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The Globe and Mail

My rebellion against coughing into my elbows, happiness surveys and other mandated idiocies

It was at one hotel or another on my recent book tour excursion to Montreal and Ottawa that I held open a door for a woman behind me.

She nodded in thanks and then, rather adroitly I thought, kept it open for the guy behind her with her elbow. A day or so later, in one hotel elevator or another, I noticed someone else pressing the button for her floor with her elbow.

These people have hands, I rush to add. Canada has not overnight become a nation of folks with arms lopped off below the elbow.

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My fellow citizens were simply practising what is now deemed good germ hygiene, and avoiding touching allegedly dirty public objects (elevator buttons, door handles, knobs of all sorts and the like) with their pristine paws.

It all stems from the current public health dictum for sneezing into one's elbow, already well-inculcated into elementary school children, who, when not breaking or hiding their parents' cigarettes or reporting them to the authorities for various offences, are coughing into the crooks of their arms like the obedient little snots they are.

Moi, je refuse: I shall cough into my cupped hands until I lose the slight dexterity that requires and then I shall hack unashamedly into the public air. By that time, I expect, I will be well into the public farting years anyway, so I figure I might as well cough too.

(As I approach those years, I still have no idea why it is that as one gets older, one grows more flatulent, but I do recognize it as a curious truth. Perhaps my wise colleague André Picard, The Globe's health guy and a lovely man too, can explain it in a column one day.)

Anyway, this is all part and parcel of my own private rebellion against mandated idiocy. I am perfectly capable of my own idiocy, thank you so much, and need indulge in none of the legislated or government-encouraged sort.

Thus I vow never to use any of the phrases now in vogue within government, big corporations and every company with a human resources department.

I will not move forward, unless I'm in a lineup. I will not reach out to anyone, unless it is to accept a glass of red on offer. I decline participation in happiness surveys conducted by my employer. I certainly will not share anything.

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Speaking of this, though I am nominally on Facebook, I post nothing there; it's just a necessary tool/evil of the job. But recently among some outstanding "friend" requests, I noticed one from my Vancouver colleague Gary Mason.

Now Mr. Mason is a cutie, and a favourite of mine, so I friended him, purely in the hopes that he might have posted some naked pictures of himself.

Alas, he hadn't. But I did notice this week that in The Globe's Facebook Activity section of our website, he had "shared" something.

What he'd shared, the modest flower, was an earlier column he'd written, you know, in case anyone missed it either online or in the paper. I immediately sent him a rude e-mail. Then I noticed that other colleagues had similarly "shared" some of their earlier work in the Facebook section that same day. Clearly, it is part of some new journo world order I missed.

But darlings, that ain't sharing. That's touting. If I was resentful when I was expected to be my own liquor control board, I flat out refuse to be my own publicist.

I decline also to distract myself while running or walking. I gave up my iPod months ago. The hands-free thingy for the car sits in the glove box. It was a thoughtful gift from a friend, but I've decided to pare down on electronic gizmos of all descriptions in order that I may notice and even take pleasure in my surroundings. Since one of my running mates is prone to stop and gaze, in wonder, at a particularly well-formed branch, tree stump and the like, such pleasures are often pointed out to me.

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In any case, my earbud-less state means I am one of a decided minority of people walking around who do not appear to be aggressively talking to themselves. (I have noticed that the genuinely mentally ill now have to practically yell in order even to be noticed, which, mentally ill as they are, many of them nonetheless manage to do at just the right moment.) All those who are on cells or listening to music, however, do provide wonderful cover, and now I can chat to the dog, sing and whistle to him, without the slightest apprehension.

My hunch is that this widespread distraction of the general public will come in even more handy once I am solidly into the farting years.

Until then, I will continue to use my elbows as God intended, which is to say as I used to use them as a particularly hapless guard for my high-school basketball team – and that is, to flatten anyone who gets in my way.

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