The Communications Clinic
The Communications Clinic
May 12, 2020

It’s hard enough to be dealing with this sheet when people keep checking in on you

Day 42

A special place in hell is reserved for whoever is responsible for my fitted sheet. It’s one of those extra deep, fit-for-anything fitted sheets, and up to now, because someone else has fought with it on my behalf, I never knew that it was created so crucially small, the battle takes me 20 minutes each and every time and makes me want to burn it. Each week, I try everything that makes geometric sense.

I put a corner of the mattress up on my knee. I sit on the floor braced against the wall. I try it longways. I try it sideways. No matter how I creep up on it or how much power I invest in it, one corner always resists and will never go more than half on. With puckers. Why not elastic stitching at the corners? Or making it just a tad bigger? Leaving just a handspan of extra give or leeway wouldn’t impair its grip.

Day 43

And another thing. Words and phrases have been creeping into the lexicon that need to creep right back out. ‘Sprightly’ and ‘feisty’, for starters. Always used to refer to and denigrate older women. Nobody ever refers to a sprightly 32-year-old or a feisty old bloke. Now, the newest insult isn’t a word but a full phrase directed at women of a certain age.

Middling-distant friends say in their subject line: “I was just checking in on you.” Well, you know what you can do with that one, Sunshine. You’re welcome to text or email me day or night to waste time, have fun, share grief, discuss a book, bitch about a bore, recommend a podcast, find a reference. But check in on me? Nah. I’m never rude, but this is the exception. Stuff the checking in. Just stuff it.

Day 44

Have you noticed the steady drumbeat of opinion polls recording how depressed, drunk, fat, or hate-filled the virus has made us? It would be more helpful to find and learn from the folk who are adapting, developing product and working up their resilience. They’re the ones the rest of us need to copy.

Day 45

I know kind people will shop for you, but I would hate people knowing what I eat, And so would you, if you ate what I eat.

Day 46

Today I get out. Now, I could always have got out, because this cocooning is not actual Garda-enforced house arrest, but this is the first time in 46 days I’ve slid into my trusty little Skoda and driven out the gate. It feels like mitching. Not that I would know what mitching feels like. I never had the courage.

When I get to the GP clinic, I accidentally evoke shock and awe. Shock, anyway. One of the receptionists glances up and seems astonished and scandalised to see me. “How did you get in?” she demands. I feel a bit obvious, gesturing at the only door and saying “that way”, but no alternative suggests itself. “The door was OPEN?” she says in horror. I nod. “Would you like me to close it again?” She nods, but I get the impression she’d like me to do it from the outside.

I don’t cater to her feelings, locking the door and standing there, riveted by the transformation of a formerly welcoming lobby. Now it’s as welcoming as a bank in downtown Detroit. Not only is hard transparent plastic around the reception staff, but a rope prevents you from getting close to the one tiny round hole in the perspex, lest you blow a virus through it. The rope goes outside a big trolley, which makes me glad that I have long arms, all the better to pass you a credit card, my dear.

(My mother always hoped that I would learn the double bass, not because I was musical, but because I have arms like an orangutan and not many people choose it as an instrument, so I wouldn’t have had much competition.)

When the nurse who’s due to take an armful of blood out of me appears, she is much more enthusiastic about me than was the receptionist, although I’m not that enthusiastic about her, because her voice is the only thing I recognise. This for two reasons.

The first is that, having had to fast in advance of the blood test, I have not ingested the 2 litres of coffee I’d normally take in by 10am and so have a caffeine withdrawal headache so bad I’m having difficulty looking out from under it. The other reason is that she is dressed like an extra-terrestrial and reminds me of the cartoon of the enraged little alien from outer space yelling at a petrol pump: “I TOLD you to take me to your leader!”

I ask her what she’s NOT doing, which seems the only relevant question to ask anyone, these days. She’s not doing smear tests, she says sadly. That’s all been suspended. I sit, my blood issuing into one vial after another, stunned by the realization that some deaths indirectly attributable to Covid-19 will be from cervical cancer

Day 47

My Latin teacher swore she’d give up teaching if I got 60% in Latin in the Leaving. I did, she didn’t.

All but one of my teachers believed I was clever but lazy, whereas in fact I was thick but diligent.

If they’d graded me, I would have been goosed. The key function of exams is to prove teachers wrong.

Were I a Leaving Cert student, I’d be worried sick about predictive grading. Look what predictive texting can do to you…

Day 48

I have a friend who spends several evenings a week beating up bricks and other people in ritually satisfying ways requiring vaguely Eastern robes and a great deal of sweat. He is phenomenally fit.

Which was why, in January, when he got a flu-like dose, I knew he would drink liquids, maybe take a couple of days off beating people up, maybe even swallow a couple of paracetemol. Right as rain he’d be, in no time. So when we talked a week later, I was astonished to find him still very sick and some family members with him.

He had a cough like he’d never had in his life. A week later, he still hadn’t shaken it off. Midway through April, and now fully recovered, he’s convinced he had Covid-19. This morning, a news alert pings on my phone. The Taoiseach has stated that the coronavirus may have been infecting people in Ireland much earlier than anybody thought, up to now.

My phone rings. My friend. “Did you read that?” “Yep.” “Told ya, didn’t I?”

Day 49

In isolation, when you wake sneezing and wheezing, it can only be hay fever. That’s the good news. The bad news is it’s anti-histamine you should’ve bought in bulk.