Corona Alert — Please Sneeze into the Sleeve of Your Arm

I stood in a meandering line of bank customers, reading a stream of coronavirus articles.

Each article leads to a little more paranoia—the number of cases, the number of deaths and the number of countries with infected carriers of this novel virus. The global map made corona look like a pandemic.

I lifted my eyes from my iPhone to see a lethargic, unkempt, middle-aged male creep into the bank. He got into the line—right behind me. His disheveled clothes looked as if he had slept in them for a week. His face glowed a feverish red. He smelt of sickness.

Unconsciously, I held my breath and inched away.

Questions multiplied in my brain as rapidly as if they were an infectious virus:

Should I get out of this line?

Should I run out of this bank?”

Should I say a prayer to the ultimate authority?

Have the rabbis written a Hebrew prayer to protect Jews from coronavirus?

Would such a prayer actually work?

Is there a website called

What does a 14 day home quarantine feel like?

Why am I not wearing a facemask?

Why isn’t this sickie wearing a mask?

Before I moved another inch, I jumped as the sickie’s ringtone blasted the Chuck Berry’s classic, “Roll over Beethoven.”

“You know my temperature is risin…

I got the rockin pneumonia.

I need a shot of rhythm and blues.”

What did I just read on CDC website? The coronavirus symptoms are: Fever, cough, and shortness of breath.

As Beethoven ringtone died, he coughed and then sneezed into the open air.  I felt respiratory droplets cling the hairs on the back of my neck. Beethoven had contaminated everyone standing in line.

Pissed I thought, “He never even thought about covering his mouth.”

I stared him squarely in his red eyes and bellowed,

“It’s early in the mornin…

I’m a givin you the warnin,

don’t you ever sneeze on my neck.

Move over Beethoven, I ain’t getting no shot of corona from you!”

“I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m so sick. I can’t even think straight.”

Social distancing myself from Beethoven I inquired, “When was the last time you visited China, Japan or South Korea?”

He whispered, “A few weeks ago I was in China.”

I gasped, “When?”

“A few weeks ago.”

“Have you seen a doctor?”

“Not yet. I’m going later today. I wanted to get some cash so I could pay the doc.”

I jumped out of queue, walking straight for the door.

At the door I yelled, “Beethoven, tell your  doctor to test you for the coronavirus, start sneezing into the sleeve of your shirt and wear a mask!

In my car, I turned on the AC, exhaled, squirted some antibacterial into my palms. As I scrubbed my neck, I promised myself, “Next time I go to bank, I’m using the drive-thru.”

About the Author
Florida's Jewish short-story writer, speaker, film producer and retired attorney. He has authored, "A Hebraic Obsession", "The Hanukkah Bunny" and "The Greatest Gift." He produced an award-winning short film entitled, "The Stairs". Movie can be viewed on my TOI blog. Mort was a correspondent for the Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel Jewish Journal. He has recently taken on the post of president of the South Florida Writers Association.
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