Mort Laitner

Schmearers of Disease

Behind the wheel, I entered the lot of a bagel shop and deli and parked my car.

I craved a double toasted, scooped-out, poppy seed bagel, with  nova; schmeared with Philly cream cheese; covered with some capers and onions.

I opened the door of my Honda, looked down on the ground and observed a soiled light-blue surgical face mask and two crunched up blue latex gloves.

Right under my feet!


I twisted my legs making sure my shoes didn’t touch the mask or the gloves.

The toasted bagel image planted in my brain started to fade.

My taste buds no longer imagined the flavor of lox.

“Here was another example of Corona Virus Mental Health Disorder (CVMHD).”

Yes, the mentally ill littered parking lots with used, potentially lethal, contaminated hospital gear.

In the scientific community, they were known as the schmearers of disease (SOD).

Covid-19 was causing a serious mental health crisis in America.

I had heard about it on CNN.

But here it was, the evidence right in front of my eyes and inches away from my feet.

“This mask and gloves were the new cigarette-butt mounds I saw so often carpeting parking lots in the 50’s and 60’s.

These I-don’t-give-a-crap SOD certainly knew how to spread lethal viruses.

I thought, “Either they were lazy or mentally ill or both.”

Mental Health questions floated around my brain:

“Where in the DSM-5, (The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition) do I find out about these mental issues I am witnessing in Florida?”

“What does DSM-5 say about these potential killers losing their cognitive skills during this pandemic?”

“What does DSM-5 say about people losing their ability to focus on more than one thing at a time?”

I stopped thinking and entered the bagel emporium—of course with my mask on.

“Miss, I want a double toasted, scooped-out, poppy seed bagel, schmeared with Philly cream cheese, nova, capers and onions.”

The middle-aged cashier wrote out my order.

She looked physically healthy but seemed a bissel meshugenah.

“So you want a double toasted, scooped-out, poppy seed bagel with nova, Philly cream cheese, capers and onions.”

“Yup,” I nervously responded.

I threw a couple of bucks in the tip jar and paid the bill with my credit card.

But in the back of my mind, I knew that “Corona Virus Mental Health Disorder  (CVMHD) was going to cause them to f’up this simple order.”

I recalculated.

“Well, maybe by paying $11.00  for a bagel with the works, I might get lucky.

The establishment ain’t that busy.

I gave them a tip.

Well, maybe the the staff isn’t infected and they still have their cognitive skills.”

Finding a table on the patio, I bit into my bagel.

Something was missing?

I opened it up and searched for the nova.

Lo and behold I found none.

Gevalt! Oy, vey iz mir!

A bagel, cream cheese and lox with no lox!

Quickly I realized that Covid-19 had to robbed some of the staff of their minds.

Nervously I asked myself, “How many Floridian minds had already been eaten away by this disease?”

Sixty years of ordering bagels mit lox and no restaurant had ever forgotten the lox.

Altz iz nit gut.

What should I do? How do you treat these poor mentally-challenged souls?

I put on my mask, walked back into the shop and tried to be polite.

Pointing to the opened bagel, I asked, “Please tell me what’s missing?”

“We’re so sorry,” the cashier said as she grabbed the red plastic basket from my hands.

I replied with two nods and my sad-sack face.

A face that said, “I’m so sorry you’ve contacted CVMHD.”

This disorder was a much more serious problem than portrayed on CNN.

As I ate my new bagel, I knew we were all in some deep, deep trouble.


A Note to  My Dear Readers,

If you have noticed or witnessed  any examples of Covid-19 mental health disorders in your community, please let me know about them in the comments section of this blog.



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. ChatGPT says, Mort is known for his works that often explore themes of love, loss, and the human connection. Laitner has published several books , including “A Hebraic Obsession.” His writing style is characterized by its emotional depth and introspection. Laitner’s works have garnered praise for their heartfelt expression and keen insight into the human experience.
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