I am afraid. I get up at six in the morning. I turn on the radio, and they’ve already ruined my day: “Getting up early is bad for your health,” according to a study by the University of Westminster. Apparently, my body is now full of cortisol, which apparently is a hormone that comes out of the adrenal glands. I step into a World War II aircraft carrier–sized mask. I wash my face with hydroalcoholic gel. I look at the bottle. I think about the chance that someone might have put coronavirus in my mouth while I was asleep. I look at the bottle again. I hesitate. I take a swig. Gargle. And I’m off downstairs for my coffee.
At the table next to mine in the cafeteria, a guy is going on and on about his recent trip to South Africa. I picture hundreds of thousands of South African–strain coronavirus particles gushing out of all his orifices. As a first safety measure, I avoid breathing. I hold my breath for a couple of minutes until my skin turns the color of Nicole Kidman’s eyes. Before passing out, I choose to discreetly move away; nose and mouth covered, I breathe through my ears.
Orange juice, newspaper. Terrible news about climate change: “Sea level rising four times faster than predicted”; all over the world, “People will soon die from overheating”; “Biden urges governments to fight climate change” (by raising taxes to the stratosphere). I’m getting hot, very hot. The air is thick. Hyperventilating. It’s climate change. I’m sure of it.
The orange juice reconciles me with nature. This has to be as natural as it gets. To hell with it. On page 56, in that part of the newspaper where one expects to find only sports and pretty girls, there is more disturbing news: “Why you should stop drinking orange juice right now.” Damn it, right now? A bundle of nerves, I spill my juice all over the coffee. While trying to move the mug out of the way, I then spill all the coffee over the idiot just back from South Africa, who in turn reciprocates my courtesy, lashing out at me with a string of insults, pulling his mask down to make his expletives easier to understand.
It’s 8:30 in the morning and I’m a poor writer, wet with South African strain spittle, on the verge of dying by drought and flood simultaneously, and in the off chance I manage to survive such an apocalypse, I’m likely to collapse from an excess of fructose due to my orange juice intake, which, according to a journalist, will leave my immune system about as vigorous as Biden taking on a 600-pound bench press.
I get into my brand-new car, ready to forget all the stress, and take a drive through the city. I love the smell of new. I turn on the radio: “A report from the University of California Riverside warns about the harmful health effects of the new car smell.” I rub my eyes. I don’t believe it. The world is conspiring against me. Apparently, reports a female voice that is equal parts sexy and ominous, “An exposure to benzene and formaldehyde for more than 20 minutes exceeds the tolerance limit recommended by health authorities.” Good grief. I open the windows and stick my head outside.
Police: “Citizen! Pull over.”
“You were driving with your head outside the vehicle,” he points out.
“Indeed, you are very perceptive.”
“Are you aware of what you were doing?”
“I think so, unless the shot of hydroalcoholic gel has gone to my head.”
“Haven’t you read the new report in the Indian Journal of Orthopaedics about drivers sticking limbs out of the car?”
“Tell me no more — do their cortisol levels spike?”
“Do they make sea levels rise?”
“Do they contribute to the deforestation of the Amazon?”
“Do they catch the automotive strain of coronavirus?”
“OK, then I’m all ears … ”
“They have followed up more than 30 guys with limb amputations, dislocations, burns, and other highway injuries. Almost all of them were caused by sticking something out of the window. So you can choose between reckless driving or attempted suicide by decapitation — without the aggravating factor of jihadism — and the fine is about the same. This is just to remind you to never stick anything out of the window.”
“I have had a very stressful day. May I have a cigarette?” I ask, melancholic.
“Of course, but you would still have to choose between a crime against national health or a fine for removing his mask in front of a policeman. It’s about the same amount. We even have a special offer on this month: if you also take off your mask, cough into the palm of your hand, and throw a lit cigarette into the roadside shrubbery, you win a weekend — all expenses paid — in the nearest county prison.”
I give up in the face of the policeman’s retort, but not before wishing with all my heart that he got up early this morning and had a large glass of orange juice.
Wrapped up in four blankets, with the windows completely closed, I sit and wait for the fatal outcome while reading a book on the history of Nazism. But a new shock makes me jump out of bed: “Fear is the first cause of totalitarianism in the world.”
Itxu Díaz is a Spanish journalist, political satirist and author. He has written nine books on topics as diverse as politics, music, and smart appliances. He is a contributor to the Daily Beast, the Daily Caller, National Review, the American Conservative, The American Spectator, and Diario Las Américas in the United States, and is a columnist for several Spanish magazines and newspapers. He was also an adviser to the Ministry for Education, Culture, and Sports in Spain. Follow him on Twitter at @itxudiaz or visit his website: www.itxudiaz.com.
Translated by Joel Dalmau