Ten days from now:
“What can I get for you?”
“Four Coronas with limes. We’re celebrating!”
“Oh, what’re you celebrating?
“The first human to human transmission of the coronavirus in the United States. We’re celebrating the beginning of the end.”
This hasn’t happened. Yet. Probably. Maybe. It will though. Any excuse to party, right?
I’m clicking on my news feed more than usual today. Initially, it was the Washington Post. I got a subscription for Christmas this year. I was consuming my news in soundbites and blurbs, and one day in late November, I realized I didn’t know anything at all.
The Post was unsatisfying today. Because it takes more than fifteen minutes to write one of their articles, they don’t update their website frequently. I needed CNN. After scrolling through twenty articles about the impeachment—a story I can no longer follow because it makes me want to vomit—I found the coronavirus section. Stocks dive as fears over coronavirus spread. McDonald’s closes restaurants in five Chinese cities. Snakes could be the source of the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak.
Let’s start with that last one. Snakes! Why are we calling this ‘the coronavirus?’ Pandemics require distinctive names. Bird Flu, Swine Flu, SARS, Ebola (the name of that virus is scary enough), all the way back to the 1918 Spanish Flu. In Stephen King’s epic good-versus-evil thriller The Stand, the pandemic was called Captain Trips. I think the media has squandered a rare opportunity. Snake Virus! It’s too late. Coronavirus, it is.
Pandemics and I have a history. Through the eighties and nineties, I read book after book about disasters decimating society. Earthquakes, asteroid strikes, I even read a series of books about the Rapture. But the pandemic books were always my favorite. Of course, there’s The Stand, but the best of all is Earth Abides by George Stewart—a new virus, sweeps the earth killing 99.9% of the population. The grand daddy of dystopian novels, written a half a century before ‘dystopian’ even became a reading genre. Earth Abides was published in 1949.
When the real pandemics of the third millennium arrived, I was terrified. I suffer from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. When I was a kid, I had the stereotypical symptoms of needing to check the locks and lights a dozen times before bed. I wrote about that HERE. As an adult, my OCD is simply about obsession. Starting in the early 2000s, I worried about the coming pandemic. All. The. Time.
As the Bird Flu swept the globe in the mid-2000s, I stockpiled food in my basement. I purchased crates of surgical masks to protect my family and me. I insisted that we write a pandemic policy for my workplace (this demand was completely ignored by my boss). I even plotted moving because I knew the electricity would go off for good. Without running sump-pumps, our house will fill with water.
This was before medication.
In 2016, I started taking Risperidone to quell the unwanted movements and sounds that accompany Tourette Syndrome. It works, sort of. But it’s a freaking magic bullet for my OCD. Gone are the swirling thoughts that kept me up all night. Pandemics? Pish. Taking a walk with Susan last night, I talked about my recent interaction with the coronavirus. Sure, I’m curious, upset for its victims, maybe I’m a little wary, but I’m not worried at all.
I read the articles with the type of fascination I reserve for natural disasters—floods and fires in distant lands, disasters that don’t threaten me in any way. I told Susan I was worried that I must have lost my will to live. I can’t wrap my head around not panicking over the coronavirus. It took our entire walk for her to convince me that I’m finally viewing the unlikely scenario of global pandemic like everyone else. For the first time, I’m having a normal response to this news.
Don’t get me wrong, I think this coronavirus is a very big deal. I think the odds that it will explode into a global catastrophe are high. But I’m not losing sleep over it, and for me, that’s a happy change.