It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.

I have two colleagues who are both well trained, competent, and conscientious internists. Let’s call them Dr A and Dr Z. They are also very intelligent. But when it comes to the COVID pandemic their responses differ more than do soufflé and cement.

Dr A masked up on March 1, 2022 and intends never to relinquish masks even if the first or second coming (take your choice) occurs before death. Dr A wears two masks that make Dr A ready for a bank robbery as well as a pandemic. Dr A’s two N95 respirators are changed every 20 minutes. Dr A will be buried wearing two of them even though the grim reaper obviates their need. Dr A wears the masks when eating, drinking, walking, working, sleeping, in the shower, on the toilet, and only sees patients on Zoom. Dr A is very religious, but will only attend worship services if there is an entire third of the nave that is solely reserved for Dr A. Dr A’s teeth are brushed every 20 minutes, hands are washed at the exact same interval, and Dr A’s outer garments are replaced hourly with the used clothes burned as soon as possible. The ashes are sent to a nuclear waste site. Dr A has been vaccinated against so many COVID strains that Dr A is starting to resemble a porcupine.

Dr A’s house has been hermetically divided in half with a spouse on either side. Conjugal relations are observed in a germ free room only after each spouse has tested negative for the latest genomes of SARS-CoV-2 using a PCR test. The couple occasionally eats dinner together, but only if both wear hazmat suits and every surface is firewashed.

Dr Z, however, has adopted a laissez faire approach to the virus. Dr Z refuses to wear a mask or take the vaccines – either COVID or flu. Dr Z ‘s hands are washed just a few times a day. Dr Z observes the five second rule when food is dropped on the floor. When challenged by colleagues and superiors at the institution that employs Dr Z, Dr Z loudly and repeatedly proclaims: “We live in an ocean of microbe’s, so what’s the use?”

Dr Z, like DR A, never contracted COVID – nor has either had a recent encounter with the flu. Nevertheless, Dr Z’s maskless face was first an annoyance, then a smirk, and finally the epitome of defiance and denial – especially of established science for which Dr Z was charged with observing and transmitting. What to do with Dr Z became a problem of expanding dimensions for the university medical center at which Dr Z worked. Finally, after repeated warnings, the med center cancelled Dr Z’s subscription to the New England Journal of Medicine, ditto membership in the Grand Army of the Republic. The university’s email server said no such person existed and all emails to Dr Z bounced except for spam and phish. Dr Z’s position at the medical center vanished. Dr Z is now homeless, without a spouse, with an expired medical license, though still fluless, and the only person in his city of outdoor residence to be ineligible for nutritional assistance.

Now for half a doctor. That would be your humble scribbler who like Clement Attlee has much to be humble about. Said author is voluntarily unemployed and unlicensed and is not important enough to be cancelled, even though without up to date vaccines and with unapproved opinions. In this world of shrinking dimensions and growing justice, the only way to avoid condign punishment is not to matter. Full disclosure, rounding was needed to this writer up to a half.

Forgive the disuse of pronouns and gender in this piece. They’re too dangerous to use without an armed guard. I’m also trying not to offend. Damn, one can never return to a prelapsarian environment.