Fastest Finger First

A new mini-series about the Ingrams who finessed their way to the jackpot on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? is being screened in the UK. With an accomplice, they blagged their way to the jackpot through a series of coughs (correct answers) and nose blows (incorrect answers).

It all unfolded on 9th and 10th September 2001, so while the production team was – on the following day – debating the coughing and the blowing, they were oblivious to the planes hitting the World Trade Center on TVs in the background.

There’s a master of metaphor and timing somewhere at ITV HQ, I can tell you.

Apparently, in his defence, their alleged accomplice had claimed that he had had a persistent cough all his life. He wouldn’t be able to pull that one in 2020. A battalion of cops would have hit him with their ‘rhythm sticks’ (hit him slowly, hit him quick) before spraying some ‘liquid wasps’ into his face and dragging him from the madding crowd by his ankles.

It’s a sign of the times that the same officers, who a few weeks ago would have nicked you for wearing a mask at a public gathering, will now be feeling your collar for simply for breathing some fresh. Very soon, you’ll risk a tug for not wearing a mask. By then though, protective facewear will doubtless be stamped with your own QR code that links to your test result and to GPS so that your daily travel summary can be assessed by some post-pubescent PC nursing a dark obsession with every conceivable interpretation of ‘public order’, along with some wholly inconceivable incarnations of it. By 2022, he’ll be collecting supermarket trolleys in one of the handful of stores that survives the meteorite depression that will put us on a par with The Central African Republic.

Intriguingly, our top scientists have stated that they’re not sure about the usefulness of citizens mask-wearing while out and about. Now, scuffling with such an elementary question hardly fills you with confidence, what with the clever, devious, and genius virus that this is (according to Mr Trump). The way the President was waxing lyrical about the bug the other day, well, it was like he’d crossed swords with his very own personal Blofeld. He’s likely concluded that the virus is holed up in an underground bunker in downtown Wuhan, protected by a thousand Chinese ninjas in bright orange jumpsuits and shiny white hard hats.

But on the mask question, I can answer that one under my own steam. After all, I do have a GCE in Physics which, in this cerebrally challenged epoch, arguably airzookas me to the top of the class. Masks are more symbolic than anything else and have become a badge of responsibility and righteousness. And it seems that they make the wearer more dictatorial and outwardly eminently pissier.

But a practical benefit? Do me a favour. Unless they’re being worn by Jim Carrey, they’re all mouth and trousers in the virus-battling galaxy. The ones being donned in retail outlets are cheap tat – poor quality, ill-fitting, and folk wearing them keep touching their mouths under the material (probably because the cheapo material they’re cut from makes them itch – and because the wearers are terminally dim). They might catch a sneeze or a cough from the wearer, but that’s yer lot.

But hey, surgical green is the new black. And those cats are straining to hoover up some NHS fumes in the wake of heroic flypasts. They shouldn’t feel too bad about it. Some guys ponce about in old army uniforms and even drive old green Land Rovers to tap into military esteem and kudos.

In practical terms though, these masks are becoming a hinderance. I was at the pharmacy this afternoon on an errand (and we’re talking a well-known high-street outlet with an otherwise strong reputation to boot) and what an odyssey that was. I couldn’t understand a mumbled word that the stratospherically attitudinal counter assistant was saying and reckon that even an orthodontist would have struggled to decipher it. She threw a teeny strop when I said I needed to speak to the pharmacist and rounded it all off with a more obvious tantrum when she realised that she would have to request assistance – from the pharmacist.

It felt like an encounter with an increasingly agitated, sociopathic cardiologist who’d sewed up her own lips with acidic suture. And the pharmacist herself was wearing enough PPE to suggest that she was handling plutonium.

What had made it all worse was the typical panic-cum-power trip asshattery that characterises the corona debacle. They had slapped up a notice on their door to inform patrons that they were closed from 12-2pm. Regrettably, they hadn’t inserted this info-nugget into their update texts to customers that very morning, so considerable numbers came out to pick up prescriptions only to have to return later after seeing the sign and explanatory message at the shop itself.

Apparently, they used the 2-hour window to effect a deep clean of the pharmacy area and shop counter. I can only think they were using children’s toothbrushes.

So all the pea-brained, one-directional shuffling of the town’s wannabe Dr Kildares over (incorrectly marked) 2-metre intervals, not to mention the cardboard screens and limited opening hours, were at a stroke undermined by actions that forced people to double their journeys.

Well, not that it’s not all asinine twaddle anyway.

But it all makes for a special kind of ironic fairy tale. Like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz who spends the whole story longing to return home only to wake up and realise that she’d never left in the first place.

Of course, Dorothy believed it was all real.

I’m with Major Ingram on this one. Just with a different finger.

unsplash-logoCharles Deluvio

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