Today I am revisiting a theme first enunciated in the 14th century by Boccaccio in The Decameron—namely, how to live through a pandemic. In his case, it was the Great Plague; in ours, obviously the pandemic. With each passing day, we learn of new restrictions that cause us to cope as best we can with a situation that none of us has ever experienced.
When I read last month of the death of Sen. John McCain’s mother at the age of 108, I thought that she would have been one of the few people alive able to remember living through the last pandemic, the Spanish flu that spread across the world from 1918 to 1921.
This time, with modern means of communication and the availability of medicines not known a century ago, we have a better chance of survival, although the economic and social costs are staggering. Restaurants that we have patronized for years have closed permanently. Airlines, buses and railroads have become near-empty tubes, as potential travelers are heeding the message to stay at home.
Next week the term “virtual” will take on new meaning as people have Zoom Thanksgiving dinners, and at Christmas, Santa Claus will not be coming down the chimney, as his elves have not been allowed to make the toys to fill his bag. Many of us are looking for alternatives, but few are forthcoming.
We must remember that the original Thanksgiving at Berkeley Plantation on the James River probably was an outdoors event. Perhaps this mode can work again this year, 402 years later. Our New England friends, whose forebearers came up with their own Thanksgiving the following year, might follow suit once again.
For three months, my Good Wife worked from home at our dining room table, and the Younger B.E. taught her second-grade class, hundreds of miles away, form our kitchen table. The efforts they diligently expended were commendable, but as far as teaching goes, nothing is as beneficial in education as in-person instruction. Students, particularly those in grade school, need personal contact to achieve their best results. Teachers who have endeavored to find creative ways to overcome the absence of personal contact deserve our gratitude.
The Younger B.E. made a sign that reads “Right now, I cannot talk or interact with anyone.” She glued it on a popsicle stick, and placed it in a vase on the table next to her mother’s computer, to be facing those of us passing through the dining room during her conference calls and Zoom meetings. My Good Wife has speculated that after this crisis is over, will any of us remember how to interact with anyone else?
Banks that have closed their lobbies to in-person transactions, thereby resorting to drive-thru business only, no longer have to worry whether masked patrons are entering for nefarious purposes or not. The drive-thru further limits the potential spread of the disease, thereby reassuring the employees that the customer is legit.
Previously, when one said “2020,” the frame of reference was either to the ideal level of one’s vision as defined by an ophthalmologist, or to a television program hosted by the late Hugh Downs. Henceforth, it will reference the year of the pandemic, eclipsing the former connotations. For each of us, the year will not be one we forget.
After all these years, I still am trying to learn how to use a computer. In last week’s item on the Electoral College, while typing and deleting, at one point I deleted too much. The part of the sentence that reads “the Electoral College, established and prescribed by Article 1 of the United States Constitution,” should have read “Article II, Section 1.”
As I remember the adage, “haste makes waste,” I send my apologies to our readers, and my thanks to Dale Clinbeard of Greenville, S.C., who caught the error. This slip would not have happened on my trusty old Smith-Corona.