When it comes to watching an entire year of your life wash down the plughole, there are two schools of thought: some people sink into the deep pit of emotional emptiness and — despite their mums telling them never to wish their life away — wish their life away. Others cope by becoming civilian enforcers of the new restrictions, being as performative in public as possible. With the identification of this latter group, I begin my exposition on the pandemic’s ‘Bullshit Production’. I am, of course, referencing the 2010 Michael McIntyre bit about ordering wine in a restaurant. If you haven’t seen this already, check it out — now, actually, because it’s more entertaining than this.
And facemasks must be worn all the time, even if it’s the skankiest piece of material you’ve ever put on. Wearing the same pair of boxers two days in a row, that’s a bit minging. But wearing a single-use facemask that’s had a hundred uses and perpetually lives in your arse pocket? Top stuff. Even if you’ve actually had Covid and are still using that same facemask? Yeah, crack on.
Yes, the BP is all around us. When pubs were open, we would be asked to take our pints off the waiter’s tray, so that he wouldn’t have to touch them and potentially spread Covid. Of course, he’s the one who put them on the tray in the first place, but that doesn’t matter — everyone looks like they’re being responsible.
Recently at Tesco, I was confronted for pulling my jumper over my mouth rather than remembering to bring the real deal. “Can you stand away from me, because, you know, you’re not wearing a facemask?” asks a man in the queue. “Sure thing sir, sorry. But if you want to be even safer, you don’t have to bring your wife into the shop just to buy two bottles of prosecco and a bag of frozen onion rings.”
And before you think that I just get into bust-ups because I’m obnoxious (though this is true), I have a tale: like so many proper, middle-aged, middle-class mothers, my mum is a member of a mums group chat on WhatsApp. A specific mother in this chat is always very quick to reiterate the importance of the restrictions and vilify any of the mums who dare to walk their Cockapoos together. So it then came as a surprise to all of us when this mother dropped her daughter off at our house this holiday, because the daughter and my elder brother had matched on Tinder and convened to have a few bevvies. So my mum can’t walk Rupert with a pal, but your daughter can shag my grizzly brother? Please God, enough of this heavily produced bullshit.
Of course, there’s a pandemic on at the minute, and it’s a bit of a stinker, so we should be responsible in public. But that doesn’t necessarily mean we need a BP. We could just politely get on with our lives, mind our own business, follow the rules, and ignore the occasional, minor infraction, which is unlikely to make a difference in the grand scheme of things.
But some people don’t see it this way. Some people love the BP. You adopted the BP — they were born in it. These people make it their duty to uphold every last little bit of the BP institution, even if they do not strictly follow the rules themselves. If not, nobody will know that it’s there, and we will descend into anarchy governed solely by common sense and courtesy rather than the necessary fear of being deemed a social pariah.