We’re standing out front of the hotel on West 28th Street, me and the guy from the front desk. Just talking. He asks me what I do for a living.

“Newspapers, huh?” he says. “So what do you make of this coronavirus?”

I tell him it was a poorly-handled disaster that unfolded in slow motion, that I can’t wait for us to be past it, and that it’s shameful that half a million Americans had to lose their lives over it, but here we are.

“I don’t know,” he says.

He don’t know if those numbers are real. He don’t know if they’re just trying to scare everybody or not. He don’t know about that vaccine. Definitely don’t know about that.

“I got the vaccine,” I say. “Moderna.”

He shrugs.

“What about the flu?” he asks. “You telling me that all these people got coronavirus and no one got the flu?”

I am telling him that. Everything’s closed; everyone’s been staying home. We wear masks and wash our hands and avoid crowds. If we did that every year, there’d be no such thing as the flu.

“I don’t know,” he says.

What about the vaccine, I ask him. You gonna get the vaccine?

“They want us to,” he says, “but I don’t know. It’s hard to get around here.”

I suggest he come down to North Carolina, where we’ve got plenty to go around. Vaccine tourism, I call it.

“That’s never gonna happen,” says a new voice with an unmistakable New York accent: skinny dude, red hair, black mask, Yankees cap. “Just like with taking away our guns. They can’t do it.”

It is notoriously difficult to obtain a legal handgun in New York City, I know.

“They’re just trying to control us,” he continues. “I mean, I’ll wear your stupid mask, but c’mon. It’s basically the flu.”

“I know,” says Hotel Guy.

“They had a vaccine for coronavirus for animals in the 1980s!” Ballcap says.

I didn’t know that, I say.

Hotel Guy shrugs and Ballcap pulls down his mask to reveal his freckled face.

“I’m a chef,” he says. “That’s how I know.”

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