Never Met a Stranger: COVID Thoughts


By T.W. Burger

It seems, overall, like a bad dream.

You know the kind; where you keep falling off the edge of the precipice, forever heading toward the dark water below.

You never get there, but you are always almost there.

You wake up in the morning uneasy, feeling that everything is unresolved.

I spent the better part of 40 years as a reporter for small daily newspapers. If my knowledge on any given topic was a river, it would be very wide, but quite shallow.

It comes with the job. One day I am writing about how landfills work, or how they do not. The next day, I am writing about the details of a multi-vehicle accident and the basic physics about why putting one’s makeup on by gazing in the rearview mirror while driving 70 on the four-lane highway is a bad idea.

The day after that I am either passing on my recent knowledge about how prize hogs are judged, or why the transmission of the AIDS virus is determined by scientifically verified facts and not by the ire of an Old Testament god.

Neither of those topics made me an expert, though they gave me a background a bit deeper than that of my average reader. That is just how it works.

Over the decades, I have become a temporary expert in the effects of alcohol on the nervous system, the effects of various germs, viruses and drugs on the human body and their actions in different plagues and pestilences.

Most of those experiences arose from journalistic research. Some arose from close firsthand experiences with vaccines as preventatives or treatments for allergies, smallpox, polio, hepatitis, measles, mumps, tetanus, and others I no longer remember.

Somewhere, I have my medical records from my years in public schools. I swear, the earliest ones are written on clay tablets.

They list my vaccinations.

It is a lengthy list.

In short, I believe in medical science.

The most frustrating feature of my life currently is that I do not know enough about it. Nobody in their right mind would hire me to lecture about microbiology or virology at some college.

But when one of my several physicians suggests that I start or stop doing something and explains why, I will comply, not race off to take some classes at medical school to see if they know what they are talking about.

That would be silly.

The best example I know of for how frustrating this all is falls from a long, ongoing argument I have with a friend. (Well, I still think of him as a friend, though our mutual political views drive us each up the wall.)

He is anti-vax, anti-mask, thinks the 2020 election was stolen...the list goes on. Still, I still think of him as a friend.

He has sent me packets of “proof” to his views, particularly as regards COVID.

Here is the heartbreaking part: I know enough about the science involved to be convinced that his positions are mostly dead wrong. Even the fact that most of those dying from the varieties of COVID are unvaxed leaves him unmoved.

That would be enough to convince me.

What leaves me down is that I do not know enough about the science to convince him, which tells me if the worst happens, it is partly my fault.

It keeps me awake at night, sometimes.


T.W. Burger was raised in Athens. He graduated from Athens High School in 1967. He worked as a driver of everything from fork trucks to garbage trucks and concrete mixers, has been an apprentice mortician and ambulance attendant.

President of Marsh Creek Media, he has been a newspaper reporter since 1985, mostly in Gettysburg, PA, with various stints at other publications. Semi-retired, he is still working as a freelance writer and lives on the banks of Marsh Creek just outside of Gettysburg.

He is the author of "The Year of the Moon Goose" is currently writing “Never Met a Stranger.”

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