Conrad the Contrarian: Pandemic hangovers

In Denmark we have all but forgotten the pandemic. Like a DSB skraldepose, we’ve left it behind with an amnesia about the last two years. The only lasting memories are the relics: the objects surviving from that ancient time.
Recently I saw a faded ‘Hold Afstand’ sticker on the floor at my supermarket, which today is a bit like finding an old VHS tape or a twenty-five øre coin.
Here are some of my favourites from that ancient time which still cling on:

Empty hand sanitiser – no building entrance is complete without an obligatory empty bottle of hand sanitiser standing in a dusty case, often bolted to the wall. Sometimes, randomly and feeling nostalgic, we decide we should try it. Of course, nothing comes out because it hasn’t been filled up since January 2022.

Brug albuen stickers – the average DSB door button probably has more bacteria on it than a Heidi’s Bier Bar pissoir. The solution: little stickers telling us to use our elbows. And we did for a while. Like some sort of twisted crab we buckled to push tiny buttons this way. Now we’re back to poking them and licking our fingers.

Plastic screens – although mostly removed, a few shops still have these and when you see one, it is nostalgic. Big swinging sheets of clear plastic that made it borderline impossible to talk to the staff. The best solution was crouching to get your face below the screen, the shop owner doing the same, just to be able to understand each other, and of course bringing your faces closer than ever. Who knows how many members of staff spread the virus by removing their face mask and getting their head into a position so they would breathe directly into a customer’s open mouth?

Mundbind – the symbol of the pandemic. For so long they were mandatory virtually everywhere, and now seeing someone wearing one sparks the same feeling a birdwatcher must have when they see a rare breed in the wild. We would walk around, ears pulled forward, looking like depressed surgeons. It felt like it would be forever.

Mundbind etiquette 1 – how can we forget this in a hurry? My favourite was probably the sneeze. Were we still supposed to lift our hands? I watched a man sneeze explosively into his facemask, without moving his arms, and just continue to stand as though nothing had happened.

Mundbind etiquette 2 – or was it the cough? Too many times I saw people pull down their facemask to cough into their fist, as though it made any sense. Once in a supermarket a woman pulled down her mask, coughed violently into her hand and then used that hand to find out which pears were the softest.

Mundbind etiquette 3 – of course, we needed signs to remind us how to wear the mundbind. Many thought their nose could happily stick out over the top, or that it could just hang from one ear alone. The very best were those who wore it around the wrist, apparently believing that as long as the mundbind could see their mund then it was working effectively.

These items will continue to float around in our post-pandemic world, raising a small smile of recognition from those who still spot them. Finding a shabby facemask at the bottom of a drawer does make me feel like some kind of archaeologist, and the smell of hand sanitiser will always take me back to 2020.