In a Word...

...syndrome

Flake, from Old English flakka, for ‘flat, level, particle’

Flake, from Old English flakka, for ‘flat, level, particle’

 

I may be coming down with Covid-19 syndrome. It’s an updated version of Stockholm syndrome, which happens when hostages or abuse survivors bond with their captors/abusers over time.

It was first identified as such in 1973 when two men held four people hostage for six days after a bank robbery in Stockholm. On release the hostages refused to testify against the men and then raised money for their defence.

It came to prominence in 1974 when Patty Hearst, granddaughter of US newspaper mogul William Randolph Hearst, used it as defence in her trail. She had been kidnapped by the Symbionese Liberation Army, renounced her family and joined her captors in robbing banks. She got 35 years.

I have yet to rob a bank or join any liberation army, but I no longer entirely resent the lifestyle imposed on me by the pandemic. Even wearing the mask, I have learned, has a silver lining – though, to be honest, I prefer a cotton one.

It has been very useful in avoiding certain people, on the lines of, “Oh, I didn’t recognise you with the mask!” Such as yer man I shared some escapades with 30 years ago. Every time we meet he insists on recalling those same comparatively innocent times in the same exhausting detail, to his great amusement.

So boring. Rather than be insulting, I try to avoid him and the mask has been a great friend.

Or Mr Dix. I call him that because he reminds me of some eccentric 19th-century character out of a Dickens novel. “How are you today?” he goes, with incredible cheeriness. “Enjoying your walk?” By then I will have taken about four paces from my front door. Hardly yet a “walk”, but it’s probably the cheeriness that gets me. It suggests some brain lobes may be missing.

I can identify such people at 100 metres now and take appropriate avoidance action. All I remain uncertain of is whether the one approaching with that rictus smile is a born-again Christian (Jesus loves you!), a Jehovah’s Witness (Jehovah loves you!) or a psychotherapist (Everyone loves you!).

With a Covid mask I can feign not seeing any of them and escape all that “love”. Whatever will I do in post-vaccine 2021?

Syndrome, from Greek syndromos “a running together” – syn (with) + dromos (a running, course)

inaword@irishtimes.com

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