I’ve been fully vaccinated and had a booster. I should be fully protected from Covid, so I don’t fear catching it as much as I did when this all started. I interact with coworkers normally, but tend to stay about 6-feet away from anyone regardless of their vaccination status.
I think I do pretty good with risk mitigation and prevention.
I got vaccinated.
I wash my hands regularly and don’t touch my face.
I never get close to anyone outside of my immediate family.
I even take my shoes off at the door and shower before unwinding for the night.
I don’t have many opportunities to go out and socialize, and when I do, I don’t get close enough to anyone to risk catching anything. Actually, I think the closest I’ve been to another person was while passing someone in a shopping isle.
My Covid-risk is pretty damn low, so I didn’t think twice when a coworker chatted with me one night before the office shut down for Christmas. It felt nice hearing how great of a job I’m doing and wishing each other well and happy holidays. I left soon after and did my normal work-night routine (shower, eat, play videogames, and sleep).
Sometime that night, I got a message from that coworker saying he tested positive for Covid-19.
My heart went cold for a few seconds after reading that message. I immediately recalled how he hung out around my cubicle just before leaving work that previous night. He even hovered over me as I pointed to something on my computer screen.
I did what any reasonable person would do… I tried to get tested.
Unfortunately, with only a few days left before Christmas, everyone in the city was trying to get tested before seeing their families. It seemed like there were absolutely no Covid tests available in all of Harris County, unless I went to the ER and pay the equivalent of $10,191.
I don’t love anyone enough to pay that. There will be other holidays.
While I was riding around town trying to find a Covid test, my mind kept going back to the beginning of December when I saw a couple boxes of those test sitting on the checkout counter of a CVS. I thought they were a waste of money at the time. Just that week, I started seeing people proudly post their at-home test results and joked at how they looked like pregnancy tests.
Well, I guess the joke’s on me.
Failing in my attempts to get tested, I did what any responsible person should do.
I told my family I was exposed to someone I know is positive for Covid. I told them I didn’t feel sick, but had to miss out on the Christmas party. I said I’d show up wearing an inflatable spacesuit costume to drop off the family’s Christmas gifts.
I couldn’t help but follow up that message with a joke I had just thought up:
I was still feeling healthy when I arrived wearing a spacesuit costume (closest thing to a hazmat suit I could find) to drop off presents. I even did a moon-jump!
I’m not upset with my coworker for “ruining Christmas”. Not in the slightest. He did the responsible thing by telling me he tested positive, and I’m thankful for that.
It’s been a few days since Christmas and I’ve finally been able to get tested for Covid, but the results won’t come for another day or so. I’m glad I did the responsible thing by avoiding family, because now I’m exhausted all the time and my lungs feel like I’ve got a mild case of bronchitis.
Being ill and having to wait on my test results, are causing thoughts to creep into my mind:
Imagine what could have happened if my he hadn’t told me he was poz for Covid. Without that warning, I would have unknowingly contaminated everyone at the party.
Imagine what could have happened if I did the irresponsible thing and shrugged off that warning, and went to the Christmas party without telling anyone.
Imagine what probably happened all across the nation… and around the world.
HIV Poz: Thankfully, I’ve been lucky with my love/lust-life and have remained HIV negative.
Ruining Christmas: I’m not a “socialist” and loath social events, even family get-togethers. Which means he may have done me a favor.
Notify when Positive? There’s no law requiring your coworkers to inform you if they’ve, personally, tested positive for Covid. If you work at a large business, the infected person(s) are supposed to inform their supervisor or HR, and it’s recommended that the company/firm alerts workers who may have been exposed to someone who tested positive.
Also keep in mind that it takes a lot of courage to tell someone you are positive for an illness or disease. The person has to overcome the immediate fear of rejection, and risks being stigmatized as being “dirty”. I’m glad my coworker told me because it shows that he’s a good person and that he cares for my wellbeing.
He could have easily kept quiet about his test result.
I wake up to the sound of my phone’s alarm clock and throw the covers off my body. I swing my legs over the side of my bed and try to use the momentum to carry the rest of my body into a sitting position. It didn’t work this time and I’m forced to push and pull myself up the rest of the way. The alarm is still chiming, so I reach for my phone on the side-table to tap the “Dismiss” button. My hand moves to the remote control for the ceiling fan right next to it, and I push the button to turn on the light. Before reaching my arm back, I grab my phone and learn how to walk again as I hobble to the kitchen for a glass of water.
