My 39-year-old step-daughter dropped off some toilet paper at our condo this morning. While we don’t need toilet paper, I was touched by her gesture. In return, I gave her one of our three tubes of Clorox Disinfecting Wipes.
Before last week, that interaction would have been unnecessary, unthinkable, preposterous. Today, it’s a tale of love in the time of coronavirus.
Like billions of families for thousands of years, we exchange things our kids don’t really need because we can and we care and we’re family. These gifts don’t just have great sentimental value. Toilet paper and disinfecting wipes are now, in our pre-plague economy, rare and precious.
We then talked for 15 minutes with her standing awkwardly in the entranceway to our condo and me sitting at the dining room table. I didn’t offer her coffee. She didn’t move closer. We talked about the usual stuff this week: losing your job and your business. We talked about her mom who’s my wife, recounting the days she was a SARS doctor, and fretting that today is different; she’s 77. When it came time to bid my step-daughter goodbye, I stood up and moved close to her. She backed up. I stopped in my tracks. Our instincts had already taught us the rules of social distancing. We waved goodbye, awkwardly, 20 feet apart, with a promise to call tonight.
So is this it, then?
Is this how we’re going to act with our loved ones face-to-face?
All I can say is, thank God for the Internet.
Seriously. Think how hard social distancing would be if we all didn’t have an alternate reality.
If this pandemic had hit in 2000 instead of 2020, we’d all be pouring out into the streets screaming: “Shoot me!”
WiFi has officially been with us for 20 years, but memory tells me maybe 10. And WiFi everywhere, say 5. Technology’s had a bad time of it recently. But if it can get us through this plague, all will be forgiven. In fact, a Toronto company called BlueDot used AI to track COVED 19 even before the Chinese did. I digress.
So imagine being banished to your home for the next …..well, who knows how long?…and not being able to text or e-mail your friends? Binge on movies all day?
Do online banking? See your savings disappear in real-time?
Imagine not holding 20-person video meetings with colleagues from around the world? Designing real buildings virtually? Practicing law?
Practice medicine? Starting a blog?
That’s what we’re doing. My wife’s all tuned up on telemedicine and ‘saw’ her first patients today. I’m starting this blog, Plague-Ground, because I love to write and connect. We don’t need to be in Toronto, let alone in person, to do any of this.
But social distancing in our homes without WiFi is a whole other thing…. having to just sit and…..read a book…watch TV….listen to the radio on a radio…..work on your computer but be unable to share that work……
So, despite the shocking change in all our lives, all kinds of virtual communities have sprung up in the past 72 hours to take the place of in-person groups and gatherings – from the Social Distancing Festival, featuring the work of performers who’ve had their live concerts cancelled, to putting up Christmas Tree lights to re-ignite some cheer.
We’ve known for years that strong communities make for long lives. If you’re a baby girl born this morning in Tokyo, the chances of you living to be 100 are 1 in 2. There are two reasons for this: diet and the incredibly strong sense of community the Japanese uniquely possess.
Until last week, one big difference between a real community and a virtual one was, the real one nearly always lived longer.
Today, we’re learning first-hand that each one can be infected by a virus.
But it’s infinitely better to have both, especially now when one is on its knees.