Let’s retire the pandemic filler phrase ‘be safe’

I called the credit union with a question about something, I don’t remember what.

The woman who answered helped me. I thanked her. She wished me well and closed with, “Stay safe.”

Stay safe?

From what?

Oh, right.

The pandemic.

That’s still a thing.

I don’t think about it much anymore. I’m not a frontline healthcare worker.

I chose to get the shots. I felt lousy for a few days after both shots and the booster.

I got the virus anyway. I got an IV. I felt crummy for a week.

Life went on.

I’m lucky. The virus didn’t kill anybody I know.

A friend of mine lost seven people to the virus before she stopped counting.

I don’t fly anywhere, but I occasionally see people acting foolish on airplanes about being forced to wear masks.

I attribute this less to their passionate feelings about freedom and more to their willingness to pay for mass quantities of overpriced booze at the airport bar.

I work in a school. A few people wear masks. I have one or two students who do.

I don’t.

Nobody makes a fuss in either direction.

The mask thing, like the vaccines, are all down to personal choice.

A court ruled people don’t have to wear masks on planes anymore.

The CDC didn’t like that and ask the Justice Department to step in.

The government is basically suing itself, sending taxpayer money into the accounts of high-priced lawyers.

I’m sure they know what they’re doing.

However, I live in Iowa. I drive to work alone in my car with only Taylor Swift on the CD player.

That’s right. I’m so old I have a CD player. It’s an MP3-CD player.

Google it, younger readers, if there is such a creature.

I’m going to the doctor to get my knees looked at on Monday. I don’t think I have to wear a mask there anymore either.

I don’t wake up easily in the morning. If the 5:30 a.m. alarm doesn’t do it, I have a backup at 6 a.m. and another at 6:05 a.m.

The last alarm is on my old GE clock radio circa 1986. My dad bought it for me when his health began to fade, and he couldn’t wake me up every morning.

Back then, in rural Winterset, I tuned to 95 KGGO to listen to Lou and Larry in the mornings.

The radio dial is stuck on NPR these days. I mean really stuck. There’s something wrong with it and I can’t get it to turn.

It is a very old radio.

Anyway, NPR anchors have been on about the pandemic in China and lockdowns there.

I don’t live in China and don’t plan to visit.

Given how much their government respects free speech and individual rights, I’m not sure anyone can tell the difference between a lockdown and just another day in China.

Then again, that’s probably the globally ignorant American in me.

I don’t know anything about China other than they have a lot of tea, a big wall, and are good at cyberattacks.

I get the impression that the news media is worried the virus gravy train is about to leave town and they’ll have to come up with something else to sow fear and loathing with.

Then again, I am a former reporter and cynical about the state of corporate- and hedge fund-owned media, whose story selection is driven by algorithms and spreadsheets rather than community interest.

I know the pandemic is not over. I know the virus is still out there, like colds and the flu.

I know people have strong opinions about getting vaccines.

I have no interest in that debate and even less in labeling the choices of others.

But this idea of “stay safe” annoys me.

Early in the pandemic, I tolerated it. It has about as much meaning as a well-written Hallmark card, but the thought counted.

This was scary stuff. Wear masks. Stay home. Don’t gather in groups. No sports. School by Zoom.

But we’re into year three now. There are vaccines if you want them.

People are back to school and work.

Sports are back.

You can wear a mask if you want to.

“Stay safe” once felt like a kind word now feels like “stay scared.”

I’m not picking on the teller from my credit union. She’s just using the line as filler; the way people do.

It feels like code for “remember, you could get sick and die at any moment.”

That’s always true.

People die. They die young. They die old and all points in between.

I’m not saying don’t take precautions against the virus.

But I don’t care for empty platitudes.

Stay safe?

How far does that go?

I’m more likely to die in a car crash than I am of the virus.

I drive every day.


The only way through the pandemic is forward. We are safer now than we were at the beginning of this thing.

Maybe we’ll need shots forever.

I get a flu shot every year.

Some people never get a flu shot.

People can choose.

I choose to retire “stay safe.”

Daniel P. Finney, a former journalist and future teacher, writes for the Marion County Express. Reach him at newsmanone@gmail.com.

Daniel P. Finney wrote for newspapers for 27 years before being laid off in 2020. He teaches middle school English now. He writes columns and podcasts for ParagraphStacker.com, a free, reader-supported website. Please consider donating $10 a month to help him cover the expenses of this site.
Post: 1217 24th St., Apt. 36, Des Moines, 50311.
Zelle: newsmanone@gmail.com.

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