Pandemically Challenged

Little kids are gross.

I know this because my wife and I once had four of them living inside our house AT THE SAME TIME. Stockpiling hand sanitizers helped, of course, but I remember constantly worrying that one of the kids would eventually consume too much toilet paper and die. By “consume” I mean “eat.” For some reason, two out of the four enjoyed dipping individual sheets into the toilet then slurping them down like soggy, single-ply cornflakes. I wish I was making that up.

My parents were lucky. Since I spent most of my childhood in the early 70s, before germs were invented, they never had to fret over stuff like this. Everything back then was safe and completely edible. Hostess Chocodiles, for example, and anything wrapped in Jell-O. The goo inside Stretch Armstrong. Popcorn ceilings. Pangolins, probably. It was really a scrumptious time to be alive.

My favorite treat from that era, though, was a handful of Swedish Fish. And I literally mean a handful. My grade-school buddies and I used to skip lunch and sneak over to a nearby convenience store for them. Once there, we’d plunge our bare hands into an old-fashioned glass jar and scoop them directly onto the counter, where we’d count them out, fish by fish, until we’d maximized our daily allotment of cafeteria money. If we ended up with too many, we’d simply scrape the extras back into the jar for the next person. The system was flawless, including the bagging process, which entailed stuffing them directly into our pants pockets where they could be easily consumed later. Plus, we’d often find a wad of leftovers in there weeks later. Sure, sometimes they’d taste like they’d been through the washing machine and, perhaps worse, sometimes they didn’t, but did we ever get sick?

Yes.

Violently at times.

It’s still hard to understand how this could’ve happened. Since it’s unfair to hold the fish accountable for being so delicious, let’s band together and blame the Swedes. I don’t know exactly how or why they’d want to produce biological weapons like these, but it’s important to quickly establish a catchy name that will focus all our wrath on them, like the Swede-Hand Virus. Otherwise, everyone might start assuming that I, too, was once a gross little kid.

And that’s just crazy.

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