Monday, March 16, 2020 – Day 1
Those who know me well know that I think when I write and I write in order to think. I’m also a social person and I need to stay in touch with people even as I shelter-in-place during the COVID-19 outbreak. So it seemed logical that I write about the experience. For the next several days of our collective confinement, I’m going to try to write a daily blog. Follow along if you like. If not, that’s okay. I’m mostly doing this for my own sanity and well-being.
I got home late last night (Sunday) after working for several days in Jackson, Mississippi. Originally, I was supposed to make the trip by air but that changed three days before my departure date. Instead I rented a car and drove the two days down and the two days back. I have two conditions that put me in the highest risk category for contracting COVID-19. First, I’m an old coot (though I dare you to tell my mind that when it still sees a younger man in the mirror each morning). In reality, since I’ll be 66 years old, I’m technically in the senior citizen category, what some would call “elderly.” Yuck! That word has so many negative connotations! Second, I also have hyper-tension. And some people just thought I was hyper!
This trip reminded me of one that started on September 11, 2001. I was living in Iowa, owned a consulting business, and was traveling the U.S. as a speaker and trainer. On the morning of 9/11 I was at a gym working out and watching the morning news. I watched the planes crash into the World Trade Center and, at first, I thought I was watching a new movie trailer. By noon that day, I was to be on the road to speak at a college in Northwest Iowa. From there I was to drive to Aurora, Colorado to lead a three day curriculum training. Not hearing any news from the college and unable to reach anyone due to the shock and confusion of the day, I started the drive to Sioux City. I arrived in the midst of a memorial service for the victims of the attacks. I met briefly with a small group of students where we threw out the intended topic and simply talked about the events of the day. The next day I left for Denver.
The trip to Denver was Twilight Zone, or some would say Black Mirror, weird. I remember seeing very few cars or trucks on Interstates 80 and 25. When I’d stop for gas, food, or bathroom, there were few people and nobody was talking. We all just stared at the television that was on in every location.
Driving back from Jackson wasn’t quite like that but it was still a different experience. The hotels were not busy. The people I saw were quieter and kept their distance. And like 9/11, wherever the television was on, people were watching it intently. One thing that struck me as odd was the music playing at a Wendy’s where I picked up lunch on the way back home. It was Christian gospel music. I’m not opposed to gospel music but it just seemed odd to hear it in a Wendy’s.
Today I did some last minute shopping at Aldi, one of our favorite grocery stores. I was able to get most the supplies on Clemencia’s emergency supply list: oranges, chocolate, bananas, chocolate, orange juice, chocolate, rubber gloves, chocolate, cookies, tortilla chips, and chocolate. I was not able to find ground beef, chicken thighs, or toilet paper. I get the ground beef and the chicken thighs…but toilet paper? Actually there was still Kleenex on the shelves. Doesn’t anyone realize that Kleenex tissues can be used as toilet paper?
COVID-19 Humor: A little boy asked his mom, “Mommy, how long are we going to have to be hiding from this virus?” His mom replied, “I don’t really know, sweetheart. For now, just eat your toilet paper and get ready for bed.”
Last night Clemencia and I decided to watch Contagion again. We had seen it when it came out in 2011. It has a star-studded cast and it is a compelling movie, especially right now. When it came out, we decided to see it because it tells the story of how the Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Clemencia had been an EIS fellow (Class of 94).
I really liked the movie the first time and I liked it even more this time because I found myself paying much closer attention. Contagion is the story of a type of novel coronavirus that breaks out in Asia and spreads quickly around the globe. In the movie, the virus spreads very rapidly, like COVID-19, however, it is more quickly fatal to the general population than COVID-19.
Did you know…that SARS-CoV-2 is the scientific name of the virus that causes the disease COVID-19?BBC, March 17, 2020
As I was looking up the movie, I learned it is being streamed a lot these days and, frankly, I think that is a good thing. I think it is an important film to watch right now because it explains why we need to take the COVID-19 so seriously, how EIS does its job, how things should happen, and what can happen when things go terribly wrong. The movie is eerily similar to what we are living through right now. For this reason I won’t tell you it isn’t scary; but I will say it is the kind of good scary we need in this moment to make sure we are doing everything we can to keep safe.
Stay safe, be well, keep calm, and keep washing your hands!