Kids, welcome to home schooling. First, this school needs a janitor.
In an alternate world, I’m a 46 year-old man with excellent health insurance and the coronavirus is something that I need to avoid so that I don’t infect “high risk” people. Right? Wrong. Until shortly after my 42nd birthday, I believed that I was solidly in the class of young(ish) healthy people who didn’t have to worry about flu shots, a compromised immune system, or the ramifications of an overcrowded hospital.
In reality, I’m a 46 year-old man with vascular Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome who has already had his fair share of life-threatening issues. I’ve already been on a ventilator, battling to stay alive – when there were plenty of ventilators to go around. In reality I have a regurgitating aortic valve that would make any lung issue more of a challenge for me to overcome. In reality, I have a collagen disease that makes having a violent cough a deadly-dangerous situation. I’m that “high risk” person that we’re upending society to protect.
In reality, we’re all high risk
Are there two kinds of people – high risk and low risk? No. There are also the huge portion of people who think they’re in the low risk cohort, but are actually high-risk and just don’t know it yet. I went 42 years thinking I was perfectly fine. Four California guys who were on a ski trip in the Italian alps and ended up on ventilators with COVID-19 thought they were low risk. The only people who are low risk are the ones who’ve already recovered. (We should send them all to an island with restaurants and bars that are open – or better yet, put them on their own special cruise!) Now there are legitimate news stories correlating things as simple as blood type and taking common hypertension medications to increased chances of getting COVID-19 and having a more severe case. I got through the flu just fine last year, but I’m making no assumptions when it comes to how I’d fight COVID-19. It’s the difference between a hang nail and small pox.
The continually evolving “new normal”
A few days before this got serious for most of the United States, I listened to the “Making Sense” podcast by Sam Harris. Sam’s guest was epidemiologist Nicholas Christakis – and the message was: act now, before it’s too late. For about a day, I sounded alarmist when I talked to friends about the virus. Then there was the night that the NBA suspended its season and Tom Hanks tweeted that he had the virus. Since then, like falling dominoes, restrictions have rolled out as the scope of the pandemic came into focus. Even Trump – about ten steps behind his own advisors – now understands that this is so serious that he’s now claiming that he always took it seriously.
I was probably a day or two ahead of the pack when it came to stocking up with essential supplies – although I was a day behind the people who currently sit on a year’s supply of toilet paper. I went to Sam’s Club and bought lots of dry goods (rice, potatoes, pasta, and snacks) before stores started running out of food entirely. But we don’t have much more food than we usually carry after our weekly shopping trip.
Even as we adjusted, I’ll admit, we made some missteps. Facing a lot of “family time” in our near future, we went out to the beach. I mean – come on! Fresh air! Sun! This is how you avoid contamination, right? Yeah – maybe not Sunset Beach on the first weekend of Spring Break. Not once, but twice, we hit a crowded beach restaurant, openly admitting that it was probably our last restaurant visit for the foreseeable future. In fairness, on March 13, no one was saying there was anything unsafe about the beach. By March 17, news outlets around the world were criticizing the people who packed Clearwater Beach for St. Patty’s Day (just a few miles to the north). The world changes fast. We’ll be picking uncrowded beaches moving forward.(remember him from this post two summer ago?) was not practicing safe behavior.
In spite of that carelessness, I can honestly say that I can’t remember the last time I touched a human who wasn’t my wife or kids. I stopped shaking hands before it was cool. But still – there are those little moments where you hand your credit card to a clerk, or touch the screen as you checkout in the grocery store. It’s hard to be perfect.
Right now, a lot of parents on social media are flipping out about “home schooling.” Technically, our kids are on spring break, so we haven’t panicked yet. But if I use my kids as any guide, it should be easy. After all, most days I ask them what they did at school, they say, “Nothing.” Don’t worry, kids. Dad is full of long and interesting lectures on a wide variety of topics. Take notes because it’s going to be on the test.
Stay tuned to the blog for how this adventure unfolds. I’ll do my best to stay healthy… but I’ll need your help.
“Don’t make me turn this van around” is written by Jonathan Kile, and approved by Monica Kile. Jon’s 2014 thriller, The Grandfather Clock, is available free for Kindle on Amazon.com and other eReaders at Smashwords. Reach him at email@example.com. Monica is a leader of a local non-profit, marathoner, baker, tour guide, and prolific bath taker.