Thursday, September 10, 2020


Walking on campus, Elaine and I, masked, see a student, unmasked, headed straight toward us, slowly, head down, reading his phone. We left the pavement and stepped far away to walk around him.

“Giving you a wide berth, son!” I shouted.

He turned. “What?” He looked a bit like Joe Kennedy III. No, more than a bit. Maybe he was reading about his doppelgänger’s primary loss.

“I’m giving you a wide berth!”

This time he didn’t say anything. He just kept walking and reading, unmasked.

It didn’t occur to me until much later that he may not have known what it means to give someone a wide berth. Someone will have to explain it to him. (Joe Kennedy III?)

comments: 6

Anonymous said...

On my campus one can find students who are wearing masks even if they are the only one on the sidewalk. Some students have taken the rules to heart- masks, 6 ft and wash hands. Then again some of the fraternities and sororities not so much. They have been the major outbreaks with the county health department canceling all of their September events.

Then again the President of the school worked hand-in-hand with the county health department since June to set-up the handling of students.

Michael Leddy said...

Yep. That’s exactly why the question of relative responsibility would make a good essay subject.

Daughter Number Three said...

Maybe he thought you said you were giving him a "white birth."

Michael Leddy said...

That he might have understood.

J D Lowe said...

A passage from Compton Mackenzie's Whiskey Galore provides an example of usage in this time of need, "We can, however, commiserate with Captain Buncher who on that Sabbath morning in March paced the deck of the S. S. Cabinet Minister, outward bound to New York, when he expressed a passionate desire to hear the bell which warned mariners against the Skerrydoo, an unpleasant black reef awash at half tide to which ships proceeding down the Minch gave a wide berth." Unfortunately, this pleasant - and apparently necessary - story is unlikely to appear on any required reading list, although there was a 1949 film, and a 2016 remake to assist in the education of today's youth :-)

Michael Leddy said...

That looks like a fun novel (and movie). I checked to see if the OED might cite this passage, but citations for the nautical berth don’t make it past the nineteenth century.