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Keeping our distance

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10 metres apart? What’s all the fuss about? We seldom got closer than that anyway, writes Peter Sherwood

Social distancing? It’s been around forever in subtle white lies, fibs, vapid speech and meaningless metaphors – irritating, insulting, but acceptable, and guaranteed to keep us disconnected.

“Please give her my regards.” Hey, you know her as well as I do, call her up. He knows I won’t be giving any third-party ‘regards,’ that pathetic salutation of flabby meaning, to our mutual ‘friend.’ He doesn’t expect me to pass on his barren greeting. He didn’t mean it, that much we both know. We part company with a limp grin.

“Oh, please say hello to her for me.” Say hello yourself, you hypocritical dope. If you remotely cared, which you don’t, you’d have already achieved your noble gesture and without dragging in my sorry self.

Intention is the key, and the only objective in these fatuous exchanges is escape from gossip with some shallow sense of looking good. Anyway, what am I, an errand boy for fustian platitudes?

“We really must get together.” Must we? Well, we didn’t the last 10 times you offered that gloriously insincere invitation. But we nod our fake agreement. God forbid that people actually did get together every time those worthless words were spoken: The world would be awash with the masses ‘getting together’ and wondering what pointlessness brought them there. “Let’s get in touch and arrange something.” Yes, let’s. And let’s see if we can make it hopelessly vague to ensure nothing other than insignificant will ever come of it.

“OK, I’ll get back to you on that.” No, you won’t. You never got back to anyone about anything in your boring life. Let’s just agree that you never will, ever, and we’ll part faux friends. More socially acceptable bat droppings: “I’ll call you when I’ve got a moment.” Right, how about now? You seem to have a moment – and luckily so do I – you delusional dummy. By the way, I’ve got some news: You’ve had trillions of spare moments. Had you wanted to use a couple on me you might reasonably have done it by now. Please just fade away.

“I’ve been meaning to…” No. You. Have. Not. Not now, not ever. What you’ve been meaning to do is precisely nothing. And I’m still awaiting a reply from the last time you made
that hollow comment. “Thanks, I’ll give that some thought.” Of course you won’t; don’t be silly. Anyway, I’m not clairvoyant so I wouldn’t know if you’re giving it a vacuous thought or not. What you’re doing is sliding backwards out of this desolate interaction minus even a hint of truth or commitment: This is your futile life, you flatulent fool.

“The wife and I are moving back to Canada to Moosebum, Saskatchewan; you must drop by, it will be lovely to see you.” Oh, boy, I can’t wait to get to Moosebum. And so our dull interlocutor is off the hook, but he walks away glowing like World Host of the Year; Mr Hospitality. The same tedious moron I’ve known for 30 years who has never been known to buy anyone a drink.

Peter Sherwood has lived in DB for over 20 years. The former head of an international public relations firm, Peter is the author of 15 books and has written around 400 satirical columns for the South China Morning Post.

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