Dad’s advice: “Wash your hands, damn it, I told you twice, wash your hands.” Mom’s advice: “Please, please, dear children, wash your hands.”

The parents chime in perfect harmony, “You’re not kids anymore.” Mom and dad are busy as winter bees, dozing and doing research on wills, getting their affairs in order, not due to the impending pandemic but due to age. Age, it creeps, then lurches. O Canada, Lovely Lady, you ponder our bent bodies as we age. With one hand behind your back you dole out Old Age Security. But old age is not secure.

COVID 19, the plague of 2019, is now on a deadrun into 2020.

Old folks, wash your hands. Kids, wash your hands.

They don’t call handwashing a ritual in hospitals but it is ritual, one that may save your life. Watch the surgeons washing up to their elbows. That’s a save-your-life ritual. Forget holy bread, holy wine, book kissing, forehead on the mat, ass on the cushion. Those world-religion postures and gestures may save your soul (in traditions that have souls), but not your body.

Please, please wash your hands or risk bodily damnation.

The threat of a COVID-19 pandemic generates a perfect storm crafted by God or the Devil (take your pick) for the Trumpian way of life. Build more walls. Obstruct anyone who looks even remotely Chinese or Italian or Iranian or Canadian or Mexican, anyone not wearing a MAGA cap. The plague is coming; the ethnicity list will grow and grow until everyone, me and mine, you and yours, are suspected carriers, stopped dead in our tracks at the borders of America the Great.

Unlike immigrants, viruses know no boundaries or borders. They leap from water ponds to bats to birds to humans.

If I were not a mere mortal male but a humanoid, a bot, I could survive (as long as there was power to charge my battery). That’s the answer: post humanoid robots to patrol the borders of America the Great. The Greats will huddle together mid-continent, somewhere between Nevada and Ohio, under the leadership of the Great Orange-Haired Baboon. Viruses come on planes and boats, so send in the humanoids, an army of BoyBots to guard the coasts and borders.

BoyBots, please stand on guard for me and mine.

I double-dog dare you: read the facts about pandemics. If you dare, click the link, read for yourself: THE WHO PANDEMIC PHASES. They are arranged neatly into 6 phases, now revised by WHO (less motivating than Dr. WHO).

The pandemic arrives in phases. Handwashing in stages, thirteen:

Did you know that rites of passage occur in phases (separation, transition, incorporation)? If you want to sound smart, say it in academese: preliminal, liminal, postliminal. Trouble is, if you examine any single, actual rite of passage, you’ll quickly learn there are sub-phases, detours, deadends, and returns. Sometimes there are ten or fourteen phases. So neither the number nor the names are consistent.

And surely you know that grief comes in stages. Google “stages of grief,” and listen to the debate. Are there 5, 7, or 12 stages? Again, the numbers change. So do the names. And the direction isn’t always linear, like an arrow shot from a bow. Sometimes the path is recursive. The wind whips your arrow, bending it off target. Worse, it boomerangs back toward you, the shooter, you the carrier.

Phases should be a comfort, but instruct your teenage kid, “It’s just a phase,” and see what happens. You will be met with eyeball rolling or “whatever” or worse things, because “it’s a phase” is parental self-soothing, a sucker in a parent’s mouth. The kids know “it’s a phase” is a way of being written off, not taken seriously. If you are in the phase, it doesn’t feel like a phase. It feels like a way of life. “It’s a phase,” from a parent’s point of view means, “You’ll grow through it, dear daughter, dear son, you’ll get through this.”

Suppose your dear daughter and dear son survive. What then? More phases, phases revised, phases extended. A smartass kid could whip it back into your face, “Dear Parentus, you yourself are in a phase, exiting middle age, entering old age. Why should I take you seriously?”

Reductio ad absurdum, reduced to the absurd, both parent and child are at a standstill. Each has reduced the other to a phase. Double checkmate. No one can move.

WHO, the World Health Organization, says the phases of a pandemic have no predictive value. But many people, including WHO officials, use them that way. If we’re in phase 3, phase 4 is on its way, so make a plan. If we’re in phase 4, prepare for phases 5 and 6. WHO says we shouldn’t use the phases to predict, but we do, to be prepared.

The news says, “Five days, stock food for five days.” Wednesdays are seniors day at Bulk Barn. O Bulk Barn, O Shopper’s Drug, here we come to stock up. Just to be safe, really safe, double the food stash and triple the spring water, from 5 days to 10 days. Why ten? Viruses have many lives, more than Jesus, more than Buddha, more than the devil. Be prepared.

“Be prepared,” the Boy Scout motto. Once, in days gone by, I was an Eagle Scout before Scouts went bankrupt, kicked in the balls by pedophilia. “Be prepared.” I was–just not for troop leaders who liked to slip their hands into your front pockets. I was prepared. How much did being prepared prepare me for that?

To be prepared I watch post-holocaust movies on Netflix. A prepared scout can become a hero. Can I still be a hero if my life is taken not by a bullet but by a tiny God-sent virus?

You don’t like my choice: God-sent? Fine, take your pick: Devil-sent. Or, if it makes you feel better: Nature-sent. Either way, lie low, lest ye be laid low.

Hand-washing, OMG, handwashing. “Let us pray, let us handwash.” Stifle the stigma. Pontius Pilate handwashed in public, a ritual demo, a performance of “hands off, do whatsoever ye wish unto this messianic pretender.”

Still don’t think handwashing is a ritual? Read this on the steps of handwashing: 13 steps or 11 or 6.

Don’t think handwashing is a ritual? Wash your hands with “Rituals: The Ritual of Dao,” a Dutch-marketed soap for ritually deprived hands. Swathed in self- care you will love your soft, sweet-smelling hands.

Still an nonbeliever, a nonpractitioner? Practice. Make handwashing a ritual. As you scrub with fluid from the green “Rituals” bottle, chant, “Hands off. Bedevil the bug. Depart O scurge of the human.”

Repeat, repeat, repeat.

If you scrub hard enough, perhaps you will squash a virus, outrun the plague. 

Not a ritual? Read Mark’s gospel chapter 7, “Now the Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around him. And they saw some of his disciples eat their meal with defiled hands, that is, unwashed ones. For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands up to the elbow, clinging to the tradition of the men of former times, and when they come from the market, they do not eat unless they wash themselves.”

Blame Jesus if you don’t wash your hands up the elbows. Surgeons save lives by imitating the Pharisees, not Jesus.

Fear not, for true (Catholic) believers there is a way: Pope Soap. If you are a Mormon, another kind of true believer, read “The Left-Handed Mormon’s Dilemma.”  When you wash, prioritize your right hand. It is closer to God and to the President (of the church). No soap? You can buy 17,700 of hand sanitizer. Besides having an alternative to soap and water, you can sell the stuff for $50 a bottle on Amazon until they catch you for price gouging.

What if the ritual fails? You must be asking that question already, since many rituals flounder. Rituals draw us together, make us feel we have company, but the plague is no respecter of persons, immigrant or indigenous, settler or migrant. COVID 19 listeth where it will. It cuts down the righteous and the unrighteous, those who have done the ritual perfectly and those who ignored it altogether.

But until the plague arrives, damn it, wash your hands. Please, please wash your hands.

Don’t die, children, but if you must, die ritually, die clean.