Small Waves

daniele-levis-pelusi-5tWA1mXjTEk-unsplash

…and then Buck pounced on the gunman… Is pounce a playful word? I think of a cat springing to catch a mouse or a mole in tall grass; not to eat, maybe catch and release. I don’t mean to use the word playfully, Buck meant to kill.

Last night, I watched The Call of the Wild, a movie starring Harrison Ford. Incomplete synopsis: Pampered southern dog (Buck) gets kidnapped and shipped to Alaska to become a sled dog. Harrison Ford finds redemption. Buck discovers his true inner nature. The movie was fine. I liked it, but I don’t think I would recommend it to anyone save my father—my father unconditionally loves any dog movie ever made. Eli loved it. Susan and I were entertained; Sophie wasn’t there, she went to a party. But I don’t really want to talk about the movie. I’m blogging about the theater, the empty theater.

Can you stand another post about the coronavirus? This one isn’t actually about the virus, it’s about human nature (and of course the theater). It’s about the change that’s already happening in this infant stage of the outbreak. I’m sorry if you’re sick of reading about the epidemic. I blog about what’s going on in my life. The coronavirus is what’s going on.

I had a free day yesterday. Well, not the whole day, but from eleven o’clock on. Midday Friday, I still planned on attending a conference all weekend. The mountain biking season doesn’t start until July, but for us coaches, it kicked off on Saturday. The plan: two hundred coaches from central Pennsylvania descend on the town of Hershey for two days of coach-training, camaraderie and trail riding. Until Pennsylvania found two “presumptive positive” coronavirus cases.

This presumptive positive thing is ridiculous. The United States can’t figure out if people are infected. China developed a test two months ago, as did Hong Kong and Japan. And South Korea. And Italy, Germany, France and Spain. One hundred and seven nations are able to test their citizens. Togo has a test. But Pennsylvania can’t be sure. Our test isn’t approved yet.

After Governor Wolf declared the virus is, in fact, here in Pennsylvania, the cycling league cancelled the conference. I think it’s funny that the organizers needed to hear about our (almost) verified cases before cancelling. There was no doubt in my mind. Friday morning talking with Eli: “Hey dad, when do you think Pennsylvania will have a coronavirus case?”

“Today.” Think about it. A cruise ship left San Francisco two weeks ago with only thirty-five hundred people on-board. Unless the virus was already everywhere, what are the chances an infected person would board the ship? It was a foregone conclusion that Pennsylvania already had cases. They just needed to test for them. The conference was moved online. I watched a three-hour webinar Saturday morning. The rest of the weekend was mine.

Back to the movie. An empty theater in Gettysburg isn’t especially rare. When we moved here in 2005, there were no theaters at all. Two years later, two multiplexes and an independent theater opened. Twenty screens. More times than not, we watched our movies sitting with four or five other small groups of people. On a couple of occasions, the movie played for only us. Last year, one of those multiplexes closed. There just isn’t enough business to sustain all those theaters. And last night, Saturday night, watching a Harrison Ford movie with good reviews, there were only twenty people in the theater.

Is this due to the virus? Sitting there last night, I didn’t think so. I’m so accustomed to empty theaters that it barely even registered. But on a Saturday night? This morning, talking with my father about the movie, he was unsurprised about the theater. He told me my niece boarded a plane yesterday and the flight attendant said “Sit where ever you want.” The plane was half empty.

Now I’m wondering what’s going to happen. European nations are already restricting travel. Over the past couple of months, my family talked about flying to Utah this summer to celebrate Sophie graduating high school. We’ve saved a bazillion Southwest points and the lodging is inexpensive. The trip seemed cheaper than the standard go-to-the-beach vacation. Now we wonder if we can even get to Utah. And if we get there, can we get back? A (not quite) worst case scenario would be someone getting sick in Utah, and we find ourselves quarantined in a state where we know no one.

