I imagine this place will be a lot quieter within weeks. That was one of my thoughts as I shopped at the community grocer (The Goose). Almost by current requirement, the aisles were busy, toilet paper was sold out, as was hand-sanitizer (unless I missed it). People were stocking up on non-perishables at the same time they were loading up on comfort food. Beans and rice versus chocolate and cookies. Decide for yourself which of those are necessary. So many people were buying so many things that won’t go bad soon that I wondered how long it will take some of them to use what they bought. My main goals: unpopped popcorn and boxed wine. Somehow that became a bill for over $100.
It was encouraging to see so many people trying to decide what to do. People with earthquake preparedness kits tend to be well-stocked, but with things that assume the power is out and the water is off. Quarantines don’t happen that way. So, an excuse to fill the fridge and freezer with butter, cheese, meat, frozen veggies, frozen pizzas, and maybe something to experiment with in the kitchen. (Ah, must remind myself to buy a box of stock. Typically I make it from scratch, but if I can’t get to the store then I miss a key ingredient in my soups, chilis, and stews.) As easy as it is to make fun of people buying weird things (who really needs that much toilet paper?) I’d rather see a store filled with people over-reacting than finding it empty because they are under-reacting.
Previous posts include lists of things I put into my kit. I usually have a large supply of beans and rice (despite doctor’s orders), cans of tomato sauce, and of course, a casual wine collection. I didn’t need much, but peer pressure and the fear of missing something pulled me into the store. This time the staples include ground beef, frozen fish, bulk oatmeal, basically flexible ingredients that can become part of many things. I also bought the wine and popcorn, as well as tonic water, smoked salmon, and tea, of course. Staples and comfort food, just like everyone else.
As a real estate broker, I’m watching for people who want to move from dense urban areas to rural areas that have social distancing built in. One of the relaxing aspects of living in a house surrounded by vacant lots is that bacteria and viruses have a lot more than six feet to travel before finding another human. Folks on acreage may not even be able to see another person. No touchies? No problem. It’s not like we all have to share the same elevator or hallway. Will a pandemic reverse the trend to urbanization? Here’s one instance where density is the problem, not the solution.
I’m not going to predict how this coronavirus pandemic will proceed and conclude. I’ve studied history. Predictions fail too easily. Prior to immunizations, contagions like bubonic plague and smallpox killed major portions of the world’s population. This doesn’t look as bad as that, but we are also very aware of our ignorance. Fortunately, some countries and companies are working on treatments, cures, and eventual vaccines. I am, however, wondering how our response will shape our future.
We continue to recover from our response to 9/11. Homeland Security, TSA, ICE, and the surveillance state have affected basic freedom and privacy. Even our tendency to video each other and share the imagery changes how people express themselves and what they reveal in conversations. It is too easy to have reactions taken out of context and repurposed without permission. Now, we’re being taught to follow basic hygiene that we should follow in healthy times too; and we’re being taught to avoid each other, don’t touch, and stay home. Add that avoidance to the paranoia from ‘stranger danger’ and see a world change from the sort of place where people literally lend a hand to people they don’t know, to seeing almost anyone as a threat of some sort. As if they were to cough, and we’re already ready to run.
Wondering if there’s some virus that was going to hit us harder, but it can’t because we’re all so busy washing our hands and sanitizing everything.
— Tom Trimbath (@tetrimbath) March 10, 2020
“Wondering if there’s some virus that was going to hit us harder, but it can’t because we’re all so busy washing our hands and sanitizing everything.”
We’re depleting the stores of basics and panic purchases. We’re washing our hands and avoiding contact. Group events have been cancelled. Considering some countries and their successes, we’re not doing enough, but we are doing something. While everyone is concentrating on a novel coronavirus, those same precautions may be saving us from something new or something old. I’m sure some PhD student will eventually quantify whether there was a reduction in colds and the flu. We may be fighting one battle poorly, but we may be succeeding against others without realizing it.
The Great Recession taught frugality by choice or necessity. Maybe this novel coronavirus is teaching us basic hygiene by choice and necessity.
I hope it doesn’t also teach people to withdraw from community, to not trust each other, and to see each other as a threat. As my favorite physician (OK, naturopath, but that isn’t alliterative) emailed;
“Remember, joy is an antimicrobial.”
That advice is inserted within a comprehensive list of proper procedures, but it is the piece that impressed me the most. These are serious times, but making every moment too serious makes living too difficult, too stressful. “Do your best”; which is different from “be perfect”. Find joy. It’s always there, but we can cover it with worries. Peel back worries, respect them as you must; but respect the joy just as much.
(PS For my experience finding joy despite circumstances, read my book: Walking Thinking Drinking Across Scotland. While this may be a plug, that book was inspired by a moment during my walk across the country when I realized how close joy is, and how easily I can hide it from myself. Sounds trite to some, but it changed my life.)
Enjoyed this read, Tom. Well said!