It is a truth unjustly under-acknowledged that the most fun a person can have online is to riff upon on a topical, novel, and intrinsically funny proper noun. And on November 25th, a New Brunswick man gave this early Christmas gift to Atlantic Canadians by explaining to CBC reporter Vanessa Blanch that he felt unfairly maligned for bringing COVID-19 to New Brunswick.

Did he bring COVID-19 to New Brunswick? Yes, from Alberta.

Did he self-isolate? Yes—albeit only starting after receiving a phone call from NB’s public health agency telling him he’d tested positive. 

Had he felt sick? Well, he told CBC he sought a test based on a sniffle he blamed on jet-lag, and he wanted to confirm that he didn’t have COVID-19 before embarking on another business trip. 

That man’s name? Cortland Cronk. Cortland. Cronk.

Cortland, like the apple variety. 

Cronk, like the 19th century quasi-root beer

Cronk, like the Australian slang word meaning “sick” or “ailing.”

krȯŋk: like the phoneme that’s funny to say. 

Image: Kirsten Morry.

Now, at this juncture in the explainer you may be thinking: “Well, the poor guy got COVID, and it doesn’t seem like he’s done anything wrong. It seems a bit mean to mock his name.” One of my closest friends took this eminently reasonable stance yesterday, but this morning I woke up to a message reading simply:  “Cormoran Cronk, detective. Lost his leg in a weed explosion.”

Besides an excellent opportunity to satirize the protagonist of JK Rowling’s pseudonymous noir detective novels, what accounts for such a volte-face

To truly understand the saga, we must all wait for the special Dog Island podcast episode summarizing all this. (As Canadians, thanks to the Cronkstitution Act (1982), we have a right to expect that in the fullness of time.)

Meanwhile, what follows is a handy guide.

The Cronk Saga

November 25th saw the rapid accretion of funny details about Mr. Cronk, some of which stood in contrast to characterizations he’d made to the CBC.

Immediately after taking his COVID test, he travelled from Saint John to Fredericton to buy clothing from a custom tailor. But Jeff Alpaugh, the tailor, clarified on Twitter that “This guy is not a client… He was trying to sell me video marketing services.” Mr. Cronk claimed that New Brunswick’s public health agency told him not to tell anyone he had COVID so as not to cause panic; he took this advice so far as to lie to Mr. Alpaugh and text him, in response to a direct inquiry, that Mr. Cronk was COVID-negative. 

Cronk told CBC that he was considered an essential worker as “he offered software support to auto dealers. Without the software, he explained, repairs couldn’t be performed on the vehicles of first responders.”

However, he’s also a weed accessory entrepreneur. This is an honourable line of work in modern Canada, to be sure, but not one that most would characterize as essential.

This detail provides a natural segue to the real plot twist in the Cortland Cronk story: a video he’d posted on October 31 (and which apparently went unseen by CBC before his lamentations were published) in which he tries various strains of weed, complains that he can’t taste anything, speculates specifically on the possibility of COVID infection and describes his extensive and very recent travels throughout and beyond the late lamented Atlantic Bubble for the purpose of business meetings. So much for a test out of an abundance of caution before taking any more business trips!

Image: @cam_oflage

Cortland, if you’re reading this, I salute your commitment to posting through it, and do earnestly think your story has prompted an important discussion on the mixed messages from government authorities—and the inherent limits of a policy centred on exhorting individuals to exercise personal judgement.

Please do not read further, as what follows is a series of humorous tweets premised on your name. 


Main Image: Glen Bartlett (@gbartlett79)

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Kirsten Morry is a lawyer and humourist from St. John's, and a recognized authority on hairstyles, royalty, and Animal Crossing (inasmuch as she was heavily quoted in a single Wall Street Journal article uniting all three of those topics). She appeared on the quiz show Jeopardy! in 2018.