How our lives have changed! Many of our usual, almost unnoticed activities have become a major part of the day. Some new rituals have made us notice things for the first time. Take the microwave, for example. Has it ever struck you that while there is a list of cooking times for meats, fish, all sorts of vegetables, there is nothing for newspapers or post? With gloved hands, we collect our incoming newspaper, laden with who knows what viruses trying to find a way into our lives, and place it in the microwave – but for how long, 10 seconds, a full minute? How long does it take to ’cook’ a virus?
I expect the next range of microwaves to come onto the market to have settings for post, advertising circulars and newspapers. They should also carry a warning to first remove any incoming credit cards, they do not cook well.
Another welcome change to our lives is alcohol. Having been told that this is a good disinfectant we can now take a large glass of whiskey with our breakfast, and lunch, and supper. If we are really worried about the virus, we could take a few extra glasses mid-morning and mid-afternoon, just to be on the safe side. And a large nightcap couldn’t hurt.
Washing our hands is hardly a new ritual but we now must decide which song to sing. The UK National Health Service is pushing its own song while the US’s Center for Disease Control recommends you wash your hands while singing “Happy Birthday” twice. A quick glance at the Internet shows hundreds of suggestions for songs to cover the recommended 20 seconds.
We in Israel do not have these worries. We already know what to say while washing our hands. Jewish law prescribes ritual hand washing, in Hebrew נטילת ידיים (netilat yadayim), in several situations with the following blessing:
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה הָ׳ אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם אֲשֶׁר קִדְּשָׁנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתָיו וְצִוָּנוּ עַל נְטִילַת יָדַיִם
Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments, and commanded us concerning the washing of the hands.
An unexpected benefit of the coronavirus lockdown is the disappearance of sport from our televisions. No longer are we told, with breathless excitement, that someone has kicked a football. No longer do we have to listen to the shouts and screams of fans who are doing nothing more strenuous than sitting on a chair. No more lists of the results of matches that we did not watch.
Other familiar things around us have changed. The stairs, once just a way to get to and from our bedroom in the morning and evening, have become our fitness club. We have no dumbbells but a couple of half-litre bottles filled with water take their place. Instead of a hi-tech motorized treadmill, with 35 different programs, we walk up and down the stairs 10, 20 times. There is no digital display of the calories we have used but we get an old-fashioned indication that our workout has been successful – total exhaustion.
It will be interesting to see how many of these changes become permanent features of our lives once the coronavirus has become bored with bothering us and has gone back to sleep.
Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.
The more things change, the more they stay the same.