I’m still carrying the phone when I walk to the bathroom. I set it down next to my smart speaker and bark my usual order at the speaker, “Alexa, play my news brief.”
Reuters begins playing an annoying commercial which is obscenely too loud compared to the rest of the newscast. Why can’t we regulate the volume of ads on our podcasts or smart devices, similar to TV. I listen to my news brief from my 5 preprogramed sources and do my normal 3-S’s grooming routine: shit, shower, and maybe shave.
My news brief is on the 4th news source when I turn the volume up to counteract the usual mumbling from the British as I check to see if I need to shave today. I don’t think a shave is necessary today, maybe tomorrow. I grab my phone and leave the room, leaving Mr. Mumbles behind. I think about how nice it is to have a slow-growing (yet full and not patchy) beard. I set the phone on the dining table next to my gym bag and other daily items, thankful that I only need to shave twice a week.
I walk into my closet and pick out which shirt and slacks I want to wear today. I only have a few pairs of pants that fit now that I’m obese from being Covid-ly sedentary for pretty much a year. Working out these past few months has improved my waste, but isn’t making the dang pant legs fit better. I’ve always had muscular legs, and pant or slack manufacturers seem to think that everyone must be the ideal skinny white guy with chicken legs. I decide on a purple shirt and grey slacks, and grab them as I walk to the bedroom to get dressed.
I half-hear my last source of news declare: “This is a Bloomberg Money Minute.”
I throw on a white undershirt to absorb the inevitable sweat I’ll exude several times throughout the day. I slip on the purple shirt and button it as I lament the high cost of having my clothes dry-cleaned just to satisfy an outdated social imperative that requires office workers to play dress up. I look at myself in the bedroom mirror and jokingly think to myself: Okay boomers, we’ll play it your way for now. You won’t be working much longer anyways.
I walk back to the closet and frown at my uncomfortable shoes I wasted $500 on, but haven’t worn in years because they’re too uncomfortable. Hardly anyone makes dress or work shoes for people with wide feet. I still remember the sales person said I simply need to break them in and they’ll feel better than going barefoot. My hand glides past the shoes and I think of how I wore those damn shoes for nearly a year and they never got any more comfortable. Instead, my hand grabs the much more comfortable, $30 pair of grey “leather” shoes I bought on Amazon.
I grab the shoe horn from the front door and take the shoes to the couch. As I slip my oversized feet into the shoes, I think about how someone told me that people pay attention to the shoes you wear. What kind of weirdo with a foot fetish pays that much attention to people’s shoes? The only time I purposefully look at someone’s shoes is to check if there’s anyone in the stall at the work restroom. I’m not like that one attorney who bursts into the room, like the T-rex from the original Jurassic Park movie, and scares the occupant shitless by yanking at the stall door without checking.
I get up from the couch and walk to the refrigerator. I grab the leftover shrimp fried rice I put in the water-tight container last night, and rush over to the dining table to shove it in my gym bag. I throw the gym bag over my shoulders and drape my Bluetooth headset over my neck and balance the earbuds over my upper chest. Before heading to the door, I quickly stuff my phone, keys, and wallet into their respective pockets.
I hang the shoehorn back at the door before opening it.
I feel a refreshing wave of cool air as I step into my floor’s main corridor and lock the door to my home. I enjoy the crisp and cool air as I walk to the elevator and press the button to call it. I turn on my headset while squeezing the earbuds into my ears. Only when I’m satisfied the earbuds have a perfect seal, do I push a button to continue my Audiobook. I’m rereading Dune: House Atreides for the 4th time as my ritual preparation for the new Dune movie that’s coming out in October. I have just enough time to tap House Harkonnen in my library, starting the download process, before the elevator doors open.
I hide my displeasure at seeing “Nagatha” in the elevator, and quickly pause the book just in case she said something during the ride down to the first floor. I left the elevator as soon as the doors opened again to escape the awkwardly silent ride. I walked to the table in the lobby and collected my daily newspaper.
