The call came at the wrong moment.
A woman who wouldn’t give me her name dialed my office. She wanted to take me to task for criticizing Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita. I’d written saying that Rokita’s nonsensical statements that the COVID-19 pandemic wasn’t really a problem were, well, nonsense.
The woman didn’t like that. She yelled at me for a few minutes, shouting the most absurd conspiracy theories and saying that the nearly 20,000 Hoosier deaths from COVID weren’t real.
Every time I tried to respond, she started yelling again. Finally, amid her yells, my own voice sharper than I wanted it to be, I told her that if we both weren’t going to be allowed to talk, I was going to give her another 30 seconds to shout and then I was going to hang up.
She screeched one more time and slammed the phone down.
Normally, I try to be patient with angry readers.
I figure that I have had my say in the column. If they read the column all the way through — a big if, admittedly — the least I can do is give them a couple of minutes so they can have their say.
But, as I say, the call came at a bad time.
I’ve been in and out of hospices, hospitals and doctors’ offices a lot lately.
A few hours before the woman called, I received word that an old friend had died. When I visited him, I often chatted with the medical personnel caring for him. They told me they were bone-tired from dealing with the constant waves of sick people — most of them unvaccinated COVID patients. They said the strains on the system and on them personally were overwhelming.
A little while later I learned that a family member who is battling cancer may not be able to get the medical procedure he needs any time soon.
The hospital near him has run out of beds. They all have been taken up by COVID patients. Almost all those COVID patients are unvaccinated.
That means that people with cancer, heart ailments and other life-threatening challenges just must sit and wait.
Then, not long after that, I found out that yet another family member — a niece who is a doctor — had come down with COVID. The hospital where she worked was overrun with COVID patients.
Again, almost all of them were unvaccinated.
My niece is fully vaccinated and has had the booster. For that reason, she likely will be on her feet again soon.
But she’s not the only medical professional in that hospital who has contracted COVID. Because the doctors, the nurses, the technicians and the other caregivers are surrounded by people with the virus, their chances of getting sick are good.
Even if their cases are mild, they must go into quarantine. They must behave responsibly and be mindful of the threat they pose to others, even if the people for whom they are caring often do not and are not.
When they do quarantine, that further stresses things.
Before she tested positive, my niece was working two 24-hour shifts back-to-back, grabbing sleep in short snatches at the hospital when she could.
Such an exhausting schedule, of course, just makes people more vulnerable.
All because a lot of people don’t want to get vaccinated or wear masks.
The woman on the phone didn’t want to know about that. On whatever plane people such as her — and, for that matter, people such as the state’s attorney general — inhabit, this is all a mirage, a conspiracy conjured up just to confound and inconvenience them.
But here on this planet, in this state, things are real.
Our loved ones are struggling.
Our loved ones are suffering.
Our loved ones are dying.
All because too many people — including some who ought to know better and, in fact, probably do know better, such as our attorney general — prefer to embrace and peddle fantasies.
They have the right to believe what they wish.
They also can call me or write me with their imaginings, and I will do my best to listen and read patiently.
But, if they expect me to take them seriously, knowing what I know, well then, I have only two words for them.