If my tiny conference in middle-of-nowhere Pennsylvania is cancelled over fears of infection, can schools be far behind? Sophie has a school trip to Nashville in a couple of weeks. I’m beginning to doubt that will even happen. Empty theaters, empty sports arenas, empty planes. I’m sure the hotels are already taking a hit. I know of one in Hershey that lost a lot of business this weekend. Maybe they’ll all just become quarantine facilities for people disembarking cruise ships.

It’s now apparent that huge sectors of our economy are going to tank—the travel and entertainment industries first. I’ve been closely following the coronavirus spread since mid-January, and I’ve been reading pandemic novels my entire adult life. Still, this caught me off guard. I’ve really only been tracking the pandemic in terms of loss of life. It’s now clear the economic losses are going to be almost as big a deal.

Living in a tourist town, it will be interesting and a little scary to watch how this plays out. I feel like Gettysburg always has one foot in a recession-grave anyway. I don’t think it’s going to take much to disrupt Main Street. So many unknowns still exist, and even though I seem to think I can predict the future, I know I can’t. I don’t think the coronavirus is “contained in parts of the U.S.” as the Surgeon General suggested today. I think we’re seeing the first small waves of a very large storm.

Original photo by Daniele Levis Pelusi on Unsplash

25 thoughts on “Small Waves

  1. I agree with you. It will get worse before it gets better.
    So far, podunk Idaho hasn’t reported any cases, but that’s likely a result of lack of testing than actual fact. It will reach here as well. And, living in an area with a tourist-based economy, like you, that could have significant impacts. It will be what it will be.
    I like to think of this as nature reminding us that we really don’t know as much as we think we do, and we should dump our hubris and begin to tread more carefully on this planet.

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    • Absolutely correct. I’m still reading current direction that people shouldn’t get tested unless they’ve traveled abroad or came in contact with someone diagnosed. I assume we’ve got thousands of undocumented cases out there and we’re only catching on when someone gets really sick. Nature is in a population correction and the stock market is in an economic correction. Apparently we’ve gotten away from ourselves in more ways than one.

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  2. Went into the city today to have dinner. Still lots of people out about. The place I went to had a long queue. We’ve got the Grand Prix in Melbourne next week so will be interesting to see. Still no toilet paper anywhere I’ve been keeping an eye on the supermarket every day.

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      • Yes we are shutting down here too. Sport events have all been cancelled. No crowds over 500 outside or 100 inside. Needs to stock up for 2 weeks.

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      • We’re the type of family who pops by the grocery every day or two and buy enough for a couple of meals. This is a dramatic change for us. We don’t really have the room in our kitchen for two weeks of food. We keep a stash in my bedroom.

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      • We are the same. I shop everyday. I might have to go to Ikea today to get a set of shelvings so I can store food. It’s getting ridiculous. There was no meat at the supermarket yesterday only some trays of bbq sausages left.

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  3. Bob took Catelyn to see The Call of the Wild yesterday. When he went to get the tickets he said there were only six people with tickets and they were all together. I joked with him that he should get seats right next to them to blow their mind. But, in general, the theater was empty. I thought it was just the movie not garnering a ton of appeal, but it could definitely be virus related. I seem to notice to camps when it comes to the virus. Concern and complete lack of it. On FB especially. One half have the “Here we go!” with every mention of another confirmed case, the other post that you are more likely to die of the flu and that the media is responsible for causing unnecessary hysteria. I just keep waiting and watching. And washing my hands.

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    • I don’t spend much time on facebook, so I’ve only seen one post about it (no worse than the flu camp). All the stats the guy spouted out were wrong. At this point, economy-wise, I’m mostly concerned about the balance in Sophie’s college account. Call of the wild was pretty good except they got rid of the 2 most engaging characters 45 minutes into the movie.