I set Nagatha’s paper aside along with one belonging to the nice lady on the 11th floor. I turn when I hear the garage door slam shut and wonder if she’s in a hurry. Since I’m safe from socialization, I push the button to continue my audiobook.
Paper in hand, I open the front door and step out to Houston’s sweltering heat and near 100% humidity. I barely walk a block before noticing the first trickles of sweat form on my face. There’s only a block and a half more to go before I reach the nearest tunnel entrance. Can I hold it together until then?
I dodge a zombie-like homeless person before reaching the next intersection, having already decided not to wait on the light to change before crossing. I remind myself that I’m not brainless, and should at least check to make sure there’s no oncoming cars. Thankfully, there aren’t any, and I keep walking. The sweat is getting worse now, so I grab a rag I stashed in my bag for situations like this.
Just 50 more feet!
Yes! I’m in. It’s not cool in here, but at least the air’s dry.
I walk to the elevator and push the call button. I need to recover from the short trek through the steam room most people confuse as a city, and start fanning my face with the newspaper. The elevator arrives and I’m thankful to have this elevator to myself. I continue the fanning while riding down to the tunnels.
The elevator doors open and I immediately walk to the air conditioner unit in the wall next to a parking validation machine with an out of order sign taped to it. I set my newspaper on top of the machine and take a moment to soak in the gentle cool breeze coming from the A/C unit. I know more people are going to come out of the elevators soon, so I fumble for my facemask as I steal more time under this bastion of cool air. As predicted, three people spill out of the elevator and each one of them looks at me. One man isn’t wearing a mask, and he averts his gaze as he walks by. The other two people look at me with approval because I’m doing the responsible thing by stopping to put on my facemask before continuing into the tunnels.
I smile and silently chuckle to myself content with the knowledge that my act fooled all of them. Right now, I care more about this air conditioning than Covid-19 safety precautions.
With my facemask on, and with paper in hand (again), I start my trek through the vast network of underground tunnels. I fear working up a sweat again despite the tunnels being air-conditioned, so I slowly plod past the floodgate which kind of looks like a blast door from the Cold War era. As I walk up the stairs immediately beyond the door, I recall seeing the real blast doors in the tunnels linking the courthouses a quarter mile away. And when I reach the top of the stairs, I think of how a lot of sections in the Downtown Tunnel system aren’t very accessible to handicapped people. I walk down the narrow tunnel and try to remember all those places where I have to climb stairs and think about how embarrassing it may be for someone in a wheelchair to have to take an alternate route when having lunch with coworkers and friends.
I’m halfway through the first tunnel before becoming aware that another wave of people entered the tunnels behind me. I glance back and make a quick navigational calculation. I figure they’re far enough behind that I don’t need to increase my pace. They can’t overtake me before I reach the next building, unless they start running.
I continue at my slow pace as I enter the JP Morgan Chase Tower wondering what might make the people behind me start running.
Rabid dogs? No, how’d they get down here.
Free coffee at Starbucks! Yes. That’ll definitely do it.
I see my reflection in the polished chrome elevator doors, but don’t really look at it because my attention is drawn to a trio of sexy businessmen who walk past the building’s ground-to-tunnel escalator. I try picking up my pace toward them and am forced to look at my gross midsection while walking past the mirror-like panels covering the escalator.
I notice the gaggle of sexy men had queued into line at the Starbucks as I walk on by.
I leave the building’s tunnel and enter the next building. Upon entering, I walk past a dry cleaning drop off unit and wonder if that company is cheaper than my current one. The container says they deliver to your office, and one of the benefits to living in Downtown is that our lofts are close enough to the rest of the offices to be included with that delivery promise. I commit to check them out when I get to work.
That commitment is immediately forgotten when I see another gaggle of hot men standing in line at another café. I notice how they playfully banter with each other like they’re from the same fraternity. These face masks really are great because nobody can see my smirk as I think of frats and hazing…
I reach the end of this food hall, and restrain myself from touching the chain-rope curtains and satisfying a lingering curiosity of how cold those chains must be.
I know I’m about halfway through my journey when I reach the Esperson building. The building blasts 50s and 60s music through their part of the tunnel system. The music is so loud I can hear it over my audiobook, despite the noise-cancelling function. I like this era’s music, but I push the volume up two levels to compensate anyways. I still hear “incense and peppermints” in the background a couple times as I walk through this section of the network.
