And we thought we had problems before. But then something comes along and puts it all in perspective.
Most of us did not witness live the moment when Tony Holohan "clutched his chest" at last Tuesday evening's coronavirus briefing. Indeed some would argue that he didn't exactly clutch his chest, more put his hand gently to it. The footage from the live-stream was subsequently shared more than a message on WhatsApp from a cousin of my brother's friend who is a doctor at Harvard who swears that drinking your own wee will save you from the virus. We are still unsure exactly what Tony Holohan said, but it was something about feeling a bit funny. Lip readers and historians will pore over this footage in times to come, when all this is over.
When they announced Tony had gone in for tests, a million pieces of varying qualities of homemade banana bread paused mid-air between plate and mouth. And that was only the people who are still bothering to use a plate. A chill went through the nation.
We know there are many other experts working with Tony Holohan. There's Cillian de Gascun, a more sciency version of Tony. And the others. People who start every answer, no matter what the question, by saying the one-word sentence "So". The "So" they all use conveys so much. It conveys: "That's a stupid question but I will humour you by pretending to answer it, but by actually saying what I was going to say anyway. And I will finish up by telling you that everyone needs to keep washing their hands." It conveys also: "Why have you asked me again when this is going to be over? I'm not going to be able to give you an accurate answer and no matter how many times you ask, you are not going to get the answer you want to hear."
And we have come to accept all these "So" people as part of our lives now. But Tony is the face of the operation. George Lee, who reports only on major issues like financial crashes, climate Armageddon and global pandemics, was put on the Tony story. And then, on Thursday morning, Elizabeth Canavan, the civil servant who apparently runs the country now with Tony, told us that the CMO was back at his desk. We were relieved, but this wasn't enough. Habeas corpus, we demanded. Produce the body. And sure enough, there was Tony at the briefing that evening. Balance was restored. And what's more, Tony didn't make it about him, he turned it into a learning experience, telling us how the hospital he went to had been empty, and encouraging us all to go to hospital if we didn't feel well. And then we wondered. Had Tony actually felt funny at all? Or was it just a piece of educational theatre to get people to get themselves checked out. That Tony!