COVID-19 is a novel virus, so by definition it’s learn-as-you-go. I get that, but nothing drives me crazier than inconsistency and condescension, and here lately, we’ve had plenty of both.
A few weeks ago I ventured out on a grocery run. I wore a mask and wiped down the grocery cart handle. Immediately, I was fussed at for shopping the “wrong way” down the grocery aisle. Then a checkout clerk scolded me for placing any groceries on the belt before the customer ahead of me had moved completely away from the cash register. That was the rule and rules must be followed. Couldn’t I read the sign?
That masked, gloved clerk was only doing her job, but it made me feel like I was back in kindergarten.
The very next week at the same store, staff did not wear masks. There was no pausing for a wipe-down at the checkout, no static about moving too close to the next customer.
It was as if the virus was no longer a big deal.
This spring I’ve grappled with a kind of paranoid confusion. Raleigh’s concept of “essential businesses” and “essential jobs” was baffling. ABC stores and golf courses were essential; state parks and trails were not. It was fine for delivery people, grocers and health care workers to risk their health to serve the rest of us, but not cool for us nonessentials to venture out of the house.
Some lockdown warriors say they haven’t left the house for X number of weeks. They have supplies delivered. If I were cool, I’d get with that program.
Meanwhile, a few are having too much fun. A woman I know was rattled about her neighbors playing corn hole in their backyard. She threatened to call the cops.
Far-fetched? Not really. Consider the surfer who was handcuffed for riding the waves off Malibu or the Texas beautician who was jailed for seven days for the crime of opening her salon.
The snitch mindset may be the creepiest takeaway from this pandemic. Home-grown informants make it their business to police their neighbors. They watch; they take notes. Instead of calling the neighbors to talk things over, they immediately contact law enforcement.
When I hear about such over-reaction, I think of East Germany, whose secret police thrived on intelligence from citizens willing to spy on fellow citizens. We’re far from that, thank heavens, but the stress of lockdown brings out the unsavory urge to rat on the neighbors.
Criminalizing normal behavior such as surfing or cutting hair is like killing ants with a sledgehammer. It seldom goes well, especially for the ants.
I’ve tried following “the science” and “the data,” I’m finding the equation unsolvable as variables keep shifting. Should I wear a mask? If so, what kind? Should I ditch the latex gloves? Now I see that hand sanitizer can catch fire in a hot car, maybe I should use gloves after all?
Life has become one giant conundrum. In spite of all we’ve done to stop the spread of the virus, more than 100,000 have reportedly died in the US from COVID. But that headline is only half of the story.
While we flattened the curve to save our hospital capacity, Great Depression II came calling. More than 36 million Americans are unemployed. A record number now depend on government assistance. Seeing cars lined up for food is more than troubling, especially when the lines are miles long.
The stress of joblessness is spawning mental health issues. We’ve already seen spikes in substance abuse, domestic violence, child abuse and suicide. Each of these stories is a family heartbreak and a community tragedy.
Lockdown orders barred patients from elective medical procedures. A lot of folks delayed joint replacements, cancer screenings, immunizations and checkups. That may be no big deal for many, but bad news for those with undiagnosed illness.
Thanks to coronavirus, some sick people are now too frightened to get medical help for fear of catching the disease. Some have put off seeing a doctor, making their conditions worse. Others have waited until it’s too late.
Are these people any less important than those with COVID?