I’m passing the threshold between the Esperson and the 919 Milam building, when I notice a piece of lint on the ground. From my perspective, it looks remarkably like the “Playboy Rabbit Mascot”. I don’t slow down to ponder this coincidental find any further.
I fully enter the most boring section of the Downtown Tunnels and pass several vacant retail units. Some of these units were vacant for at least a year prior to Covid-19. I can’t imagine how horrible business must be for landlords and property managers in Downtown nowadays.
I pass what used to be a Subway restaurant and began to reminisce about how I used to get $5 footlong “Veggie Delights”, but dreaded smelling like the store afterward. That stench permeated my clothes after a mere 5 minutes of being inside the store. I remember being hard-pressed to wait through the line, order, and then pay as quickly as possible to save myself from smelling foul. I make a sharp right turn around a corner where the former Subway restaurant was and half-smell that iconic aroma, but know it was just my memory playing tricks on my senses.
I veer off to the left and head toward the tunnel leading to the Commerce Towers. As I enter the tunnel, I’m reminded as to why I don’t wear my facemask outside. This section isn’t air conditioned very well and my breath begins to make my face feel warmer than it should. I pick up my pace because I only need to get past the convenience store and turn the corner to enter the McKinney building, and cooler air.
A man half-limped into sight from the corner I need to turn at. I instantly know he doesn’t belong. He has a look of amazed wonder, like he discovered a magical cave. Another office worker notices the outsider and looks at him with disgust before passing around him. I’m almost at the corner and start hoping and wishing this guy doesn’t ask me for money, or worse, directions.
The outsider looks at me and, thankfully, doesn’t say a word. He seems too amazed at his new discovery. I imagine he’s mentally rubbing his hands with delight as Aladdin must have when he entered the Cave of Riches. So many business people to solicit money from! Mwah hahaha!
I scold myself for thinking such an ugly thought when I make my turn.
I pass a raggedy accordion-style gate and notice a hall where restrooms are supposed to be located, but always seem to be locked. There’s some sort of berry-colored fluid trailing from that hall and appears to be leading me past a hair solon. There’s a smoothie store just beyond the salon and I guess that someone’s smoothie must have leaked and the owner must have ran to the restroom to rinse the cup off.
I wonder how the person got into the restroom?
I follow the trail to the smoothie store and smile at the lady working there. As I walk past, I realize she can’t see my mouth smile, but comfort myself with the possibility that my eyes probably did the smiling for me.
Now, I have something new to smile about. I finally made it to the garage elevator where my car is parked. I reach to call the elevator, but one of the doors are already opening. An unmasked lady smiles at me while she exits. I enter and see someone turning the corner heading to the elevators, but the doors close so fast I can’t reach the “Door Open” button in time.
The elevator is hot and I fan myself with the newspaper as I ride the sauna up to the level where I parked my car. I rush out of the elevator and walk half a block to my car. I can already feel sweat forming on my face and am already unlocking the doors as I approach my car. I open the back door to throw my bag inside and close the door so fast, I can’t believe I didn’t slam the door on my hand. I open the driver’s door and throw my body into the seat and turn on the car. I toss the paper into the front passenger seat and notice the air conditioner is pushing air out too slowly and impatiently increase the fan speed.
I’m in no hurry. I have about an hour before I need to be at the office, so I just sit there for a couple minutes, basking in the refreshing coolness of blessed air conditioning. I notice that in my haste I forgot to pull my phone out of my pocket. While listening to Pardot Kynes rant about terraforming Arrakis, and telling his would-be assassin to “Remove yourself,” I lean back in the tight quarters and pulled my phone out of my front pocket. The assassin fell upon his knife by the time I was able to fish it out and place the phone in the holder clamped to the A/C vent closest to me.
I decide I’m cool enough to travel and drive the car out of my usual spot. I must be the only person who leaves the garage in the mornings, because the attendant always steps away from her desk to help me. I quickly scan my keycard and “roll” the window back up when I see the gate arm rise. She stops halfway between her desk and the office’s door when she sees the same arm lift. I’ve been using this garage for a month now and the attendants may not be used to me leaving, while everyone else is entering.
