Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Opening Up? Closing Down?

     There aren't any easy answers.  A vocal minority is shouting in in the streets and on the Internet, wanting to lift restrictions on non-essential businesses.  Another vocal minority is staging walk-outs and editorializing online about workers at essential businesses being exposed to the novel* coronavirus.  A news company ran a nationwide poll, and nearly two-thirds of Americans are concerned restrictions in their state will be lifted too soon, hastening the spread of the virus; another third worry it might not be soon enough and small businesses will fail as a result.  There's hardly anyone on the fence, a fraction not much larger than the margin of error.

     None of them are wrong.  We're not getting out of this without pain and damage.  People are arguing over what's worse, and arguing with insufficient information.  But get this: there's no "make it didn't happen" option.  We're not going back to normal, not ever; people have died and the ice-cream shop on the corner may never return.

     Being the species we are, we'll find out what we to do the hard way.  Many people are already taking the restrictions and suggestions lightly.  I gassed up my car yesterday and while I'm careful to be gloved and masked, and to follow proper procedure in doffing, donning and disposing, the adjacent gas-pump island was in use by a young woman with green hair, wearing a T-shirt, jeans and sandals, bare-faced and gloveless.  When she was done, she hopped in her nice, recent-model Cadillac and drove off with nary a pause for hand sanitizer.  Which one of us is the outlier, locally?  Not her.

     We flattened the curve and now, cheerful primates that we are, many of us are now looking around, deciding it wasn't so bad after all, and throwing caution to the winds.  If we get a second spike in new infections, we'll know that wasn't such a great idea.

     It is not a matter of nature "learning us or killing us."  Nature teaches us by killing a some of us.  As a species, we learn when people die.  How did we figure out which mushrooms are safe to eat?  How did we learn how to make poke salad that didn't kill us, or prepare rhubarb for pie?  Pokeweed and rhubarb (leaves) are poisonous; you have to know which parts to eat and how to prepare them.  Historically, the only way to learn is by doing it wrong and suffering the consequences.

     "Doing it wrong and suffering the consequences" might as well be humanity's motto.  But we follow it a few at a time -- and the onlookers and survivors learn from the experience.

     We're learning now.  It sucks, doesn't it?
* Novel?  There's a whole multi-book series in this thing.  It will be a long while before anyone wants to read it.


fillyjonk said...

Yeah, the last time I was out at a grocery (10 days ago), of the 15 people in the store, I was the only one in a mask and gloves. The employees DID have gloves, but no masks.

This was unsettling as everything I've read suggests that the mask is far, far more for protecting other people from yourself, than protecting yourself from them. I know I am a pessimist about my fellow humans, but having to depend on people to comply with the "wear a mask, please, we're just asking nicely" thing to protect me is....not reassuring. Which again is why I'm stuck at home like Rapunzel in her tower.

Ruth said...

*disclaimer* this is all based on my personal experience as an "essential worker" for the last couple months.

I don't think it matters if the .GOV opens things up officially, and I don't think it matters if people THINK they care alot about keeping things closed for safety. Based on what I see daily at my work the general public is going to burst through quarantine restrictions before mid-summer hits. They're already standing in line for extended periods of time just to walk into Home Depot to buy stupid stuff so that they can get out of the house for a while.