Right out of the gate, I want to give a big shout out to my friends Russ and Patty, my nominees for the first annual Corona Award for Most Creative. Years of relentless partying prepared them well for the rigors of quarantine. Life is just a bowl of distilled grapes when lockdown is merely another word for Mardi Gras. One week they’re Jimmy Hendricks and Janis Joplin. The next it’s Jake and the Penquin from the Blues Brothers (Patty actually happened to have a nun’s outfit; which really blows my mind.) Or simply a pair of Panamanian drug lords because that’s what they found in their closets. Let’s follow their lead: Prison or Paradise. It’s your choice.
Of course, not everyone handles their predicament with such cavalier spirit. Like the lady from Chicago who visited her daughter in New York. She had to fly coach rather than her usual first class. She put towels on her seat and plastic bags so her carry-ons would not touch the floor. As she said, “After all, it was coach!” That’s what we of the downtrodden masses might call “fancy problems”.
Or the grandma who professed that “Nobody understands the suffering and heartache that I’m going through” because she can’t see her granddaughter. The little girl is two. Odds are they will have many many moments together. How singleminded to ignore the victims that will never see their kids again. A fancy problem if you ask me.
How ’bout the woman who sobbed, “Why can’t anybody believe me – I HAVE to get a pedicure!” Tough sell to all those who’ve never had a pedicure. Fancy problem.
A friend and her husband have a condo on the eighteenth floor of a building in Miami Beach. They waited too long and are now stuck in Florida indefinitely. She laments all they can do is sit on their balcony in the oppressive heat and stare out at the ocean and sunset. “This”, she cries, “is too much for me to bear!” Fancy that!
Then there was the sweetie pie whose husband, for her March birthday, bought her a designer bag with a diamond bracelet tucked inside. But now she’s mad because she has no place to wear the purse and how can she possibly show off the bracelet with unmanicured nails? “It’s just not fair to me”, she snorted. That’s the kind of fancy problem I want.
Fortunately those are the few among the many gutting it out. Staying home, maybe lucky enough to hold on to their sanity through Netflix and Facebook. Sucking up all the anxieties of financial stress and loneliness. Yet, remarkably, when I venture out to ShopRite or Home Depot, I find people more pleasant and courteous than ever. Sales asssociates, stockboys, cashiers eager to help; to wish you health and safety. Maybe even coax a little smile out behind that mask.
It’s as if the unity that politicians always sell but never deliver was born of a virus. We’re unitied against a common enemy, and willing ro make the necessary sacrifices for the good of everyone else. What seemed so important yesterday has lost its lustre in the face of sickness and death. Even Trump, the benefactor of the Press and Social Media, has taken a back seat. You can love him. You can hate him. He can wonder aloud whether we might defeat COVID by inserting disinfectants into our bodies. We roll our eyes and move on. We hang on every word from the real experts and heroes. We have no time for mindless chatter. We’re all in this together and the selflessness of ordinary folk, small business owners, even the large corporations we love to rail against, bring a thin veil of sunlight into our darkness.
And so it is, A little good; a little bad. A time we’ll all look back on and tell stories about years from now. We’ll recall the masks, the hand sanitizers, the social distancing, the isolation and the boredom. The vacant stores and parks and beaches. The food lines that dwarfed the bread lines of the Great Depression. And the undeniable resilience of the American people. Apparently America really is Great Again and, Ironically. we have the Corona to thank for it.