Monday, March 16 -2020 the day the world, as we knew it, vanished. The Corona Virus had been declared a full blown global Pandemic by the WHO on March 11. But here in North America they didn’t start shutting things down until five days later and the shock that we were to be prisoners in our own homes wasn’t yet penetrating our consciousness. We had rights. “You can’t tell us what to do!” The denial was deeply dug in. We weren’t ready to accept our new reality. But IT was here! IT was everywhere! But where was IT, this insidious, invisible mass murderer? A level ten panic began to escalate. Fear mongering along with endless misinformation was coming at us with the velocity of a confetti gun.
I could feel dread coming from everywhere. We were suddenly prisoners in our homes – and not all were spacious or private. Parents were pulling their hair out trying to find ways to corral their agitated, trapped children. Hospitals were under siege; families were separated, unable to reach out to give reassuring hugs. The dying were alone and isolated from family. No funerals for loved ones to commemorate. No wakes. No Shiva’s. No weddings.
No dinners. No company. No jobs! No money! Only the relentless hum of an ever-building panic as a rudderless global population drifted further and further from its moorings into a sea of unknowns.
The Quarantine Fifteen became a thing. Carbs calmed our frayed nerves. Sourdough bread and all kinds of baking united a skittish world. Flour and yeast became the contraband everyone was suddenly seeking. Those with access began to dole out small amounts to friends and family with the stealth of drug dealers. Hand sanitizer, much like the tulip wars of old, became auction worthy – only the highest bidders would remain sanitized. Those hoarding massive amounts of toilet paper remain a mystery, as this was not a virus that caused diarrhea.
As always in times of trouble, there are rays of sunshine. We realized there is a bigger definition of ‘essential workers’ - from the over-worked nurses, doctors, and garbage-collectors, to the transport truck drivers, delivery people and the hard working grocery store clerks who never miss a beat to keep most of us far too well fed. The unbridled family sing-a-longs and brilliantly choreographed parodies arrive on every streaming platform to make us laugh. Horn honking parades course through neighborhoods to brighten the days of those with birthdays and graduations, comforting those with dashed hopes and dreams, and bringing smiles to the lonely and isolated. They show us that somehow we will find our way through this.
But economic recovery remains a bigger uncertainty. For more than two months all but essential businesses were ordered to close. So, how does one earn a living? The lucky ones have the skills and jobs that allow them to work remotely from home. But so many jobs don’t. Restaurants that couldn’t provide take-out meals were soon shuttered.
All their staff, from cooks to wait staff, were unemployed. Housekeepers and hairdressers suddenly had zero income. Drycleaners were done. No one needed his or her unworn clothes cleaned. Even dog walkers were sidelined. The panic was palpable. There were very few industries that remained unscathed. Imagine an office where everyone must be 6 feet away from her co-worker. Or working on an assembly line. People the world over were scared. How were they going to put food on the table?
People from every corner of the world started to become problem solvers. Creativity and innovation flourished. Homemakers, film costumers and designers, my hubby included, began firing up their sewing machines, making masks for nurses and doctors along with all the other much needed PPE. Doctors in Boston ran out of virus-testing swabs, so they mobilized an army of 3-D printers to churn out new ones. Car companies refitted their machines to make Ventilators. Distilleries rejigged and made liquid sanitizer. A non-profit modified snorkel masks so doctors would have protection.
A seventeen-year old created one of the most popular Coronavirus tracking websites in the world. A good friend of mine’s son started a concierge testing business that would come to people’s homes. The live streaming of everything from fitness classes to art classes was an instant success with financial opportunities for many. Streamlined grocery shopping apps proliferated. So many creative innovators became entrepreneurs over night. Tutoring companies from math to language skills filled a void for parents who were desperate to keep their children’s education on track. All of these creative thinkers pushed a form of economic growth into being. We are not powerless. If we spin this pandemic into an opportunity we can learn from this dark time..
There is technology to unite us all in our common goal. We don’t have to take to the street to make change happen. We can unite and demand that the inequality between rich and poor be narrowed. We have the power to change. It starts with us. The Coronavirus gave us this! Save! Hope! Plan! Diversify! The now what? I’m guessing. One foot in front of the other and don’t look back… This is our reality now. We cannot cling to what was. We must accept what is. Only then can we move forward.
By Monica Parker