Years ago I watched a video that I can’t help replaying in my mind over and over. In it, a little Boston Terrier has been tied to the back bumper of an 18 Wheeler, and the driver, blissfully unaware of its plight, is accelerating out of the truck stop parking lot and about to turn onto the highway. The terrified dog is running madly to keep up, its tiny legs making a valiant effort, all the while knowing it can only keep this pace up for so long. Happily, a highway patrolman observes the unfolding tragedy, and stops the truck driver, rescuing the dog and reuniting it with its oblivious, but now distraught, owner.
Right now, America is the dog and Coronavirus is the big rig, about to launch us full speed onto the interstate.
One would hope that rescue is coming, but I fear that instead of an eagle-eyed hero in a squad car, the people sworn to serve and protect us are asleep at the wheel.
To sum up where we are right now: The amount of Americans dead in the last month from Coronavirus are over four times the number of deaths from 9/11 and six times the number of deaths at Pearl Harbor. Eight million Americans have applied for unemployment. Up to 35 million Americans have lost their health insurance due to Coronavirus layoffs. The economy is hanging by a thread. The news is filled with story after story of front line medical workers pleading for more PPE (protective personal equipment) as well as stories about the lengths states have gone to procure it.
Meanwhile, our president (I won’t dignify that man with a capital letter) is too busy holding self-congratulatory pep rallies on TV every day and trying to blame everybody in the known universe for his failure to 1) give a shit and 2) properly address the crisis in the first place.
If I see one more Trump apologist wring their hands and say something to the effect of “Everyone is so hard on the President. He had no idea this was coming” I will completely lose it.
It’s absolute and utter bullshit.
I am a lowly substitute teacher/retail worker in Upstate New York, who spends half my time on Pinterest and YouTube making whimsical craft projects. I am not psychic, nor do I have the intelligence community of the CIA and FBI, or the medical expertise of the WHO and CDC, at my daily disposal.
However, the other half of my time, I spend paying fucking attention to what is going on in the world, and *I* knew about Coronavirus in January. I knew it was hella bad in Wuhan. And then I watched it get even more hella bad in the rest of China. And then Italy happened. I read first hand accounts on twitter, and looked up news stories from papers around the world.
(Guess what, you can do that–the US doesn’t have the planet’s only free press. Want to figure out what’s going on in any given situation? Then don’t get all your news from one news source.)
In early February, I started adding to my stockpile of Welp-we-may-be-going-to-war-with-North-Korea-or-Iran supplies I’d already stress-bought a year ago, and starting preparing for a months-long quarantine in my house.
By late February, there were known Coronavirus cases in the US, and again, because I have half a functioning brain cell, I assumed it had spread throughout the country–especially to New York, because being a major city in the US, if a virus was going to be spread somewhere, it was going to arrive with the gazillion visitors to New York City. It was not a stretch to think it would then come right on up I-87 to the Upstate. By early March, I was bordering on panic, stockpiling feverishly, not taking subbing jobs, and staying at home as much as possible.
So how in the everloving fuck is it even conceivable that I was more prepared for this than our federal government?
That is a rhetorical question for another day.
So here we are. And this is our new normal: There are new plexiglass screens at the checkout at grocery stores and the post office. They are like sneeze guards on steroids. We’ve all been asked to wear masks now if we leave our houses.
No one is going back to school or work until May now–but the prevailing wisdom is it won’t be May either. The boys and I are learning how to do remote learning, and god bless their teachers for providing some stability and support through all of this. I see a marked change in the boys’ after they see and interact with their teachers and classmates.
We’re all collectively going a little nuts. Jeremy has work to keep him occupied. And when he’s not working, he plays piano and reads. I stay busy making various crafts all day. I went from painting pottery to weaving potholders to embroidery and hand sewing masks. Now my back and hands hurt, and my mind spins without a project to keep it occupied. I wish I could write another novel, or even lose myself in a good book, but I am jumpy and nervous. My adrenaline is high and my patience is at an all time low. I am too mentally restless to fully concentrate on anything. Although, watching Onward on Disney+ was a highlight of the week. As was binge watching Project Runway and Zoey’s Infinite Playlist. These are bright spots in otherwise sad days.
Sam seems to be taking things in stride. He’s enjoying being home, working through his schoolwork, cooking with me, playing video games with his friends. John, like me, is mentally restless and easily overwhelmed. I’ve been encouraging him to work with his hands as well.
He’s been wanting to buy what sounds more and more like a super computer. The price tag on this thing, at last count, was $5000. I let him dream, but you can’t get blood from a turnip. I’ve already told him he’s not going to get that kind of money from me, and he should plan to find some means of making his own money if he ever wants to buy it. Now that masks are so in demand, I plan to put all this nervous energy to use, and try to sell a few to make up for (some of) my lost income. I suggested to John that he also consider making masks as a way to earn some money himself. I am cautiously optimistic that he’ll have the patience to sit through sewing lessons (on the new sewing machine that will be here Friday – for which my hands will be eternally grateful) and then also have the patience to make enough masks to get himself a little nest egg.
Now is the time to side hustle if you can.
Some people, like Jeremy, are lucky enough to work from home, and this has proven to be a mild, albeit boring, inconvenience. For others (me without Jeremy), this little virus has upended their entire lives and livelihoods, laying bare the reality way too many people are barely making ends meet, struggling to feed themselves, struggling to afford medical care, and it takes just the tiniest nudge off their stable footing for them to go careening into financial disaster.
I’ve lost both of my jobs. Weeks ago, by some miracle, I managed to submit an unemployment claim on the overwhelmed NY Department of Labor website, but now I have to speak with an actual human to complete it. I can’t get through. The number rings once then goes dead and hangs up. The system wasn’t designed to handle millions of calls. But, I also suspect, it was designed to discourage people from making claims. There is no virtual queue. No waiting in line to speak to the next representative. Just a message–all phone lines are busy, please call back later. Then dial tone. Trying to reach a person, and jump through that one last hoop, becomes a full time job in and of itself. I have read stories of people making hundreds and thousands of phone calls, over and over and over, to no avail. I haven’t tried that tactic. We still have Jeremy’s income, so I’ll let those who need the money desperately go now and I’ll try again when things calm down. If they calm down.
Jeremy and I were laying in bed talking last night, and agree that whatever existed before all this seems like another world. I asked him what he’d want to do or see when all of this is over, and he didn’t really have an answer.
He spoke for us both when he said, “I’m afraid nothing is going to be safe for a long time.”