So I’m thinking a kinda’ strange upshot of this whole Corona matter is that I’m getting used to it. Maybe that’s a good thing. Or maybe it really sucks. I mean I know the virus is bad; the bars are closed and that’s bad. But I’m saving a ton of dough happy-houring at home and that’s good. I can’t get a haircut; that’s bad. But I’m pretty much bald; so now that’s good. Everyone’s stuck at home. That can’t be good. But with so little traffic on the road, I’m getting everywhere in record time: that’s great!
I’m more polite and conversational and so is everyone else. Just this morning I found myself complimenting a total stranger in the supermarket. “Nice mask”, I offered. She replied, “Thank you. Stay safe.” No one ever suggested I “stay safe” before. Those who know me knew I wouldn’t. Those who don’t couldn’t care less.
Social distancing? I’m in! A nice firm handshake is always a good indication of familiarity and comraderie. But with all the high-fives, low-fives, acrobatic front-slap-back slap, fist bumps, homey-shakes, and patty-cakes, no shake at all is a welcome commodity. And how about the abolishment of the hug? I’m never sure whether to hug or to not hug. It’s a tough read. If the other person initiates, you have no choice. If you start, maybe it’s well received or maybe you’re just a jack-ass. If it’s a woman, maybe she’ll think I’m coming on to her. If she’s attractive, maybe I am. Either way, with hugging off the table, my anxiety level is definately tanking.
At the same time, my self-esteem is soaring. I listen to the two guys running for president. One is squirreled away down in his basement because he doesn’t know his ass from his elbow. The other comes on my television and talks through his ass. Unfettered by such biological anamolies, even, I know I’m way smarter than these two knuckleheads. Even the scientists and medical experts whose every word I hang on are cause for reflection. Some think we’re opening up too fast. Some think we’re too slow. All agree, “it depends”. That’s what I think!
I’m getting used to the stats. Tens of thousands dead in New York. In New Jersey. In Brazil. In Myanmar! Myanmar might not even be on this planet but they’re loaded with Corona. Millions more got sick this week, which is more than last week. But in China, no one got sick today which is way less than last week. Obviously the best known cure for the virus is lying. The numbers keep skyrocketing yet somehow we’re plateauing. I like that. Plateau used to be a noun.. Now it’s a gerund. I learned about gerunds in the tenth grade and never thought I’d get to use it in a sentence. So I’m pretty happy about that.
I wonder what will become of us. Will our grandchildren talk of the old days when people bared their nose and mouth in public? Will they tell stories of tourists schooled up like mullet to watch Joey Chestnut scarf down seventy hotdogs on Coney Island? Will they long for the times when wet freezing revelers bunched up late into the night to cheer a ball dropping in Times Square? Will “people without homes” (the term homeless will become as archaic as hobo) find comfort in the shuttered malls and office buildings now retrofitted to accommodate the disadvantaged? Will the unbridalled printing of trillions and gazillions of dollars make paper money irrelevant?
Will a more realistic way of life root in our minds or will we retreat back into feeding our every fancy? In the 1954 granddaddy of air disaster movies, “The High and the Mighty”, John Wayne pilots an airplane that, en route from Hawaii to San Francisco, loses a propeller and fuel. With a bellyflop down into the Pacific a distinct possibilty, the passengers face life-altering revelations about their fears, their dreams, their relationships. When the hero (the Duke of course) miraculously brings the plane in for a safe landing, the passengers disembark from their renewed spirit and insights. The aging actress puts her heavy make-up back on. The feuding couple who reconciled will file for divorce. The businessman will sue the airline. Could this be a metaphor for the larger picture of a population awakened into a keener appreciation of life’s offerings only to be devoured by our old defects?
How wonderful if the legacy of this pandemic is a smog-free Hong Kong, Tokyo, and L.A. If our temporary Spartan lifestyles persist. Diminished air travel, car emmisions, and human consumption will surely bring a smile to Mother Nature. When people were banished from the beaches, deer showed up. When the commercial trawlers were benched, whales moved in.
In the final scene of “Gangs of New York”, Leonardo Dicaprio’s character glares out over the burnt down fragment that was once Manhattan and wonders, “Will anyone ever remember we were here?” Maybe, in the aftermath of this pandemic, that will be our legacy.