Life on Tapp: You would've thought society might have learned its lesson
Blaise Tapp writes: After a freakishly warm start to the month, October ended in a 10 day downpour for large parts of the country, reminding us all that winter is fast approaching. The shorts are packed away until next March probably and the anoraks are hardly given enough time to dry out before they are thrown back on again.
The real giveaway, however, that the temperatures outside are dropping is the fact that nearly every person I know either has a cold or is on the long road to recovery from one. As recently as a year ago, the fact that loved ones or colleagues were getting through a box of mansize tissues at great speed would be a cause for alarm. But, for the first time in three-and-a-half years, you can now cough in confined spaces without a stranger fixing you with a death stare.
The other day I sneezed - into the crook of my arm of course - while I was browsing in the middle aisle at my local discount German supermarket and rather than run off screaming or whack me with her bag for life, a lady no more than a few yards away simply said ‘bless you’.
How times have changed. While it was once unwritten law to bless everyone, stranger or otherwise, who sneezed within hearing distance, it did appear to go out of fashion following the dawn of a worldwide pandemic because the default response to any cold-like ailment at the time was sheer panic. To be fair, things weren’t helped by anyone who coughed or sniffed back then insisting ‘don’t worry, it’s not Covid’.
Fast forward to Autumn 2023 and the reaction to other people’s sniffles is now bordering on indifference - I recently spent four long hours trapped in an overcrowded train carriage where the awkward silence was punctuated by the type of persistent coughs we were once so wary of, not to mention the nauseating sound of various people clearing their throats.
It did cross my mind that some of my unwell fellow travellers might have Covid but what was I going to do - lock myself in the train’s loo for 200 odd miles or get off at Stafford and wait for the next jam packed train to take me home?
Like the majority of the population, it wasn’t that long ago that I would feel that I had some protection from other people’s germs by wearing a face mask, which a significant number continued to wear for a while after it stopped being mandatory.
But I don’t think any amount of unsolicited contact with ill folk would be enough to make most people want to dig face masks out of their sock drawers or from the back of the cupboard where we keep our shopping bags. It doesn’t matter that in other parts of the world, wearing a mask in public places has long been normal practice, but not here. We would rather catch something than let others think that we might be one of those eccentric types.
Covid is no longer the emergency it once was but, like we were told, it hasn’t gone away and people are still dying with it, although in far smaller numbers than they once were. But, you would've thought that society might have learned its lesson and that we would all exercise the caution that we once showed in abundance but visit any gent’s toilets and I will guarantee that you will witness at least one dirty devil exit without troubling the tap or soap. Covid or not, that’s a basic lack of hygiene that isn’t going to help anybody.
The memories of the bleakest period in recent history clearly aren’t enough to stop many from thinking of only themselves.