Matthew Reddin

Hello America, From Australia: Licking Things in a Grocery Store

(Photo by Daniel Lloyd Blunk-Fernández on Unsplash)

In his column, “Licking Things in a Grocery Store,” Matthew Reddin looks at the recent sentencing of a Texas man to 15 months in federal prison for a hoax he posted.


I’d like to add an item to the “Only in America” files, except for the fact that this wouldn’t likely happen only in America. There are unsavory types all over the globe.

There’s a headline, an actual headline that an editor decided to publish, and my mind is doing backflips trying to figure out what’s going on therein:


Man jailed over false claim that he

paid person with COVID-19 to lick

grocery store items


There’s a LOT to unpack here. Any headline with the word “lick” in it is already sending up some red flags. So too when included there is the words “paid,” “COVID-19,” and “false claim.” Put those together in any sentence and it’s going to stir the blood of someone, somewhere. These are contentious, divisive times we are in.

But the headline itself is quite a semiotic safari. What it’s telling us is that someone claimed to do something illegal (presumably paying someone with coronavirus to lick items in a grocery store is at least a misdemeanor), but the licking itself has to be criminal, no? With or without COVID-19, playing tonsil hockey with a row of Corn Flakes boxes is, at best, unsanitary. There have to be ordinances against it, right?

But the story here is that a man, who said he did something suspect, actually didn’t do the thing he said he did, and got in trouble for saying he did.

If you need a lie-down, you’re not alone.


But the story here is that a man, who said he did something suspect, actually didn’t do the thing he said he did, and got in trouble for saying he did.


The story itself is from the online version of USA Today, the go-to news source for people who like to be kept informed on the day’s current events via the medium of pie charts. [We’re having fun.] The opening sentence kinda kills the mood, though.

“A Texas man who posted on Facebook that he paid someone sick with COVID-19 to intentionally spread the virus was just sentenced to 15 months in federal prison.”

Egad. Apparently, the United States has a federal law that criminalizes false information and hoaxes related to biological weapons. And the Texas man (take that, Florida Man!), Christopher Perez, posted: “My homeboys cousin has covid19 and has licked every thing for past 2 days cause we paid him too [sic]. Big difference is we told him not to be these f—— idiots who record and post online. . .YOU’VE BEEN WARNED!!!”

I’m not sure quite what we’ve been warned about? Maybe that he seems to be lost in some forest of indecipherable grammar?

Per the crack team at USA Today, “An online tip was sent to the Southwest Texas Fusion Center showing a screenshot of Perez’s Facebook post, which he posted in April 2020. The Texas center soon contacted the FBI office in San Antonio to further investigate.

“The post turned out to be false, with Perez admitting that he did not pay someone to spread the virus in grocery stores, the statement reads.”

So, we can breathe some measure of relief that A) not everything in a certain Texas grocery store had been licked (and, not for nothing, kudos to the “homeboy” who could have done that … I’d be maybe a dozen tins of tuna into the project and would need some serious rehydrating), plus B) the authorities were on to it when Perez posted online that he was not one of these “f—— idiots who record and post online.”


Also on The Big Smoke


The point of the arrest, and subsequent USA Today BREAKING NEWS is, one presumes, that spreading false information about potentially harmful actions is bad.

“‘Those who would threaten to use COVID-19 as a weapon against others will be held accountable for their actions, even if the threat was a hoax,’ said FBI San Antonio Division Special Agent in Charge Christopher Combs.”

He has a point there. One does wonder what the penalty for actually doing the thing would be, if just telling lies about it on Facebook nets one 15 months in federal prison and a $1,000 fine to boot.

Is there a lesson in all this? Maybe to steer clear of Facebook? (A universal truism.) And know that the fable of “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” (designed to let the kids know that, if they keep telling lies, they’ll whittle down the likelihood of someone taking action to help if they ever find themselves telling the truth) may be more pertinent in the social media age, AND applicable to adults.

“Now, children, let’s hear a story about the virtues of truth-telling. It’s called, The COVID-19 skeptic who told badly-worded lies on social media and ended up in the slammer because we were in no mood for this.”


Matthew Reddin

Matt Reddin has been writing nonsense about film, TV, books, music, and live theatre for a touch over 20 years. He’s gone from the halcyon days of street press in Perth, to regional dailies, national magazines, and major metropolitan newspapers. Now, in between bouts of sporadically yelling at clouds, he vents his creative spleen at

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