, like so many people I keep running into?

The virus is coming for all of us, and as the news grows every day that the current lack of an administration has done really nothing — absolutely nothing — to mitigate this virus, including failing to adequately provide for vaccine procurement and now, today, hosting a “vaccine rally” to which the coming administration is specifically not invited, we ignore the entreaties from embattled health care workers and scientists, because we are all about out free-damn-dumb.

Gilly’s daughter has been exposed: her roommate in Denver is a nurse who as of last week was home sick with covid. James, who stayed here for Thanksgiving, has a passel of relatives quarantining because they felt it necessary to gather for Thanksgiving and one family member brought a new girlfriend — and her friend Corona.

One in 43. You would think even the stupidest among us would start to hear stories of someone they know being adversely impacted by this virus that has now accounted for more U.S. deaths in nine months than all causes combined for any one month of 2019. More than one month’s worth of dead Americans, and it’s still not believable enough to wear a mask.

Just last night a neighbor from the new ‘hood, one I like but probably won’t respect as much anymore, informed me that a mask is nothing more than a warm, fuzzy feeling. My tolerance for stupidity is fading fast, and there’s nothing warm and fuzzy about that.

I am quite sure that some portion of these stupid people I know, many of whom I am friendly with if not outright friends, are going to breeze through this without ever once putting on a mask, going where they want, when they want, getting together, unmasked, in close proximity with friends. They probably won’t even want a vaccine, assuming the U.S. didn’t forego its place in the world line for additional doses from all pharmaceutical companies.

But the rest of us will have worn masks, and plan to receive vaccines when it’s our turn, and we are still going to have to listen to these shovelers as they tell us it was all a hoax and look at how stupid we were to believe it.

Maybe there’s someone out there who does everything completely self-sufficiently, but most of us, when we want something done — a haircut, a car repair, a house built, an ailment fixed — we go to a professional who has trained to offer said service.

So why is it so hard to get through so many shovel-like heads that the response to a virus ought to come from the people who know what they’re talking about, and not politicians who spout out their asses?

I know I’m not covering new ground here, but it seems, in the spirit of the season, that if we really wanted to do something thoughtful for our nation’s healthcare workers, we would hear their pleas, see their distress, watch as patients get put up in parking garages and radiologists sleep on-call at the hospital 24/7 for a week straight — and we would think, maybe I should wear a mask. It’s not going to kill me — maybe it would even keep me safe.

But let’s call that spade for the effin’ shovel it is, and realize I have just once again wasted my so-far-untainted breath.

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