It seems an exaggeration to call it a “dystopian reality”, but the news this week was one gut-punch after another. The stock market plummeted day after day into bear-market territory. All sports has been canceled: professional, college, and kids. So have concerts – devastating blow to the performing arts groups that run on tight budgets. Grocery stores are out of everything, apparently. Even chicken (Why chicken??) Schools are closing (either for remote learning or for an early Spring Break), colleges are sending students home and telling them not to come back after Break, employers are mandating telework. And Italy is closed for business.
All this because there’s a super-contagious virus going around the world that’s either NBD or deadly, depending on your age and underlying conditions. It’s got a 14 day incubation period, so one could have it and not know it and be traipsing around out in the world, inadvertently spreading it to countless others. It’s still influenza season, plus now it’s allergy season, so nobody is quite sure what they have when they fall ill, but there aren’t tests for it here because… well, nobody is quite sure why.
So, we will all stop traipsing and spreading for a couple of weeks, to see if we can slow the spread of this thing before it gets truly out of control.
My own employer has just announced telework for next week for sure, though I’ll need to do it for two weeks because that’s how long Eli’s school is closed. And, he just told me, it’s closed-closed. He says there will be work to do, but it will be ungraded because not all kids have internet and/or computers to facilitate distance-learning. And when you tell a teenager something’s optional, they won’t do it, we know that, right?
Do you remember the days after Sept 11, when everyone was still freaking out from the sheer magnitude of the awfulness of it all, but everyone was kind and helpful to each other? But you still felt small and insignificant, knowing that you had to do what you had to do but what difference did it make when so many people went to work and never came home that day? This feels to me kind of like that, except this isn’t a split-second catastrophe but a slow-rolling tsunami of Bad News. Here it comes, ever so slowly, you can see it approaching and it feels like that dream where you’re trying to run but your feet don’t work. Helplessness.
Today feels partly like that to me, but also kind of like the day before a big snow storm has been forecast. It’s one they have known is coming, for a while now, with as much certainty as any meteorologist can know these things, and the timing is such that we can all finish our work today and tote our laptops home with us because starting tomorrow we will be cooped up, and everyone will pause for a moment and watch it transform our little piece of the world into something completely different.
Only, it’s sunny outside and the weather’s supposed to be fine, at least around DC.
I’m transforming a former spare bedroom into a home office. I ordered a desk, and it’s here, waiting to be assembled. (Tonight’s project!) An area rug should arrive soon. This weekend I will clear out some piles of things that ended up by default in its corners. (Is the county dump still open? Need to check.) I’m picking up a new printer on the way home from work today. I’m contemplating whether to set up coffee and tea service in that room. It would be much more convenient to have it there than to walk upstairs to the kitchen, after all.
I’ve been telling people this: If you have to self-quarantine, and at the end of your time, it feels like it was a “waste” because “nothing happened”? That means IT WORKED. We are all doing our part for the greater good, people. It’s triage time. We need to support our communities now, except from a “social distance.”
While this is all hugely inconvenient and disappointing for many of us, I can’t help but think of the hourly workers and immigrants who are trying to get by. On my heart today are the people who clean. They are tasked with wiping up all of our germs – from buses and trains, office buildings, retail stores, and even our homes. This work is not without risk in normal times, but when there’s a public health crisis due to a global pandemic? It brings them ridiculously close to the worst case scenario. Forget inconvenient or disappointing – this is literal life and death stuff for them. So, today, spare them an extra thought and a kind word if you can.
So, maybe it’s some version of Dystopia, but to have our lives disrupted temporarily doesn’t seem like that big of a sacrifice in the grander scheme of things. I hope everyone recognizes the magnitude of this situation and does what needs to be done to mitigate the effects of this microscopic bit of matter that’s mighty enough to have directly or indirectly brought most of us to our knees.