As some regular readers know, sometimes I plan a post, and sometimes an idea needs to be worked out by writing about it. (Note to writers, the planned posts don’t get more traffic than the extemporaneous ones. Overthinking happens.) Recently I heard a story on NPR about the people quarantined in their homes because of the coronavirus, which now has some other name. (For a brief amateur’s description, mine, of why some are worried, read Practice Pandemic which can lead to other sources.) Hearing the story about a person trapped in their house reminded me that the disaster you prepare for may never happen, but the preparations can be valuable, anyway.
The person NPR interviewed has been quarantined at home for over a month. The emotional progression went from worry with a bit of guilty pleasure at time off, to pragmatic concerns about supplies and how much longer they have to stay home. The atmosphere sounds more spooky than quiet patience.
The thing that made me think was how this is so unlike other disaster scenarios. In earthquakes and storms, after the event the survivors have to deal with outages of power, food, water, medicine, etc. Surviving the event leads to rebuilding a life. Emergency preparation kits concentrate on food, water, shelter, communications, and health. In this viral disaster, at the start almost everything is available, infrastructure isn’t damaged, few people have died, but the survivors don’t know if they will survive. Even if they do survive, how do they live while exercising a prisoner’s version of patience?
Power, electricity, and usually water are delivered via a network. There’s no need for people to contact people. Sewer or septic are hands-off (mostly). In a quarantine, food and medicine are the pragmatic supplies that may be difficult to deliver, and the lack of community and human contact can affect the mental health. At least some semblance of community exists with social media, but Liking someone’s post is not the same as a hug.
Hello, well-stocked pantry. Hello, home-grown veggies. Hello, chickens and eggs, as long as birds aren’t what is spreading the disease.
I like the idea from a recent library Emergency Preparedness presentation. The focus was on earthquakes because Whidbey Island has several fault lines under it, has more for neighbors, and has a celebrity fault that is the Cascadia Subduction Zone. (Minimalism Meets Emergency Preparedness) The idea is simple. Buy canned goods by the case. Keep the case intact and handy. Watch the Use-by date. When there’s a good sale or when the Use-by date is close but not too close, donate the old case to a food bank, and replace it with another case. Of course, buy cans of something you’ll eat. Duh. Add that to pantry staples like rice, beans, and pasta. The diet may get dull, but that’s manageable. Stocking the pantry is also a good reason to keep a well-stocked bar and wine collection. During a quarantine there may not be much driving, so maybe there can be a bit more drinking.
For most people, one obvious downside (assuming they are one of the healthy ones) is a lack of income. The bills probably won’t stop coming. Rainy day funds exist for a reason. Folks with online jobs may not have a problem. Folks with portfolios that only have local stocks might have an issue. There’s even worries about the coronavirus’ impact on the international economy. Supply chains are looking risky for electronics. (MVIS, are you OK?) If delivery companies can operate, probably wearing impressive protective gear, then people working from home may have the least disruption – as long as they aren’t distracted by having all the kids at home, in the house, all the time.
Weird as it may be, writers may finally finish their books. If artists have enough supplies, there might be a reason to have a post-quarantine studio tour. Houses may finally get cleaned, painted, and lots of little chores finally completed.
A rule of thumb is that no plan survives past its first step. The corollary is that having no plan can be the worst plan of all. Minimalists, frugal folk, and pragmatists may be best prepared even without trying. But maybe in a case like this it can be a good idea to not be too minimal because the pantry may have too little, too frugal because paying for shipping may be safest, and concentrating on pragmatism too much can amplify anxieties for too long.
Preparing for something like a quarantine, a pandemic, is a weird mix of worry and protection; while also being forced to be patient, do less, and take care of yourself – and your self. Still shaking my head at this weird world we are in. Despite so much to think about, one thing I can do is spend a bit more time and money in the bulk food section of the grocery store. And maybe stock up on some alcohol, for medicinal purposes. (Really, because several stiff drinks may be necessary to cope with such uncertainty.)