All In Stride

I’ve had a lot of discussions lately about the hot topic of the day. A customer calls. We talk trees for a few minutes. But the conversation always turns to the Coronavirus. His customers are dropping jobs. They’re unsure of the financial impact. Business is slow for a lot of us. It has come to a complete halt for some.

My parents lived through the Great Depression and the uncertain times of WWII. I lived through the protests and unrest of the 1960s; gas station lines in 1978 when gas went to a whopping 50¢ per gallon. People went nuts.

We even practiced our emergency drills back in elementary school so we would all be aware of how to stay safe. Certain buildings were marked as Bomb Shelters with the black and yellow Civil Defense emblem. I never went into one, but I’m assuming those buildings had deep basements that would protect us in the event that Cuba sent missiles our way. That worked, I guess, as long as missiles would bounce off concrete buildings.

So, we’ve all been through precautionary times before. But this feels different. Panic has a way of stealing our sense of peace. My cousin wrote me the other day and he calls it mass hysteria. One guy named it TPSD. Toilet Paper Stress Disorder.

I am neither scared nor worried from a personal health perspective. As I understand it, if I get it, I could get sick and would definitely get over it. My healthy and robust buddy said to me last night, “Send it my way. I’ll take it. If 50% of the people need to get this thing in order for there to be some buildup of resistance to the virus, better me than the elderly.” He’s a take-one-for-the-team kind of guy.

There is so much disagreement over the recommendations that some think will help control the spread of the virus. Stay away from public contact. Work from home. Wash your hands, which we all learned in kindergarten. Cancel large gatherings. Cancel graduation. Cancel travel. Cancel worship services. Cancel the backyard BBQ with friends.

Normally calm people are animated. Some in denial. Some over reacting. Everyone trying to find some reasonable way to carry on. Some responsible way to protect those at risk short of becoming hermits.

“Social Distancing” is the buzz word. Which shouldn’t really be that hard for the hordes of people that already have their faces stuck to their gizmo screens. Being socially distant has been the norm for some folks in restaurants and on dates and in airports all over. This concept shouldn’t be hard to follow.

I went to a local industrial supply house the other day. The sign on the front door says to knock for service. I knocked. I heard the bolt turn from the inside. The young lady asked how she could help me. I had an order to pick up and I wanted a certain metric bolt. Eight of them.

“Let me go see what I can get for you.” She turned back through the door and locked it behind her.

She returned with what I wanted. “Cash or credit?” she asked. I showed her my credit card. “You’ll have to come inside for that.” I walked straight to the counter. She told me to insert my card. “Don’t worry. I wipe down the card machine after every transaction.” The place smelled heavy of Lysol. And she offered me a squirt of hand sanitizer when we were done.

What a weird way to do business. But this is what it has all come to in crisis mode.

Even simple things have changed because critical times change the way people think.

For example, the handshake. It’s been the normal way of greeting friends and strangers and small children my whole life. You reach out to a 5-year-old and he knows what that means. You brag on him to his Dad. “That boy has a fine handshake.” But the advice is “Don’t Touch.” No more handshakes for now.

Who knows how long before some will be comfortable with human contact again. I hope the handshake makes a comeback when this is over. If it doesn’t, I’ll be on the watch list, because I’m shaking hands again once we get the “all clear”. I’ll probably shake hard and long, too.

It’s not all negative. Families are hanging out together. Go figure. Rather than running themselves nuts trying to make it to ball practice and dance lessons and PTA meetings and youth outings and recitals and Chucky Cheese birthday parties; they are rediscovering each other. Some have found that they actually like each other, and that maybe this is not so bad.

I ran into a friend at the Post Office yesterday. He had just driven down from Atlanta.

“You should see the traffic in Atlanta,” he said.

“It’s a nuthouse, right?”

“Naw. It’s crazy. You can go anywhere you want on any highway and there’s no delay. No interstate parking lots anywhere.”

I pulled up the traffic watch on my phone. And sure enough, it was rush hour, which we all know is 5 hours long, and all the roads were green. Downtown connector. Spaghetti Junction. NASCAR 285. GA 400, the escape route to the north. Peachtree Street. Peachtree Boulevard. Peachtree Industrial. All of it was green. Not a red line anywhere. I thought about driving up there just to see it for myself.

Here’s my advice. Take it all in stride. Those making difficult decisions are doing what they think is best for the general wellbeing of us all. The Man is not out to get us. Find someone to help out. Some elderly person near you needs a few things from the store, so, go get them. See the good in the changes. Staying home for supper and entertainment and worship and even work has an upside. You can sit in your underwear and no one will be the wiser for it.

My hope and prayer is that this experience will make us stronger and better and will help us focus more on the things that matter in life. The Creator of all things is not ignorant of our condition. This, too, shall pass.

Besides, let’s face it. We’re spoiled just a little bit. We could use a wakeup call. We all take some of life’s best things for granted. And some of us have taken more than our share of toilet paper. Please share. I’m getting low.