… I would have told you today about COVID 19 if we had been able to have a glass of wine and a salad together on the patio of a little neighborhood café.
Prologue: After lunch, as The Hunter left to go scouting for a good turkey hunting spot (the season opens next week), he asked what I was going to do.
I said: “I don’t know. Maybe write. I’m way past due for a blog post, but I’m not sure what to write about.”
He replied: “I should have thought that you would have had something to say about COVID 19 by now.”
“I have lots to say, as you well know, but none of it is constructive or of any use and would probably get me tossed from most places as hateful, hard-hearted and anti-scientific.”
My thoughts are none of those things, by the way. They merely proceed from a place of common sense and the optimism of pioneering ancestors who left their homes with no guarantees of anything. I find that the world (or at least those members of it I hear about in the media) has no common sense and wants to be insured against all risk. This, I think, is silly and also impossible.
First Thing: There was a lot of talk early on about using this lock down time to “really accomplish” something. People envisioned, at the very least, being the next Shakespeare writing King Lear during a time of plague. Or another Newton making all kinds of interesting scientific discoveries. Then reality set in and most people realized that King Lear was not going to happen, and gravity had already been discovered. The adjustment from normal to new-normal took a lot more brain space than anyone anticipated.
Life now is rather like being asked to drop everything and travel to a foreign country with no time for any prep beforehand. You end up at your destination without your normal traveling clothes or toiletries or books or whatever it is that you always take on your trips, but you figure – oh well, I can always buy them here. And then just after that thought, you realize you probably don’t have enough money with you. And you think ‘Oh well, it will only be for a couple of days; I can manage.’ And then you find out your return ticket has been canceled and because of unforeseen circumstances, no one knows when things will be running again. You are stuck.
So, you settle down and try to do the best you can. But in this country, which you thought you knew fairly well, people speak a slightly different dialect than you do. This means you have to listen really carefully to what people are saying, because while the words seem familiar, they don’t appear to mean exactly the same thing. And you have to watch really hard and try to figure out the customs – what the people in this land think is appropriate behavior – because again, while things seem familiar, there are some very different twists. You have to shop differently, you have to play differently, you have to work differently, you have to parent differently, you have to teach differently. And it is all exhausting – particularly when you combine your new life, with your rapidly decreasing funds and the worry about when you are going to be able to get back home.
And so you have no energy for accomplishing even the normal things, much less great works of art or historic scientific discoveries. The lesson? If you make it through the day intact, you have done enough.
Second Thing: Why would the head of the CDC, Robert Redfield, think it is a good idea to announce right now that “there’s a possibility that the assault of the virus on our nation next winter will actually be even more difficult than the one we just went through.” The media of course is running with this and predicating dire things. After seeing the headlines it’s a wonder people aren’t hiding under their beds, waiting for blood to pour from all their orifices as in the black death.
This kind of irresponsible speculation gets me angrier and more anxious than any pathogens do. First off, with the word “possibility” Mr. Redfield admits it’s only speculation. People are struggling enough with the present reality. We don’t need speculative gratuitous pessimism right now, thank you very much. .
Second, no one – not any of the science organizations, not any of the modelers, not any of the authorities, not any of the governments – has gotten a thing completely right yet. No one has the big picture; no one knows how this virus is going to act. There are new discoveries every day. So why start a panic about next winter? Why don’t you focus on getting things right in the present? This kind of talk drives me nuts.
In a crisis, good leaders keep their language positive, they encourage their teams, they show them how far they’ve come and while in the midst of one crisis, they don’t start speculating about what they don’t know about a future one. At least not out loud. In other words, they shouldn’t stand around bleating like Eeyore.
There, I’ve said my two things and even thought I tried not to, I seemed to end in a rant. I’ll be quiet now.
Epilogue: Even though you couldn’t join us, I did have a salad for lunch, and I did have a glass of wine. But it wasn’t on the patio. The Hunter and I were in the kitchen with the heat going full throttle. The winds are blasting as if it’s January and flinging handfuls of snowflakes about. Even the weather is conspiring to make this new normal as bizarre as possible.