There are many areas of life during Covid that have highlighted the essential goodness of humanity: kindness towards others, compassion, the tireless, selfless dedication on the part of essential workers. But the pandemic has also highlighted an aspect of the human personality that not even Covid can suppress: smugness.
As the virus has developed through its various stages from its arrival to the glimpse of light at the end of the tunnel, people have not been able to help themselves competing for the accolade of doing better than their contemporaries.
Here, then, are the Seven Ages of Pan:
1. Denial. Haven’t had it, won’t get it. These are the people who, from day one, did not recognize the pandemic and were wont to utter the words, “I never get sick,” “I’m not fat,” “I’ve had my flu jab,” “It’s all a con,” et al. Worst advocate: President Donald Trump, who said, early on, that it would go away overnight and it would be “beautiful.” For the record: Trump caught Covid, and the virus didn’t go away. He is fat, however.
2. First Wavers. The people who survived it and lived to tell the tale. Most smug in this group are the “It’s not as bad as they say,” utterers, who immediately began booking their holidays to Italy, only to be turned away at the airport.
3. Antibody separatists. Insufferably smug. After been tested to see whether they have had the virus, they are thrilled to discover that they have the antibodies and are probably immune (though the jury is out on exactly how long for: some say three months, others ten years). Every time someone comes within a foot of them and screams in terror, they say, with a very satisfied smile: “It’s fine, I have the antibodies.” Fear of eating indoors? You must be joking! “I have the antibodies.” Fancy coming round for dinner? “It’s fine, I have the antibodies.”
4. First Jabbers. Smugness was raised several notches at this stage with those who were first on the list to receive a vaccination (and I am NOT including our health workers and first responders here – they deserved to get the jab first and are way too busy to be smug). “I’ve had my first jab” replaced “I have the antibodies” as the smug phrase of the time, taking the limelight centre stage as the antibody separatists reluctantly took their place in the wings.
5. First Jabbers – My country’s better than your country. Easily the most competitive stage, with an unprecedented level of Brexit-style smugness. “You waited how long? In my village, I was in and out in two minutes.” When I told people that I took 8308 steps and walked 3.8 miles for my first vaccine at Manhattan’s Javits Center yesterday, the response was like a rundown of every Olympic 100meter sprint since time began. “How long? That sound horrendous! I was in and out in 9.8 seconds” and the like. I DON’T CARE! The Javits Center was on target to vaccinate 8995 people yesterday, and I’d still rather be living in Manhattan that anywhere in the UK. Yes, anywhere. So, you can stick that smugness where the virus doesn’t shine.
6. First Jabbers – Feeling Fine. The initially united camp of those receiving the first vaccination has quickly split into two, with the people who suffer no side effects lording it over those whose after-effects include aches and pains, fever, headaches, fatigue etc. etc. “I was fine, drank a bottle of wine immediately afterwards,” “Went for a run,” “Wrote a book” – the implication is that those who suffer side effects must be weaklings who are never going to make anything of their lives if they spent it whingeing and bigging up every twitch and chill they endure.
7. First Jabbers – My vaccine’s better than your vaccine. “Which one did you have?” “Moderna.” “Ooh, that’s a shame; they say that one’s not as effective.” “Pfizer, apparently, it’s the best.” Newest kids to the smug block are the Johnson and Johnson devotees, who will require just one jab instead of two. In the US, they are also rolling out a program to administer them door to door for people unable to leave the house.
So, that’s where we’re currently at, but as people are now starting to receive their second jabs, I sense we are entering a whole new era of smugness.
I’m already in training. “You have to wait how long for the second? Six weeks? That’s odd; my second one’s in 21 days.”
And, for the record, I had Covid (and it wasn’t that bad – yes, I know that’s not the case for everyone; stay with the joke here), I survived it, I had the antibodies, I’ve had my first jab in the best country, I’ve had no side effects, and I opened a bottle of wine after having the Pfizer vaccination, which really is the best.
Smug, or what?