Saturday, March 14, 2020


How can you tell if the talking head on TV is truly knowledgeable about ….well, anything...but especially about this pandemic?  The acid test is how he pronounces ‘preventive’:  If he says ‘pre-vent-ta-tive’, ignore him.  This test eliminates every governor of every state. 

Before a single case of Covid-19 was discovered in the United States, I had a talk with both of my sons about preparing for a possible outbreak.  I told What’s-His-Name and The-Other-One to pretend they knew in advance that someone in their family was going to catch the flu and take the necessary steps to prepare ahead.  I advised them to make sure prescriptions were up to date and perhaps buy a couple of weeks worth of food over and above what they normally would have on hand.  (Actually, I suggested a few cans of Chicken Noodle soup and a case of 7-Up.  As a Boomer, I was taught this was the optimum medical treatment for any disease.)

I also advised my sons to buy a small bottle of hand sanitizer for each of my grandchildren to put in their school bags, even though I was fairly sure that it would never actually be used for its intended purpose.  If I had been given such a bottle when I was in elementary school, I would have immediately used it in experiments on the red ants, with whom I was constantly in a state of all-out warfare.

Intent on following my own advice, I searched the house for hand sanitizer and found one tiny bottle in my suitcase, one that I had probably bought a decade ago.   Feeling a little foolish, I ordered a 12-ounce bottle from Amazon and then forgot the whole matter. 

My first indication of the public virus panic was an email from one of Amazon’s suppliers, informing me that,  “Per your request”, my order for a bottle of hand sanitizer had been cancelled.  Checking back online, I discovered the cost of the bottle had gone up six-fold.  Hell, at that price I couldn’t afford to use it on the ants—or on me.

Don’t get me wrong, the Covid-19 virus is real, we should be reasonably concerned and proactive, and I sincerely hope this crisis passes quickly and with minimal harm—but some of the irrational reactions by the public are hilarious.  Like my neighbor who is stocking up on bottled water and charcoal briquettes.  Or the mailman who complained—while scratching his nose—how uncomfortable it was to wear a pair of woven cloth gloves all day.

Now, more than two weeks after I had that talk with my sons, there is not a roll of toilet paper to be purchased in this town.  Bottled water, cans of Spam, rubbing alcohol, bottled bleach, and hand sanitizers have all vanished from grocery stores.  There is even a shortage of flashlight batteries.  Now, I live four thousand feet above sea level and about 700 miles from the Gulf of Mexico, but evidently some people think a hurricane is coming.

Is it possible that the entire shortage of toilet paper is part of a secret government plot to force us to wash our hands more often?

Can someone explain to me why there is now panic buying of freezers?  Surviving a quarantine for a few weeks is not the same thing as surviving a nuclear winter.  

And (predictably), Enema U has overreacted, too.  Though there is not a single reported case of the virus within hundreds of miles, classes are now cancelled, as the university starts spring break a week early.  I’m not sure how effective this action will be since the dorms and cafeterias are still open.  The already confused students are now wondering when coursework scheduled to be turned in during the “closure” is actually due...if ever. 

Many of the faculty are furious, since the administration acted without consulting them.  (As a child, it was my regular chore to collect eggs—something I did without consulting the chickens.)  That the administration hadn’t even had a chance to do so,  but acted unilaterally is a clear violation of principle of “shared governance”.   Now, that’s a myth, especially popular in academia, that is kind of like the existence of Santa Claus—only academics,  small children and fools really believe in it.  If you are unfamiliar with the concept of shared governance, allow me to make another country analogy:  It is when the wolves allow the sheep to believe they have input on the dinner menu.

The university is moving rapidly towards pushing all courses to be taught online, which is a poor method of teaching at best and all but an impossible task for lab classes.  There is probably no way to be sure, but the students are probably just as safe from the disease on campus as they are scattered across the state.  However, everyone in administration is under pressure to do something, so the students and faculty are being inundated with contradictory and inarticulate emails.

It is not just on the campus:  the whole world seems to be acting weird.  The email spam filter on my computer is filled with offers to sell me high-priced surgical masks and special soap.  Now, the weird stories are coming in a flood:

    44 Iranians died after drinking industrial-strength alcohol to treat a disease that it’s likely none of them had. 
    On Etsy and eBay, sales of knitted Coronavirus stress balls and virus-related arts and crafts are surging.
    An Australian newspaper, the Northern Territory Times is publishing editions with blank pages for their readers who can’t find toilet paper to purchase. 
    In India, a popular cure for coronavirus involves drinking a concoction of cow urine and cow manure. 
    Stores and restaurants are reporting that people are stealing the toilet paper out of public restrooms.
    If what’s on Facebook is accurate, about half of California is consuming garlic to ward off Coronavirus.  And vampires.
    The Dalai Lama has announced that chanting the Tara Mantra will “contain” the virus.
    Some jackass in California wants me to invest in his newest invention, a medical robot. (“Please state the nature of the medical emergency,” says The Doctor.)
    The sales of Corona beer have dropped dramatically. 
    Taiwan is now printing its national flag on the medical face masks that are   manufactured there, so anyone using one on mainland China, will show the Taiwanese flag on their face.

Yes, I’m prepared for the Coronavirus:  I have several new books to read, and as you can see, I’ve stocked the medicine cabinet with all the drugs I’m likely to need.

I’d write more, but I have to go.  I’m meeting my neighborhood dealer who has promised to sell me a dime bag of the really good, lavender-scented Purell.

1 comment:

  1. Given that the death rate for this virus is 10 to 50 times that of ordinary flu depending on the day's death tollA little over-reaction might just be in order. And scouring the shelves of local stores for toilet paper might just keep the clutchers of pearls amused enough that they don't do something unfortunate to make things worse for the rest of us.

    I'm just sayin'.