I follow the winding driveway down the ramp to exit the garage. There’s an angry-looking old man with an orange flag who waves me by. Despite his implied clearance, I don’t take his word for the path being clear of pedestrians and slowly roll out of the garage.
I continue listening to my audiobook through the rest of my work commute from Downtown to Houston’s Upper Kirby District. Once I park the car at my job’s parking lot, I pause the audiobook so I can focus on reading the newspaper I carried all this way. I have to read it now, because I have to be ready to handle anything and everything the instant I walk through the door of my office building.
 The CALM Act is a law regulating commercial volume and requires commercials to have the same average volume as the programs they accompany. It became effective December 13, 2012.
This is an old sociopolitical commentary I recently found tucked away in a safe from about 12 years ago, when Swine Flu was a thing.
I think Americans need to be terrified of Swine Flu, because, Americans are pigs.
Americans are pigs because we eat and eat till our glutenous bodies expand. We are such pigs, that over half of the population is overweight or obese.
Some men are pigs because of the way they chase after sexual partners.
Politicians… oh there’s a lot of swine there. Pork-barrel spending is evidence they are feeding their piglet constituents.
I really don’t like calling the police pigs, but the old nickname has been around for decades, so I must include it.
Most Americans are swine, and should be terrified of the Swine Flu.
It turns out the Swine Flu didn’t amount to much back then, but now we have Covid-19, also known as the Coronavirus. Us freedom-loving Americans really know how to manage a pandemic. Enough so, that people have gone out of their way to help our society as we fight the Coronavirus.
People have shared video on social media of them pouring Corona beers down the drain.
People wore lingerie on their faces when told to wear face coverings.
Common people have tried a psychosomatic approach to treating the disease by providing their expert analysis to convince people Covid-19 is a hoax. How can you get sick from a disease that only exists in the minds of others? Many of these experts shared “evidence” from their conspiracy-theorist uncle whose brain is so powerful, he has to hide from the government in a basement, at an undisclosed location.
As a show of support, many people assembled, unmasked, in large groups for parties. Similarly, many others assembled for protests or riots (depending on who you ask). Both had the gall to blame the inevitable surge of cases on 2020’s Memorial Day Weekend when there was little evidence to support their claims.
When a vaccine became available, many Americans graciously allowed others to take the vaccine before them. Many people think these are the real reason why they don’t want to get vaccinated.
Some thought it would impinge on their civil liberties.
Some theorized about a massive tracking program to keep tabs on them. (If you’re that worried, stop using your phone. The number 1 way to track you and your activities is through your phone. Also, what criminal activities are you involved with that makes you so scared of being tracked?)
Some stated they were worried the vaccine was a massive medical experiment and they were being targeted because of their ethnicity. While, on the same breath, the same people bemoaned that other communities had higher vaccination rates.
Some said the vaccine was rushed and were worried about side effects (cue the memes ending with: “… you may be entitled for compensation”).
All want the vaccine when it’s too late. All ask for the vaccine when they are carted into an ICU for contracting the hoax disease.
I was wrong back in 2009. It wasn’t the swine flu Americans needed to worry about. It’s not Covid-19 we should be worried about either…
In less than 1 year we developed 3 major vaccines approved to help prevent serious infection of Covid-19, and the various variants. Plus, other countries have their own versions of the vaccine. I recently had someone ask me this question: If we developed a vaccine for the Covid-19 so quickly, why don’t we have a viable vaccine or cure to HIV, or even cancer?
Let’s start with cancer because it’s completely different to a virus.
Cure for Cancer
According to the National Cancer Institute, cancer is a disease in which some of the body’s cells grow uncontrollably and spread to other parts of the body. Cancer is essentially caused by our DNA. The development of cancer is either spontaneous, environmental, or caused by genetics inherited from our parents.
It can’t be helped if cancer occurs by unlucky chance, or act of God.
Nor can it be helped if it’s familial, unless we delve into gene-editing and what is currently science fiction.
Environmental causes include: various chemicals, tobacco smoke, the sun, and several other materials.
So, avoidance of known carcinogens is key to avoiding cancer, unless you have the misfortune of genetics or are unlucky and your cells spontaneously start to divide uncontrollably.
