“Put ‘er there!” Postcard from a pandemic


On July 28, 2018 I wrote about my decision to intentionally thank the people that perform myriad services for me by looking them in the eye and shaking their hand. (Posts from October 12 and December 27 of that year expand on the theme.) It was my contention then that the folks who do such things are taken for granted, and are so often ignored, that they might as well be invisible. I haven’t changed my mind in that regard.

I invite you to read the previous posts on this topic but feel its time to say something else about it.

The Coronavirus that first appeared in China, and COVID-19, its attendant disease, are sweeping the world. Indeed, the World Health Organization has declared it a pandemic. Thus far some 150,000 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and over 6,000 have lost their lives on account of it.

National and local governments everywhere are scrambling – with varying levels of intelligence and success – to combat the spread of the affliction. In my country schools and universities and libraries have closed; bars and restaurants are only offering pick-up service; public gatherings are restricted, and are likely to be banned altogether. Event after event is cancelled or rescheduled for some hopeful future date. Suggestions abound for songs to sing whilst we wash our hands . . . and wash our hands . . . and wash our hands. And for heaven’s sake, do not touch your face!

People are advised to hunker down in their homes, even though Coronavirus cases have begun popping up amid those that have not traveled, and who have practiced self-isolation. The value of stock markets continues to plunge, despite a round of interest rate cuts and massive infusions of cash meant to stabilize the economy. And some individuals are seeking to capitalize on panic, offering purported COVID-19 “cures” online, or buying up vast quantities of sanitary wipes to resell at a hefty profit. Apparently gun purchases are spiking, too.

What do these weighty (i.e., pretty bloody frightening) developments bode for my humble efforts to enrich contacts with those I encounter in daily life? As a person of a certain age, with its attendant potential medical challenges, I am rigorously following the Center for Disease Control’s advice for what I ought – and ought not – do. And this means pulling back from social practices that I’ve come to value so much.

I hope this is a temporary situation, and that I can resume shaking hands and saying “Thank you” to the people that serve me. But right now prophesying when that might happen is a big, fat mystery. Let me know how you are feeling these days. Don’t give up; we’re all in it together.

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