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      • I got a good one for you – this weekend we went to Target and I watched this elderly lady check out who had gotten the “make sure you have toilet paper” memo as her entire cart was stuffed with it. But then, the checker was having a hard time getting the large plastic bag to open to get the TP in. So the elderly lady licked her fingers and helped pry the bag open. Doesn’t matter how much TP that lady has. If she keeps going around licking her fingers after a majorly public shopping trip she’s already doomed. She should probably ignore the TP messages and focus on the “wash your hands” message. She was a clear message to me that if I have common sense on my side I’m already one step ahead of this thing.

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      • Ha! That is a good one. Unfortunately, I’ve got the lick the finger habit because I deal with so much paperwork at work. Every time I return to my office, I sanitize. Hopefully I’m building a habit right now. When I worked at the Y there was a bathroom right next to my office. Every time I came back to my office I’d wash. I didn’t even think about it. It was just ingrained. I never got sick, and with the gym and the day care, that place was gross.

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  4. My family are in Utah, probably not the part you wanted to visit though which I’d guess is the Southern part? (That’s where all the cool stuff is.) I’m still hoping my mom will be able to come visit me in London the last week of April, but it might be wishful thinking now. I don’t think there will be too many quarantines in the US though honestly, simply because they aren’t testing people enough. (No numbers, no quarantine necessary, right?) (Ergo, no bad stats to blame on the Trump administration but that’s another topic.)

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  5. The economic fallout is shaping up to be a good hot mess. Our little tourist town had the quietest weekend in a long while. We’ll see how it all plays out, but for now, I’m reveling in the peace and quiet.
    And bike season doesn’t start till JULY? I’d die! That’s ages away!

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    • I’m sure if we have a huge slow down in tourism, most of the locals, me included, will enjoy the car-free roads–because that’s what tourism is in Gettysburg… CARS. The thing you’re supposed to do when you come here is drive your car around the ten miles of park roads. Practice doesn’t start until July, but with the spring weather over the past couple of weeks, Eli and I have gotten out to ride several times. With the daylight change, we should be able to ride any day we want.

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  6. I am very nervous about our upcoming (I hope) trip to Morocco and Portugal. Although neither place seems to be a hotbed of infection, neither did PA until recently. As you said, it’s everywhere. I worry about my son, who works in the service industry. If people don’t go out to restaurants, he won’t have a job, although I haven’t seen any evidence of this yet, at least not in Lancaster County as of last weekend.

    We go with a group of friends to see James Bond movies when they come out. The latest one was supposed to premiere in April but that has been pushed back to November due to the virus.

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    • I guess I wouldn’t have tagged you as a James Bond fan (sexism, although I acknowledge that I haven’t seen a new bond movie in years–the last old one I watched was Goldfinger and it was icky). I think the only likely scenario is that people will start to view the CV as something inevitable (like a cold with potentially more serious ramifications). We can’t shut down the whole world. Eli woke up sick this morning so of course I think we’ve already got it. In my mind, you’re no more likely to get sick in Morocco than Lancaster, but getting sick or quarantined in a foreign country would be a huge drag.

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  7. We have a few cases in Colorado and I’m working in Texas. Flew yesterday and the plane was 2/3 full. Personally, I’ll be looking for travel deals in the coming weeks, but that’s just me. I bought a few extra things at Costco but that’s it. No extra TP here. Saving it for the people who may really need it.

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  8. The media needs to start sharing the recovery rate for corona virus instead of making everyone afraid for their lives. The best thing people can do is boost their immune system, stress and worrying is the worst thing for the immune system.
    About the movie theaters, I think theaters have been declining because people don’t like the unoriginal films that Hollywood churns out, why pay $ when you can stream the same unoriginal junk at home, is my opinion. But the airlines are probably suffering from the corona virus panic.

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  9. Things are definitely slowing down here in NYC as the case numbers rise. It is especially tough for the millions (and I mean millions) who work in the service industry: food, hotel, gyms, etc. But mercifully we have a statewide paid leave policy and free testing (if anyone can get a friggin’ test). Fingers crossed. My building is wiping everything down four times a day. Hoping not to become Milan!

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