This is a silent spring, not the environmental disaster Rachel Carson envisioned/imagined in her 1962 book, but silent in the lack of human activity.
All due to a bundle of DNA just 0.125 microns in size. A full micron, by the way, is one millionth of a meter. The problem is there are a gazillion gazillion of the little viruses all over the globe, and as this is written just under 600,000 people carry the infection which has killed about 27,000.
No doubt those numbers have since risen dramatically.
I’ll leave it to my esteemed colleague Beth Young to report on the regional impacts of Covid-19. What follows are some thoughts, coherent or otherwise, from inside one self-quarantined zone.
It seems strange, sitting at the kitchen table on an overcast March afternoon with the lawn greening in patches, forsythia in yellow flower and the pear tree and lilacs a-budding, to think that this day, from all appearances just like any other, dawned during a global public health crisis never before seen in modern times that brought life as we know it to an abrupt and jarring halt.
What the hell?
Damn if this isn’t like an old black & white sci-fi movie, except those post-apocalyptic films never showed crowds close to rioting over toilet paper.
The Missus and me, like the rest of youse, are scrupulously adhering to those previously unheard dictums of self-quarantining and social distancing. (In an era long past, “social distancing” meant young Catholic men and women had to leave space between them “for the Holy Spirit.” No precise measurement ever was codified, however.)
Thus, we stay home, except when out procuring life’s necessities, then we maintain, or try to anyway, the minimum six feet distance from the rest of humanity. Hey, you gotta do what you gotta do. Sure, we check on other members of our clan (No, not THAT one.) and they check on us. So far, so good. Fingers crossed.
Fickle fortune has not abandoned us, so far. Many are suffering, physically, emotionally and, yes, financially. We get it. Still, am not a fan of the 21st Century adult version of “Go to Your Room!”
“What have you given up for Lent?” now encompasses far more than the usual, you know, dessert, meat, liquor, women. What? Nothing, Sweetpea.
Catholic or no, we’d no choice but to abstain from in-school education, most in-person commerce, plays and movies, library services, bars, restaurant, all professional sports and on and on. T’is the time of those two ever-expanding behemoths, Amazon and Netflix.
For the record, this isn’t the first time I’ve been self-quarantined, nor is it the second.
Waaaaaaaay back in 1980, a case of mononucleosis kept me inside our tiny rental house in East Moriches. Kissing disease? Pah! If only.
Just kidding, Sweetums.
After six booooooooring weeks, back to work I went. T’was indeed stoopid. Wasn’t fully over it, you see, and quickly ended up back home for who-knows-how-long. Eventually recovered, returned to the office and thought that’s that. You can only get Mono once, right?
Let’s jump to the summer of 1985. Yours truly and family, which included a young son – I’ve mentioned him before, right? – were domiciled in a rental complex then called “Orleans Village,” in D.C.’s Virginia burbs during my time as a suit-wearing, briefcase-toting, Washington Post-scanning congressional staffer.
That July, Mono reared its body-weakening, fever-inducing head yet again. Who knew there are two strains of that malady? I sure didn’t. Again, no kissing as cause, more’s the pity.
You know that’s a joke, right, Honey?
No cable TV then either, but plenty of lame game shows and – ugh! – soaps, which I admit I started following, heaven help me.
After a more appropriate absence, back to Capitol Hill, where nothing much happens in the summer, or as many profess, the rest of the flippin’ year as well. Oh, but a shocking sight greeted me at me desk in Longworth House Office Building room 1424! Gone was my big, blocky IBM Selectric typewriter. In its place, a keyboard and a black screen.
What in the name of VP George H.W. Bush is this? Is there and on/off switch anywhere? Is there a machine of some kind equipped with said switch? Welcome to the dawn of network computing, Boyo. Now, listen up as we explain the ins and outs of “TurboDOS.”
Shoulda stayed home. “Days of Our Lives” was just gettin interesting. Woah! She slept with her brother-in-law without knowing it? Oh, sure she didn’t.
If there’s a bright side to the current crisis, it’s that the 2020 presidential campaign, for the time being, no longer infects television and newspapers like, well, this global virus. Perhaps the nuns were right in touting the power of prayer.
Before the campaign time-out, former VP Joe Biden seemed poised to gain the Democratic nomination, thanks to a stunning state primary sweep that all but sent Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders back to The Green Mountain State. That would leave the gentleman from Delaware and You-Know-Who, the incumbent, who, as the sitting president in a time of international crisis would, under normal circumstances, have an inside track to reelection.
I can see the President’s TV ads now; There he is, sitting in the Oval Office at the Resolute desk, a gift from Queen Victoria fashioned out of oak from the 19th Century British Arctic exploration ship, the HMS Resolute, pen in hand and a group, with two exceptions, of train-rail-stiff white guys in suits looking on from behind as he signs the truly historic $2 trillion, that’s a thousand billion written as a 1 followed by 12 zeros, Covid-19 relief bill. Its purpose is to prop up businesses large and small shut down by the epidemic, add to unemployment assistance and provide check payments to most Americans, among other elements.
Odd, ain’t it, that billionaire and former NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who claimed that he alone possessed the resources and record required to Dump the Donald, spent half a billion dollars only to hear the party say, “Yeah, you know what? Nah.”
Think what a hero he’d be now if, given the hoarding of some, uh, personal essentials, he gave away half a billion single dollar bills. The end result would have been the same.
The election may be on hold, but our ever-widening wide screens still carry images of white guys in suits – praise be that our guvnor switched to polo shirts – giving the latest virus casualty reports and repeating the call to wash your damn hands and stay the hell home. Yes, I’m paraphrasing. Sure, this is a crisis unlike any other in modern times, but unless you’ve something else to impart, turn off the cameras and go spend time with your family.
As retirees, The Missus and Me are in a better place than many younger working-age folk, but, like everyone else, we’re still under lockdown. I’m thisclose to pulling out my old college German books, which I barely understood the first time around. While I like to think our marriage is grounded in equality, I’m sad to report that The Missus has commandeered the remote control and came across a series called “The Good Witch,” originally a Hallmark Channel production. Sappy and syrupy Hallmark, bejaysus!
The title refers to a raven-haired beauty, Cassandra “Cassie” Nightingale, who, in addition to running a historic B&B and a shop called “Bell, Book & Candle,” is an unwavering optimist who has the time to oh-so-subtlety everyone else’s problems.
“Breaking Bad” it’s not.
Hold on, I know that actress. Sure! She played Marine Col. Sarah MacKenzie, a military attorney in the series “JAG,” from which all the “NCIS” shows spun off. Damn! The years have been good to her!
No, Honey, I don’t mind. Watch as many episodes as you want. Can’t think of a better way to pass the time under quarantine.
After all, ich liebe dich sehr!
Tim Kelly is a former congressional press secretary and award-winning reporter, editor, columnist and photographer. He has lived on the North Fork for 30 years. For his mid-life crisis, he became a bagpiper.