Wednesday, March 18, 2020

The World Gone Upside Down

by Janis Patterson

I don’t know about you, but right now I don’t know if I’m on my head or my heels. I didn’t realize The Husband and I did so many things, had so many meetings, went to so many organizations until they started cancelling one after the other like a cascade of dominoes. A simple trip to the grocery store became a frustrating expedition, where the shelves were empty and the store hideously crowded with people. I spent two days and many stores getting sufficient supplies for some elderly (90+ years old) members of our family, an exercise that was annoying and time-consuming. Some of the overreactions of the shoppers could almost be regarded as amusing – as in two grown men fighting over a package of toilet tissue.
Then today (I’m writing this on Monday evening) everything doubled, trebled, then went right off the ‘scary weirdness’ chart. Our mayor announced at 5 pm that beginning at midnight all bars and restaurants would be closed except for car-side delivery takeout – no dine-in allowed. Not only that, but our school district is closed. No restaurants, no schools, no… I have no idea what’s going to be forbidden next. They even canceled the iconic St. Patrick’s Day Parade, for Heaven’s sake!
I am not going to touch on politics, but I’m of two minds about the way this situation is being handled. Yes, this virus is serious, but is it enough of a threat for such draconian measures? I don’t remember this much hysteria for the H1N1 (aka swine) flu a couple of years ago. We cannot just do nothing, so we must do something, but are we doing too much?
For example, I fear that a lot of restaurants and small businesses – which operate on narrow margins in the best of times – will fold permanently with an extended enforced closing. Worse, their employees – most of whom work for minimum wage and live paycheck-to-paycheck – will suffer almost immediately. One of my restauranteur friends is providing bags of rice and beans for his employees – boring fare, but nutritious, and at least they will be able to eat. And my worries are not limited only to food service workers or small store clerks. Far too many people in our society have nothing put by for a rainy day and are dependent on receiving a regular paycheck. Now it seems the monsoon is about to rage around us and it’s too late for many to prepare.
And there are other, less immediate but more personal casualties. Next month I was to go to the American Research Center in Egypt International Conference in Toronto where, in a first for both ARCE and me, naming rights for three characters in a novel I would write especially for ARCE would be auctioned off as a fund raiser. The international publicity had already started when – because of the coronavirus – the conference was cancelled. The auction… who knows? It’s dead at the moment. There is always next year, but by next year it will be old news, all novelty gone, and who knows what will happen between now and then? Even if it comes back next year, it can never be the same. This could have been a breakout for me, and I grieve for its loss.
We must realize, though, that it is indeed an ill wind that blows no one good. Bars and restaurants are closed. Schools are closed. In many places gatherings of more than 50 people are forbidden. Social interaction (in person, at least) is discouraged. People are going to be pretty much stuck at home. So what are they going to do? You can only watch so much tv, play so many board games, do so many chores. What’s left, that will entertain and yet not expose you to the dangers of public places? Books. Especially ebooks, which can be ordered over the internet, meaning more sales for more authors. In the long run, perhaps something good can come from all this. If it is allowed – Amazon has already announced that it is focusing on immediately need supplies such as food and medicine, and that books are way down on their priorities. We can only hope they mean physical paper books and not electronic ones, which shouldn’t present any shipping difficulties. It is Amazon, though, so who knows?
However – to drag this subject kicking and screaming back to the writing of mysteries – it’s a rare situation that a writer can’t use in some fashion. Just think of all the plots that can spring out of this flirtation with real-life dystopia. In a few months I predict a flood of books with plots that can be traced back to our current situation.
I just wish they were fiction.


Irene Bennett Brown said...

Excellent post.

MollyLikesMovies said...

I wish it was all a hoax...look up what's happening in Italy now. We are less prepared than they are.

Janet Miller said...

In Italy people are dying because there isn’t enough equipment to save everyone who gets seriously ill. The whole “flatten the curve” concept it that while maybe the same number of people get sick, it happens over a longer period of time, allowing for treatment. Since we don’t have enough tests to check everyone, keeping people isolated for a couple weeks allows those without the virus to not be infected while those with the virus will become obvious during the incubation period. It isn’t a great solution but it is the best we got.

What I hope is that there is a serious look at what kind of measures can be taken so that when this happens again, and it most likely will, it won’t be as devastating.

Jackie Houchin said...

Since you posted this, thing have tightened even more. No groups of ANY size can meet together here in California. And the President has now put the Defense Protection into force. Friends in Spain say police and military are in the streets grabbing offenders and giving heavy fines. They are on complete lock-down. We are not as yet, at 12:04 pm, PDT.
And you don't have to be house-bound. Walk outside - take in many blocks. Seriously there are not that many people out. You can still walk and jog in parks - just not gather together. We can make it work. Especially for authors it is a great time. Forced confinement, means NO EXCUSE for not sitting down to write... and like you said, whole new premises and plots to use. For others, we finally get to read the books we have stock piled... or order more.

Alina K. Field said...

As someone in the "high risk" group, I find the medical rationing in Italy scary. God bless the medical personnel who have to make those difficult choices. Staying home for a couple of weeks is a small sacrifice to keep the medical facilities from being inundated. But I really hope we as a society can pull together for the small businesses that are the heart of our economy.

Morgan Mandel said...

And lots of babies will be born in 9 months.

Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

Yes, it is so weird. I remember food rationing during WWII. Have no idea why the toilet paper hoarding or why people are buying out all the bottled water. I think maybe minds are being affected. I have shopped for food and got enough for about 3 weeks. Going to go early next week to a store that is opening 1 hour early for seniors and see if I can't get some toilet paper. I have a well, the water is fine--but so is tap water. If you don't think it's good, buy one of those water filtration systems.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Personally, my stress level has elevated dramatically. Hope we can keep healthy.

Patricia Stoltey said...

I did the early morning senior shopping expedition yesterday to Whole Foods and Safeway and felt very grateful for that effort by retailers. The brilliant folks on that Virus Task Force, our health care workers and first responders, and all those folks who still must work in groceries, drugstores, and delivery/carryout to keep the rest of us going are my heroes. Yes, this is hard, but I'm trying to get outside and breathe the fresh air as often as possible, soak up a little sunshine when I can (we had quite a snow here yesterday in Northern Colorado), and work on all my unfinished projects in between. It helps that we have a lot of hobbies, including the 4,000 piece jigsaw puzzle that may take us through the whole year.

Consider getting on Facebook and looking up your favorite musical artists. Some, like Brad Paisley yesterday, are giving live concerts right on Facebook and most announce the times in advance. Versailles is giving tours online. Monterey Bay's aquarium has video cams of jelly fish and others (jelly fish are very calming when you don't have to fear stepping on one). My writers group is going to use Zoom for our meetings. And for the next four days, I'm going to focus on writing projects. And then,...I'm going to find ukelele lessons on You Tube and finally, finally learn some chords. We can do this alone together, and staying in touch with each other via blogs and social media will help.

Alicia Dean said...

Well said. Great post. And things have worsened since you posted this. I am also worried about the economy, small businesses, and people who are losing wages. Hopefully, it will end soon and everyone will recover, financially and physically.

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