Pope Francis has cancelled his Sunday blessings, grocery stores are hiring security guards to prevent brawls over toilet paper, group gatherings are off, and the simple human greeting of a handshake has been replaced with elbow bumps, awkward cheek-kissing swerves, and a mini macarena dance to indicate you are happy to see someone. Public places like the Louvre are refusing to accept cash, but how many times are we using a finger to sign a screen when using a credit card? Do we need a finger condom for safe swiping?
Uncertainty spreads as quickly as a virus, and a much larger portion of the population is infected with fear. Of all of the serious concerns we face, this one looms much larger. Someone said that climate change needs to hire the coronavirus publicist.
With a real and serious health threat and all of its financial repercussions, from a crashing stock market to a cancelled charity bake sale, people are on edge, and everyone deals with the anxiety in different ways. I noticed my own varied personal response when I looked at my counter that had Clorox wipes, Calm natural magnesium supplement, a bottle of Tito’s vodka, and a yoga DVD. With the fear of infection, what remains a yes in your life and what becomes a no? A cruise, absolutely not. But a yoga class? You can certainly practice with a DVD at home, but there is also something about shared humanity in a calming environment that is actually good for your health.
There is a lot of talk about social distancing to slow the spread of the virus but what about people who are already isolated? The growing panic is fueled by a fight for yourself mentality. The toilet paper brawl isn’t about, “I have to get a pack for my family and one for the old dude down the street that yells at dogs in sweaters.”
Who is with you in your bunker?
If your answer is my imaginary lover, stuffed otter, and occasional UPS delivery man, that’s not very comforting. You can have all the Facebook friends in the world but who truly would be there in a crisis when they have themselves and their own families to protect? Would they share their last bottle of Purell?
There are times when independence is awesome, like when you can flirt with the hot young guy who thinks you are the bee’s knees and binge watch “Call The Midwife” until 1 AM, complete with all the women moaning in labor without epidurals, and not bother your bed mate. You don’t have to figure out child care or how your husband keeps forgetting the security code, which is your wedding anniversary. You have bet long on freedom and shorted security.
But when you really wonder in a worse-case scenario who will be there for you (and that feels real in the case of this pandemic) and you have to seriously pause — that sense of being alone can hit you in your solar plexus. Your safety net is full of holes.
We are lucky here to be a part of a connected community with caring neighbors. But as connection is associated with danger, and greetings become symbolic gestures from a CDC-suggested distance, is it possible to keep that core humanity? Well, I for one am happy to share the vodka and the yoga. But maybe with a Clorox wipe first.