Let’s not go into the details of the government’s plan to jump-start the British economy. Let’s talk instead about the serious stuff: The chancellor, Rishi Sunak, presented his budget sitting at a desk the size of Ohio with a computer in front of him and rows of identically bound books behind him, looking at a printout, pen in hand as if he’s about to take three zeros away from a whole bunch of programs and add one to a bunch of other, worthier ones.
Have I built up enough suspense yet?
So there he is, presenting himself to the nation as the guy we can trust to save our asses from looming economic disaster, and what does he have on the corner of his desk? A mug.
No big deal, you say? I’d have said the same thing, but some wiseacre spotted that it’s a £180 mug. The kind that keeps your beverage at exactly the temperature you set it to.
“Our smart mug,” the copy on the mug’s website drones, “allows you to set an exact drinking temperature and keeps it there for up to three hours, so your coffee is never too hot, or too cold.”
And the promotional copy comes with a spare comma at no extra charge. Bonus points if you can spot it.
It’s good to be reminded that the country’s being led by people who understand how ordinary folks live.
The identically bound books? Did he buy them wholesale because they make an impressive backdrop?
Nah, that’s too cynical even for me. I would never plant that thought in your head.
Okay, I shouldn’t exaggerate. The mug doesn’t really cost £180. It costs £179.95, but by the time they add shipping and handling–hell, I figured we’d be somewhere in the neighborhood.
Drive-in comedy clubs have opened in London parking lots, allowing you to go to a live (sort of) show without risking the spread of the virus. You park, you tune your radio to whatever they tell you to tune it to, and you watch someone perform standup on a big screen. If you’d like to laugh, you honk your horn to set that tone of communal experience that’s so important in live theater.
You’re welcome to laugh as well, but you’re less likely to want to, because something about hearing other people laugh makes us laugh. If other people are laughing, our bodies decide, we must be hearing something funny. We’re herd animals. It’s the same mechanism that sets whole fields full of cows laughing at the same time.
FYI: In British, a parking lot is a car park. In American, a car park is a parking lot. In the rest of the world, I’m out of my depth so I’ll shut up.
The government missed another coronavirus testing target. Does anyone care anymore? Nah. We just tell each other, “Well, at least they’re still setting targets. That means they’re trying, right?”
The correct answer to that is, “Right.” It makes us feel so much better.
This target was about getting test results to people. By the end of June, 100% were supposed to get toe people in 24 hours. Or–why be misers?–possibly more than 100% Instead, they managed 54.9% by July 1. But hey, close enough. They both involve numbers. And months. So the will was there.
The government has finally extended testing to asymptomatic workers whose jobs put them in contact with lots of people–folks like cab drivers, pharmacists, and cleaners.
What took the government so long? Good question. Without testing asymptomatic people, we’re not likely to get ahead of this beast.
But I don’t really give you a full picture here. I focus on the fuckups and the bad decisions. That’s partly because they infuriate me and partly because they’re easy to make fun of. And the government makes so many of them. Wouldn’t I be ungrateful not to enjoy that bounty?
In spite of the incompetence this government’s so good at, cases are going down by somewhere between 2% and 5% a day. Assuming, of course, that anyone knows what the numbers are given how limited testing’s been.
It looks like Britain will tell the European Union that it doesn’t want to be part of an EU corona virus vaccine-buying plan. According to a House of Commons committee, that’s because Britain refused to pay the EU some money this year. According to government ministers, though, it’s because Britain can get just as good a deal on its own. Besides, the EU plan would limit the number of doses it could get, would be slower than going it alone, and the grapes were sour anyway.
We’ll be fine.
Enough about Britain. Let’s hear from New York.
A Manhattan branch of the upscale (I think–I haven’t been there) food market Trader Joe’s has had long lines outside since the start of the pandemic, and people on the line do what people do these days when they have to wait: They talk on their phones. Loudly. Driving the people who live in the building (or possibly buildings, but we only know about one–and by we, of course, I mean me) behind them nuts, because let’s face it, most of those conversations are dull as ditchwater and even the ones that aren’t, you know, sometimes you just want to sleep in, or have your own conversation, or think your own thoughts.
So being New Yorkers, the people in one building took action: They copied down parts of the conversations they overheard, put them on signs, and hung them out their windows.
“Stacey,” one read. “Shut up. No one cares you are getting more frozen berries for your epic smoothies.”
They change some of the names, but there’s no guarantee.
“You know what Jaclyn!? I think he IS cheating on you.”
“Hey Christopher, we can hear that Match, Tinder, Bumble and maybe Grindr have not been doing you justice in these times.”
You can find more on Instagram: @traderjoeslineUWS.
Has it make people shut up? Given how many signs there are, I’d guess not, but it’s made everyone who lives in the building happier.