7. A Ridiculous Reality

The scale of the absurdity that we’re currently witnessing surpasses imagination. Fear of catching this virus has overcome reason and driven people to take “precautions” that are not only unprecedented but truly preposterous.

You may wonder how anyone could be persuaded to comply with these kinds of measures or, even worse, compel children to comply. But fear is a powerful motivator, and it is frankly heart-wrenching to contemplate how terrified someone would have to be to conform to such unnatural and nonsensical behavior.

For instance, this video from a Thailand hospital shows newborn babies fitted with face shields. Unfortunately, this has also been done in other places, including Turkey, Indonesia, and the United States. At the time of this April 2020 report on the hospital in Thailand – a country of nearly 70 million people – the total number of Covid-19-related deaths in the country was 33.

Thankfully, the CDC recommends against face shields on newborns and infants, although – incredibly – they do recommend that a new mother stay 6 feet away from her “neonate” (when “feasible”) and that she wear a mask while breastfeeding.

Masks and face shields for adults have reached similar heights of absurdity, as illustrated by the “Narwall,” where, as one woman puts it in the promotional video, “scuba diver meets astronaut.”

Again, this is indistinguishable from satire, but the thing is actually available online for $85. “This,” says a woman at the end of the video, “is going to keep me safe.”

Interestingly, since it filters outgoing breath, the Narwall is supposed to be acceptable for air travel, while similar looking masks with non-filtering “exhalation valves” are not. However, someone at United Airlines didn’t get the memo, and two men were kicked off of their flight for insisting on wearing their Narwalls instead of the airline’s surgical paper masks.

So…to recap:

Securely fitted, contoured N95 mask with exhalation valve – not okay.

Scuba diver meets astronaut – maybe okay.

Piece of blue paper – totally okay!

To be fair, it’s our own fault if we expect logic from an industry that thinks this makes sense:

Speaking of airlines, it may be a rough time to be a flight attendant in China, where crewmembers have been advised to “wear disposable diapers and avoid using the lavatories” in an effort to avoid catching Covid-19. Good gads.

But as unpleasant and supremely unhygienic as that may sound, it pales in comparison to another policy trending in China: pre-flight anal swabs for some unfortunate travelers. As reported by Reuters,

“…the test is performed with a sterile cotton swab…that is inserted 3 cm to 5 cm (1.2 inches to 2 inches) into the anus before being gently rotated out.”

Well, if it saves one life….

But unfortunately – wouldn’t you know it – according to University of Hong Kong virology professor Jin Dongyan,

“…a positive result does not necessarily mean the person tested can spread the virus, as inactive traces unable to replicate or infect others can also show positive.”

Ah…more false positives. But the good news:

“[T]he ministry said the virus prevention and control measures China was taking were based on science.”

That’s a relief. Additionally, a staffer at an epidemic control department in Beijing reassuringly noted,

“If people are not familiar with the procedure for taking an anal swab test, our employees will help explain how it will be done.”

What a comfort that will be, especially if the admittedly useless procedure makes its way to other countries like the U.S. Of course, this could surely never happen in the United States of America. Right…?

Speaking of things that could never happen but then they do, remember when the esteemed Imperial College epidemiologist Neil Ferguson (of “it is imperative that you all lock down while I have an affair with my married lover from the other side of London” fame) described how he had initially assumed that the British people would never tolerate a “medieval,” government-imposed lockdown like the one China had forced on its citizens? And how elated he was when he realized that they (the British government and health agencies) would, in fact, be able to “get away with it” after all? Ferguson recalls:

“[China is] a communist, one-party state, we said. We couldn’t get away with it in Europe, we thought…. And then Italy did it. And we realised we could.”

And the kicker:

“If China had not done it,” he says, “the year would have been very different.”

Don’t remind me.

On a positive note, at least what appears to be good old-fashioned Czechoslovakian backwards prom dancing (??) hasn’t caught on in America…yet:


But don’t worry – what we lack in the way of ridiculous dance procedures we definitely make up for in ridiculous musical procedures, where there is robust competition for the title of “Most Nonsensical Spewage Prevention Measures”:

(I know what you’re thinking: thank heavens they had the good sense not to photograph the reed.)

It may come as a surprise, however, that the bassoon bag has some stiff competition. In fact, there may be as many spittle-mitigation solutions for the flute as there are flautists, each more ludicrous than the last:

In fact, the options were so dizzying that one band teacher seems to have basically decided, “The heck with it”:

Thankfully, some are not so quick to throw in the towel. Educators at Wenatchee High School in Washington state tenaciously worked to come up with what is definitively the world’s most ridiculous band class solution for conquering Covid-19:

At first glance, this may appear to be a heavy-handed, harshly satirical critique on the state of the world, but, as hard as it may be to believe, these are actual students in an actual band class in actual America. Furthermore, I presume that these children have actual parents who send them to actual school, where well-meaning administrators actually believe this is a good idea.

Still skeptical? Here’s a link to the article, complete with a video of these clearly kind-hearted, ultra-cooperative kids in action, so you can see for yourself that it is 100% legitimate – even down to the principal’s beyond-unfathomable observation, “You can tell people are happy.

Those kids are certainly patient, and they may even be happy, but if so, I’m willing to bet it’s despite the wacky tents, not because of them.

Well, you would certainly think that this would be the pinnacle, wouldn’t you? For the title of Most Absurd Risk Reduction Scheme, there can be no topping “kids and their instruments zipped inside pods,” can there?

Amazingly…there can! To be honest, I’d probably declare this a tie, except that the school band pods are full of compliant kids who may not have much say in the matter, especially if this is the only choice their parents and teachers are offering. But this final story is about adults – dozens of them – voluntarily choosing to attend (and, of course, perform in) a Flaming Lips concert…on the minor condition that they enjoy the event from their giant plastic hamster balls:

Well, what can I possibly say, except…I believe we have a winner.

The bottom line: the utter foolishness surrounding us occasionally provides some much needed comic relief. Yet at the root of these laughable stories are cruel and senseless policies that are, at every moment, inflicting untold suffering, ruining families, and destroying lives. Please allow me to be a little somber now and show you the tragic price we’re paying in our vain pursuit of “public safety.”