Jenkins: Do the right thing. We can do this.
By Paul Jenkins |
Ah, the good ol’ days of just a few short months ago. Coming and going as we pleased. Hugging loved ones. Shaking hands with friends, even complete strangers. Gathering in bunches just for the heck of it. Snorfling and snuffling without wondering if we were going to die.
But here’s the thing: That was then; this is now.
Thanks to the deadly COVID-19 bug, we find ourselves living in a scary new world — one where our activities, our contact with other humans and our ability to live as we want increasingly is restricted. We are living in an age of disinfectants, hand-washing, stifling masks and rubber gloves. The medicinal odor of Clorox and rubbing alcohol will haunt us for generations.
As we act to protect ourselves, our loved ones, our most vulnerable and, God bless them, our first responders, many of us seem to get the immensity of all that; that things have changed. Some of us clearly do not.
Girding for a much-delayed foray into a grocery store a few days back, donning a mask and rubber gloves, it felt like I was embarking on a mission behind enemy lines. Once through the store doors, it immediately was clear that not everybody was on the same page when it came to safety gear, despite repeated warnings, requests and cajoling by those directing the fight against the virus.
The store’s employees? No masks, for the most part. Gloves? Get real. Disinfectant wipes for the carts? Didn’t see any. And customers? Easily 90% of them appeared to have no idea there are itsy-bitsy critters floating around that can kill you or make you wish you were dead. Keeping a 6-foot separation was out the window as some of the customers, mostly young, clumped up in bunches. If you were from another planet, you might think nothing was amiss in these parts — except for a weirdo here and there wearing a mask and/or rubber gloves.
It is nothing short of a wonderment that some folks — Gen Z-ers, my Millennial son maintains — refuse to accept the stark reality that when a number is called, it might actually be theirs. They are immortal. In years gone by, I was one of them. It was always going to happen to the other guy — until it did not. Nowadays, these are the folks who text or FaceTime as they drive, or down a few snorts before they jump behind the wheel. They pop pills, or do illegal drugs on a shared needle or have unprotected sex with strangers. The problem is that when they are wrong, they not only can die, they can take innocents with them.
The folks in the store did not appear to be killers or heartless jerks. They did not seem reckless or uncaring. They just seemed somehow oblivious in the clamorous face of perhaps the worst health crisis in this nation’s — and this world’s — recent history. They not only were endangering others, they were endangering themselves and their loved ones.
Make no mistake, being oblivious and not actively doing everything we can — using masks and gloves, staying away from others whenever possible — to halt spread of the COVID-19 virus endangers each and every one of us. Those measures are working well in other places, such as New Zealand. Ignoring them especially threatens our most vulnerable, a group I find myself a member of. Mind you, I always have been a shy and vulnerable guy, but am feeling even more so every day as the number of cases mount.
Government has stepped up as it did in the 2018 earthquake, but it cannot do it all. Those rising numbers are straining our health care system to the breaking point. Doctors and nurses and technicians and firefighters are frazzled. If we do not — if we cannot — be bothered to do our part in putting the brakes on the virus, the system will collapse. All those people who are leaving their homes every day to risk their lives for us in this ongoing fight will fail.
I’m particularly fond of doctors, nurses, medical technicians and firefighters, because more than once in my life they have kept me alive despite less-than-exciting odds. I am not alone. There are legions of us walking around every day because of their efforts and training and, most important, their heart.
If we cannot bring ourselves to do the right thing each time we leave home for the grocery or anyplace else, and do it for ourselves and our loved ones, if we cannot do it to save a stranger’s life, surely we can do it for the people who will be asked to risk their lives to save ours.
C’mon folks. We can do this.
Paul Jenkins is editor of the Anchorage Daily Planet.