As health officials the world over worry about the specter of a flu pandemic rivaling that of 1918, we, in this country at least, are in the grip of another kind of viral pandemic that, although not as physically dangerous, is nonetheless already of epic proportions. And just as the bird flu preferentially attacks and wreaks maximal damage among the young and healthy, so does the virus of which I write.
What virus? The Like Virus.
The youth of this country, especially the female youth, from the start of adolescence through thirty something are becoming afflicted with the Like Virus in pandemic proportions. And the epicenter of this pandemic has got to be Boulder, Colorado from where we just spent the last week getting moved.
What is the Like Virus?
It is a viral-like meme that once heard insinuates itself deep into the linguistic centers of the brains of afflicted adolescents. Once there it corrupts their ability to speak without using the word “like.”
Before the viral infection a college student might say: It was the most difficult exam I’ve ever taken. After infection, the same sentence is corrupted to: It was, like, the most difficult exam I’ve ever taken. Or in especially virulent infestations: It was, like, the most difficult test I’ve, like, ever taken.
Sufferers of the Like Virus don’t pause when trying to come up with just the right word, they fill the void with a string of likes, as in: I’m going to this, like, really big party tonight, and it’s…like…like…like…like a costume, like, Halloween party.
This Like Virus affliction is so pervasive in Boulder that if “like” were removed from the vocabulary the entire town would be mute. People couldn’t speak. Verbal communication would come to a standstill. It sounds unbelievable, but it’s true. I’ve tested the theory.
I have a niece who lives in Northern New Mexico (not far from Boulder–maybe a couple of hundred miles) the DNA of whose speech has been entirely taken over by the like virus. Whenever we’re together and she says something along the lines of, “I’m like going on this great hike next weekend,” I always ask of her: “Are you like going on a great hike or are you actually going on a great hike”? After the repetition of this exercise a half dozen or so times, she will start to speak, realize a “like” is about to pop out, catch herself and not say “like,” but be unable to complete the sentence. It’s anecdotal evidence that removing “like” from the vocabulary of one so infected will mute them. I just don’t know for how long.
Unfortunately, these diseased adolescents don’t seem to grow out of or be able to shake off this pernicious infection without serious intervention. And worse yet, they’re spreading it not only to their peers, but to their parents and others who should know better. It’s Gresham’s Law of Money applied to language. Gresham’s Law says that bad money drives good money out of circulation. Bad language also drives good language out of circulation. Parents, who were never themselves afflicted with the Like Virus in their own youths, just by proximity are now eaten up with it. Fortunately, the very young don’t seem to catch it. Little girls and little boys live their lives blissfully free of infection, unaware of what awaits them at about age 10.
After a brutal week of moving and having my ears assailed by countless “likes” during trips into town, MD and I finally left for the airport to fly to Santa Barbara where, thankfully, the Like Virus, though certainly present, hasn’t penetrated nearly as deeply as it has in Boulder. Unfortunately, we were in for one last assault.
The only direct flights between Denver and Santa Barbara are on 50-passenger jets. These jets are too small to allow boarding through a typical airport gate; they require going down to ground level, walking across the tarmac to the plane, and climbing up a set of boarding stairs. In their infinite concern for passenger comfort United Airlines (the operators of these jets) always opens the upstairs gate for boarding so that all the passengers can go through and end up standing on the stairs going down while waiting for the next phase. In this case we all stood on the stairs for 10-15 minutes before an airline official decided to open the lower gate so that we could all walk out to the plane. Two steps below us were two young women of late teens/early twenties vintage, one of whom wore a University of Colorado sweatshirt (for those who don’t know, the University of Colorado is located in Boulder). The were speaking animatedly about a host of subjects, shedding likes like dandruff. In the space of time MD and I were trapped in the stairwell we counted over FOUR HUNDRED likes, with only a half dozen used appropriately. Assuming we were there for 10 minutes, that’s 40 likes per minute, which is about the speed at which I type. That’s almost a like per second. Of course, there were two of them, so that’s only a like per every three or four seconds per person, which, by Boulder standards isn’t all that bad.
I just hope these women weren’t reservoirs of the virus sent to seed Santa Barbara.

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