Yes, I know that the original idiom used a ten-foot pole, but in our coronavirus pandemic days we’ve shortened the pole. A ten-foot pole will certainly work for us, but six feet is all that is required... especially if you wear a mask. Now that I think about it, people running around wearing a mask and carrying a pole might be a frightening sight. It’s a good thing the bank lobbies are closed! They don’t even like for us to wear caps inside there.

You may have heard them referred to as “bargepoles.” That’s because they were used to help navigate barges and rafts down the river. The old saying, which dates back to the mid-1700s, has taken on a whole new meaning. Most of us don’t literally use a pole, except as an expression that means to avoid something, or someone, at all cost. It’s kind of like the cliché “Avoiding someone like the plague,” which is not so cliché these days. We do not all have aversions to the same things. While some would not touch raw oysters with a ten-foot pole, others gobble them up. Someone might cross to the other side of a street to avoid meeting a certain person, while someone else might walk hand in hand with that same person...well, not right now. I believe we all have an aversion to catching the coronavirus.

In a society that likes to shake hands and even hug, not touching is not easy, but lately, neither is the outcome of being too close. Staying six feet away from someone who is infected is certainly better than being six feet below them!

Last week I saw someone who literally had a six-foot pole which he used to safely keep his distance. Normally, I might be offended by such behavior; however, in light of the coronavirus, and the fact that he was handing out ice-cream, I joyously welcomed his actions. One of mine and Jean’s favorite spots in Opelika, not to mention Drew’s, is O Town Ice Cream. We visit there frequently, especially during the summer. Since such establishments have been closed, we have been sad. I have suffered severe ice cream withdrawals. Since we can’t go to O Town, O Town has come to us! Amen and hallelujah! I did not hear the bells on Christmas day, but I did the bells of the ice-cream truck and it was music to my ears. What could be better than ice cream right in front of your house? Well, ice cream in your mouth, of course. Now here’s where the six-foot pole came into play. You place your order and the ice-cream man retrieves your money with a grabber-nabber, six feet long, of course. Then he hands your ice cream to you with the same grabber. What a genius invention!!!

I need to buy myself a six-foot grabber-nabber. Some people may call them call them a gripper, reacher, reach extender, trash picker, or gopher. Such an apparatus would be especially helpful to those individuals to have to touch you when they talk to you. They are really having a hard time communicating from a distance but with a pole, or a grabber-nabber, they can still touch. In fact, there are those who like to grab you by the arm or shoulder, or poke you with their finger, especially when they think you aren’t listening. The grabber-nabber would be perfect for such individuals, but you may want to run when you see them coming.

One thing is for sure, we certainly do not have to keep our distance from God during this or any other time. In the Bible, James said, “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.”

— Bill King is a native of Rainsville, where he and his wife graduated from Plainview High School. King is a director of missions in Opelika, a writer, musician and author. His column appears in the Times-Journal Thursdays edition. Visit for more information.

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