Friday, March 20, 2020

Interesting Times

I don't mean to make light of a terrible situation, particularly in Italy, Iran, and China, but so far the United States is more in a state of tension that tragedy, and if we can't laugh at our fears a little we will succumb.

There was a drawing going around on a Facebook organist's group last week showing an organist protecting himself against coronavirus. He wore what appeared to be a plastic wrapper from head to foot, and was totally encased in protective fabric as he sat on the bench, save for a drinking straw (helpfully labelled "breathing tube") coming out of the top. Actually, he looked a little like a banana.

The British members of the group thought this was pretty funny, despite having several deaths to the disease already. The Americans, living in a country where few people have yet died, were offended.

My first thought, frankly, was how could I play the organ in that thing? I have enough trouble enmeshed in your standard robe.

Anyhow, the Google must not have thought it was funny either, because I can't find it. And the members of the Facebook page, after getting several nastygrams about it, seem to have taken their posts down. So you'll have to use your imagination.

If laughing at something is a substitute for action, or if it woefully underestimates the seriousness of a situation and thus causes irresponsible behavior then we certainly would not want to encourage it. There are, however, some of us who can both laugh at our fears and realize why caution is necessary.

It is not impossible that I acquired the disease myself, travelling through LAX two weeks ago. At the time there were a grant total of 6 reported cases in California, which has 40 million people. I thought it was highly unlikely we'd contract the disease. What we learned since was that cases have been severely under-reported, given that tests were not available, and after I got back I read that two health care works came down with it at LAX while screening passengers in late February. I've also read that 80% of the people who develop Covid-19 only experience mild to no symptoms at all.

One of the most pernicious aspects of the illness is that it takes upwards of a week to become obviously sick, during which time its host is unwittingly spreading the virus to others. I developed a slight tightness in my chest last week, which is only enough to be moderately annoying, and would be a great way to develop anti-bodies for the future with a minimum of suffering, but I would not want to pass the thing on to others who might have a much worse time of it. My symptoms are so mild I won't be getting tested so may never know if my hunch is corrected.

This morning I read about attempts to develop a blood test to check for the presence of anti-bodies to the disease which would of course indicated that a patient had contracted the virus, which would be helpful to medical experts to determine the scope of the spread and check for herd immunity. It would also answer my question.

Meanwhile, I, like you, am staying home and avoiding contact. I am keeping up on the latest covid-19 statements from everyone I've ever known at any level. So far my dentist, my eye doctor, and my gas company have seen fit to issue emails about how they are dealing with the disease. My grocery store, the library, my congressman and my landlord have followed suit. Also my gym. I am not making any of these up. I am kind of peeved that my mailman has not come out with his own statement about covid-19. Nor have I heard from the gas station down the street. How are they dealing with the spread of this contagion?

While we all hunker down and try to adjust to a completely different lifestyle, remember to wash your hands, for 20 seconds. Every time you are stuck for something to do, go and wash your hands. Some day, some young person is going to wonder why the old dude keeps washing his hands all the time, and for so long. It will become the weird thing that is part of my experience, the way my grandparents hoarded money under their mattress because of the depression, or my parents hide under their desks whenever they hear a civil defense siren (I think they stopped doing that a while back, actually). And I, like Lady Macbeth, will keep washing my hands. It's not such a bad tic to have, actually. And now I know what interesting times I will have seen when I am old enough to share stories of the times I survived. I just have to survive them first. And so do you.

As Edward R. Murrow used to say*, "Good night and Good Luck!"

*I'm not old enough to remember when he used to say that, I just know some history! working from home edition is available today. The PianonoiseRadio program, "Music in a Time of Plague," should be ready Sunday.

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