We can do our best to treat cancer, but the current treatments are very crude and not only kill the cancer cells, but also may kill the patient. There are theoretical “cures” for cancer or treatments that should work without killing the patient. The most promising seems to be nanites, which target specific cancerous cells and destroys them. Unfortunately, with our current technology and infrastructure, using this particular cure isn’t practical and is prohibitively expensive.
There’s also the health of the medical industry to consider as well, but I’ll get into that after I cover the reason why we should have a cure or vaccine to HIV.
According to Healthline, HIV is a virus. They also describe AIDS as being a condition caused by HIV, and refer to it as HIV stage 3. Let me rephrase that, similar to Covid-19, HIV is a virus. It is caused by a specific single-celled infectious disease…
There are several forms of treatments for HIV which are very effective at stopping the progress of the disease. But we are interested in a cure… A potential cure for HIV was found accidentally when treating leukemia patients with a stem cell transplant. Unfortunately, this is not a viable cure. There has to be a series of things that have to go right for the “cure” to happen.
You need to find a doctor and facility willing to provide this type of experimental treatment.
A stem cell transplant needs to be acquired from a donor who has a special genetic mutation blocking the attachment of HIV to cells. According to a related BBC news article, about 0.1% of people of European or Western Asian ancestry have this inherited mutation.
The patient (host) also needs to suffer a complication known as graft-versus-host disease in order to acquire such immunity.
Wait to see if the donor’s antibodies kill the HIV within the patient.
This is way too expensive and not very reliable if our goal is to cure a disease, we already have life sustaining treatments for. So why do we not have a cure? Nova (PBS) suggests that our own immune system will accidentally harbor the disease when the white blood cells go dormant after “winning” the battle against the disease. There is a chance the virus will come back out of hibernation, which prevents a cure from being viable.
These are valid points, but I would like to pose another theory: there is no will to finding a cure. Once we developed life-sustaining treatments, the search for the cure or vaccine just tapered off. We were able to create a vaccine for a disease that mutates very rapidly in less than a year! The vaccine stops the infection and allows the body to fight it off without hospitalization. Why can’t we do the same for HIV?
Originally, companies invested money into finding a cure or to at least prevent people from dying so quickly. Somehow, that changed and the focus switched to a treatment plan instead of a curative plan. Why? Profits!
You can easily sell a treatment to a chronically sick person for the rest of his or her life. They literally have to buy your product, or they are going to die. There’s no profit to be had in curing a disease. If you get Gonorrhea, they stick you with an injection or give you a pill to cure it. That’s it! It’s a one and done treatment.
If you catch a cold or flu, which are endemic illnesses, you will be directed to take common over the counter medications to help alleviate the symptoms as your body fights off the sickness. The manufacturers know you will buy the treatment again next time you suffer the illness. And there will be a next time.
Same principle goes with flu vaccines. We’ve been told that Influenza changes so quickly there can’t be a vaccine or cure, but we are able to manufacture annual vaccines for the versions of Flu that are likely going to be out in the population each year. By the way, how do they know which versions of the flu are going to affect the population every year?
Covid-19 appears to be mutating much faster than the flu, yet we seemed to have been able to create 3 vaccines which, by the latest indications, provide the same level of protection for the other variants.
Big pharma has invested so much money and resources into treating these chronic diseases, it would be disastrous to provide a cure to cancer or HIV, or even a vaccine. The current medical establishment would suffer all across the nation. All those profits from selling HIV treatments, and preventative pills like “PrEP”, would evaporate as soon as the population was vaccinated against the disease. It’s simply not in their best interest to develop and release a viable cure for HIV or cancer.
In respect to cancer, we have countless businesses specializing in providing treatment. A cure would shutter most of those, which would cause massive job losses.
We’ve lost the will…
It’s not just economics thwarting a cure. As a nation, we’ve lost focus to find a cure for HIV. We’ve become contented in the fact that we can treat the disease for the rest of our natural lives (which can be 50+ years). A viable HIV vaccine or a cure to cancer would be rejoiced around the world, but would be a nightmare to pharmaceutical companies.
They have a customer who absolutely must buy their product, or die.
That’s a Ferengi’s wet-dream! (Star Trek reference)
Below are a few related Ferengi Rules of Acquisition:
#2 The best deal is the one that brings the most profit.
#162 Even in the worst of times someone turns a profit.