Gosh, but it’s quiet around here. Ordinarily a man of my advanced age and persnickety temperament would welcome the unaccustomed stillness, but I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking this sudden hush is just a bit creepy!
Visitors to any of our grocery stores will no doubt notice a simmering sense of alarm. I can’t remember ever seeing local food-store shelves that are completely empty … and yet they are now a common sight around town. (Although it’s quite possible these empty shelves are due not to coronavirus, but to another virus … unfounded and irrational fear.)
But suddenly I’m a member of so many “families” that I’ve lost count. Seems like every email I get starts out with … “We here at (insert name of company) look upon you as a member of our cherished family and we wanted to share with you, our valued family member, the steps we are taking to combat this pandemic …” Hope they don’t expect me to send them all a Christmas card in December!
I just read a toe-curling article about life with the coronavirus in Italy, where the death toll at this writing has surpassed 2,000. In the northern part of the country, the article described coffins piling up outside crematoria and church graveyards. Calls to undertakers are met with “Sorry … we can’t handle any more bodies”
In an effort to explain Italy’s soaring death toll, the article did mention that Italy has the oldest population in Europe … but this image of piling-up coffins was hard to dismiss.
Panic over COVID-19 seems to be greater in big cities – and for good reason. When you do the math, in centres with millions of people, even if a small percentage of these citizens come down with the virus, it would still paralyze the health-care system. Hospitals in major cities will likely have shortages of beds, medicines and, most crucially, respirators.
For instance, New York State has a population of 18 million. If (as health experts predict), 17 per cent of that population needs hospitalization due to COVID-19, that means the state will need 1.25-million beds. They currently have 53,000. That statistic, as New York Gov. Mario Cuomo remarked, “ … will keep you up at night.”
A similar paradigm here in Ontario would probably be just as catastrophic, but (and perhaps I’m seeing things through rose-coloured glasses) I feel safer here than if I were in New York or San Francisco.
It’s amazing how this pandemic puts things in your life into perspective. No longer do I respond emotionally to these (actual) asinine headlines: “David Beckham Goes Shirtless During Friendly Soccer Game,” “Rapper Waka Flocka Flame Says Coronavirus Is Fake” and “Movie Star Says She’d Only Get Virus If God Thought She Needed Publicity.”
Of course, crises of this sort always bring out humour. How else can we lighten the mood in the face of such dismal news? Here are a few that tickled my funny bone. I offer them here in the hope they will ease some of your distress.
Overheard conversation: “I’m a huge sports fan, see. Hockey, curling, football, baseball, basketball, lacrosse … the whole nine yards. So strictly from habit, I was sitting on my couch one evening, mourning the loss of all my sports programs because of this virus thing … and I suddenly realized there was a woman sitting next to me. Apparently, she’s my wife. She seemed like a very nice person!”
A cartoon showed an elderly couple at the breakfast table going over their retirement-account statement from the bank. The husband says “Well I guess we could always use this for toilet paper.”
A sign on a grocery store shelf reads: “If you need 144 rolls of toilet paper for a 14-day quarantine, you probably should have seen a doctor long before COVID-19 struck!”
“Two guys came into the bank where I work with masks on! Thank God they were only there to rob us!”
And my personal favourite:
Son: “Why is there a toilet paper shortage, Dad?”
Dad: “Because every time someone sneezes, 20 people poop their pants!”
I have every confidence we humans will win this battle over COVID-19. We need to stay calm, dream of brighter days, avoid crowds and for God’s sake … wash your hands … frequently! Couragio!