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The Upside of Covid-19

Who but Americans can polarize their opinions of a dangerous disease? Some panic while others poo-poo the possibility of pandemic. Some will bathe in sanitizer while others glad-hand strangers as if making a political statement.

If reality has one redeeming quality, it’s that it eventually overrides philosophy. Opinion is just a stiff breeze that sweeps around the unbudging boulder of the undeniable. Covid-19 will be what it will be, will do what it will do, and a lot of people will get to say, “I told you so.”

And a lot of people will say, “I never said that,” and a few people won’t say anything because you can’t talk while you’re on a ventilator.

This is America, so a lot of the suffering will fall on the poor and the so-called “working class” who can’t afford two weeks in quarantine and can’t do their jobs from home.

New London has plenty of these workers, the ones who can’t use a home computer to wait on tables, deliver fuel oil, stock shelves, sweep floors, fix pipes, mow lawns, or drive a garbage truck. Whether they get sick or not, they’re probably going to suffer.

I’ve been looking for silver lining around the dark cloud of doom. Silver linings don’t negate problems, but they provide a glow of hope.

Those who can work from home may find a whole new way of life. Companies may recognize the economic efficiency of not having to provide office space. Employees will get used to not commuting. Many will be able to shift to a four-day work-week. We’ll be burning less fuel, producing less carbon dioxide, allowing civilization to creep one more millimeter toward a new millennium.

School systems, from K through Ph.D., will learn to implement distance learning, which will be useful even after the quarantines and shut-downs. Parents will learn to enforce a new kind of home-schooling.

Conferences will be converted to webinars. Meetings will be held online. Offices will go paperless.

Look what happened at our own Hygienic Gallery on Bank St. For the sake of, well, hygiene, they’ve canceled all exhibit openings and other events. The gallery will still be open, but only because so few people visit at one time. The upside of the cancelations—the unexpected outcome of the epidemic—is that the organization is finally, by necessity, getting its exhibits online. People will be able to experience the gallery from home, hospitals, schools, and anywhere else on the planet. It’s also going to offer local artists’ work online, extending the local economy to the global marketplace. Thank your Mr. Coronavirus for making that happen!

It’s not too early to dream of what you’ll do if quarantined. Sleep late? Read more? Get to know your kids? Thin out your fridge? Tour the Hygienic from the comfort and safety of your bed? Do a little uninterrupted thinking?

You may find out who your real friends are. People tend to withdraw during pandemics because whom can you trust? Your best friend could be a carrier. Your spouse. Your kids. Your best friend. Your doctor.

Who wants to do a neighbor a favor—a ride to the doctor, babysit the kids, deliver a meal, share a little toilet paper—if it risks infection? Who will lend a hand to the people who can’t work from home? Some will. Some won’t. You’ll see who. Some will make the sky shine with silver lining while others surrender to the dark cloud of doom.


Glenn Alan Cheney is managing editor of new London Librarium. This piece appeared in the New London Times on May 14, 2020.

Submitted by Glenn Cheney on 9/30/2020

Created 5/7/2020

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