We are anxious. Stalked by an illness that girdles the globe faster than an ICBM, we cannot unhear the order to keep an arm’s length from one another, just when in such fearful and bewildering circumstances one’s instinct is of course to join arms.
We are suddenly adrift in a vast turbulence of paradox. When it would be comforting to see a friend’s face, to gab and laugh, to hug and shake hands, to gossip and complain, ridicule, sympathize, razz, or reminisce, the face in front of us is masked. We cannot see her smile or frown. If we extend a hand it meets the other’s gloved in latex. When it would be refreshing to take a moment we’re in a rush, and so is he.
The news is always discomforting, sneering, apocalyptic, what should have been done, what is being done wrong, who has blundered and why we will all suffer for it. They closed the schools, that’s good. They closed the schools, that’s terrible. Or, there are the hapless prognosticators: here’s the worst case possibility, millions may die, the pandemic could last for most of the year, the economy will take decades to recover, the hospitals will be overrun, my neighbors will lie dying in the streets, there isn’t a leader one can rely upon.
No wonder folks are stocking up on toilet paper. What better feeling is there than to visit the family laundry room where three deep shelves of stacked Charmin Extra Soft stand by. You may run out of Cheetos, or Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food, but in that out of the way cupboard you have accumulated enough TP to see you through a year, maybe two. You won’t be the one who has to resort to using the MVTimes or the Gazette –or on a bad day the NYTimes or the Globe – in one of those crucial moments, because you lost track of your stockpile. You weren’t one of those big retailers that use the just-in-time system of restocking. No sir, maybe you didn’t plan for just this sort of extended calamity, but you certainly didn’t depend on a roll turning up in a moment of extremis.
Oh, and in this monumentally ironical global moment, astonishingly it turns out we are all in it together.