The Covid Diaries 7 – The Wipers

The Wipers are here.

On every main street, you’ll seet them during daylight hours. Young people, many of whom appear to be Indian students, wearing high vis vests. Orange in Burke Road. Yellow in Victoria Street. Is it plumage?

They travel in packs of five or more. They chat as they slowly move down the street. They seem happy. What are they doing?

They’re wiping.

Each one holds a spray bottle of some kind of liquid, and a rag. They spray things. So many things. All the things.

Then they wipe.

They appear to show a preference for metal. Sign posts. Door handles of shuttered shops. Tram timetables. Rubbish bins. They casually walk near these structures, almost appearing to glide past them, but then WHAM! A quick spray, an even quicker wipe, and they’re floating down the street again like extremely obvious ghosts.

The natural assumption would be that they are disinfecting. These are the Plague Times after all. There is probably a demand for disinfection. But this assumption is wrong.

If the Wipers were disinfecting public fittings to minimise infection, they would be cleaning things that people touch a lot. Like their hands and faces, or the fruit aisle in Woolworths. Anything at knee level if children are involved.

But they don’t. They wipe things that no-one would ever touch. Handles of shops that are closed. Filthy lamp posts that no-one in their right mind goes near. Bins. Bins! None of these things are vectors of infection. That can’t be the explanation.

So what are they doing? Is it some kind of mating ritual? Can’t be, it’s Autumn. Is it a social occasion? Certainly not, we haven’t relaxed social distancing that much. What can it be?

Could it be infection theatre?

I would hate to be taken for a cynical person, but a crushing sense of powerlessness is a terrible thing. Perhaps horrific ennui has infiltrated the highest levels of Council, leading them to hire unemployed Indian students to go around and wipe things. It doesn’t seem to achieve much in terms of antisepsis, but perhaps the councillors sleep better. I certainly hope so. Perhaps the council officers, diligently WFH, are actually the silent victims of the mental health catastrophe that has thus far failed to materialise. Perhaps this will make all the difference for them.

In which case, I salute you, Wipers! Vive l’essuyage!

Not all heroes wear capes.


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