Death of the Classical Handshake – Mark Budman

At our end of the known universe, the receptionist wears a surgical mask, but the Lady can see she’s young. They all are. The generation bred during the pandemics. She should have pity on them, but the receptionist is a healthcare provider, and she hates them all. If not for them, germs and viruses wouldn’t exist. They get everyone confused about which is the chicken and which is the egg here.

But today she needs them. For two reasons.

“You have both Medicare and Medicaid, Ms. Macbeth,” the receptionist says. It’s not clear if that is a statement or question. Typical for her profession. Trying to keep you off balance.

The Lady nods, clutching her purse.

“Correct. Medicare and Medicaid,” she says. “But it’s not Ms. Macbeth. It’s Lady Macbeth.”

“No problem, Ms. Macbeth. I see that you complain of dry skin and bleeding on your hands?”

The Lady is wearing a cloth mask with a sign: “If you don’t see the bottom, don’t wade.”

She takes off her mittens and then the surgical gloves. Under that, her hands are bleeding. Not as bad as the hand of her neighbor Pontius, but bad enough.

The receptionist types something. “No problem. Dr. Duncan will see you now.”

The doctor is the same age as the receptionist, which is not much above zero. “What can I do for you, Ms. Macbeth?”

She sighs, but doesn’t correct him. It’s useless.

“My hands bleed.”

How many times does she have to repeat that? She’s trying to mask her anger.

The doctor observes her hands without touching. He maintains the required social distancing. The handshake is out of the question. But not touching her hands is unprofessional. Who does he think he is? A doctor or a king? “Do you wash them often?” he asks.

What a stupid question, she thinks. “Is Shakespeare a playwright?” she says. The doctor’s eyes squint. Did he understand the joke? It doesn’t matter now. He wouldn’t tell anyone even if he did.

“A lot of people wash hands excessively in the times of COVID,” he says. “I’ll prescribe you a cream. What is your pharmacy?”

“The Bard’s Own. 13 Magic Mountain Ave.” He types something. “Okay, prescription sent. Anything else?” “I want the COVID shot.” “We don’t administer them here, ma’am. I’m sorry. You have to schedule it online.” She wants to say that she doesn’t have a computer. She has accepted modern society, but computers are her line in the sand.

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