I’ve Got the Fever by Steven A. Craig
I know what you’re thinking: “Holy overly verbose crapballs, Steven. It sure has been awhile since you published an installment of TRUTH: In 1000 Words or Less. What, does it take a global epidemic to bring back your column or something?” Well yes, it kind of does. And yes, a lot has happened in the intervening two years since TRUTH went on hiatus, but I have a lot to get to in this column and only a little over 900 words left, so that will just have to wait for later.
When I set to writing about this whole corona situation, I immediately thought to write about the blatant incompetency of our presidential leadership and how this crisis has exposed not only Trump’s arrogance and narcissism, but his bafoonish ignorance as well. After all, how can any writer not be tempted by the low-lying fruit of a president who actually recommend ingesting disinfectant? Oh and don’t tell me he was joking Trumpers. First of all, you know he wasn’t. How do I know? In the days after Trump’s bewildering utterances, poison centers across the country were flooded with calls by Trump believers who called in to see if this was actually safe for them (wouldn’t you love to have the transcript on those calls? “Um, I was calling to find out what would happen if I ingest Lysol to fight off COVID…”, “”Are you serious?”, “Um, maybe…”, “No sir, no it is not.”) And even if he was joking, I’m not sure that’s better. Who the hell jokes about injecting disinfectant while people are dying in the midst of a pandemic? I guess just that jovial jokester Donald Trump.
I also thought to write about how even this issue has somehow become politicized, further dividing an already politically beleaguered nation. On the one hand, conservatives want everything opened from restaurants to tattoo parlors (after all, who doesn’t absolutely need to make bad decisions after being locked in their houses with family for weeks on end?) while liberals want us to board up our houses and not come out until the Big Bad Cornoa Virus just plain goes away. Nowhere is the middle road of slowly re-opening businesses that genuinely serve the public interest while ensuring the protection of vulnerable populations.
Or I could have written about the positive side of all this, you know, the feel good stories. The howls each night that fill the evening skies with hope and gratitude for the medical workers who are working the front lines of combatting this fatal illness. The messages of inspiration that I have seen etched in chalk upon the concrete bike paths I have frequented during these days of social distancing. The powerful stories of neighbors caring for each other, often at risk to themselves. The Earth breathing a much-needed sigh of relief as car and industrial pollution has plummeted to its lowest levels in decades. The fact that I haven’t had to see or hear from Justin Beiber for six straight weeks.
Or I could have exposed the absurdity of all of this. Toilet paper, people. Seriously? It is more important to you to wipe your ass than eat? Perhaps even more disconcerting was my late-night trip to the grocery store on the night before stay-at-home orders went into effect. You know what they had plenty of? Condoms and alcohol. What’s wrong with you people? What happened to the days that we dealt with national emergencies by way of copious drinking and well, you know….
But all of that has been covered by countless other commentators ad nauseum over the past several weeks. As I sat in yet another zoom meeting with my video turned off so that none of my colleagues would know that I was still in bed with a bowl of cereal on my chest, I realized that there were lessons to be learned from all of this. In all challenging times, be they personal or global, we have two possible paths to tread: endure and survive or grow and evolve. We need to use this moment in time as a crucial stepping stone in our evolution as a species.
The enduring bright spot of this pandemic is that it has shed a light on how we have come to interact with each other. As technology has been steadily introduced into our culture and incessantly informed human interaction, we have witnessed the erosion of interpersonal communication. We’ve all seen it. Teenagers perpetually glued to their phones checking out Tik Tok videos like your dog perched just inside the door as he keeps his resolute gaze fixed upon the squirrel perpetually torturing him from the tree nearby. Kids playing games on their devices at a family dinner. The couple out on a date but texting relentlessly rather than enjoying the company of the person right in front of them. A few months before all of this went down, I was out to dinner with a friend where I watched four college ladies who sat at a table together but were on their phones the entire evening. You know exactly what I’m talking about.
And where is that getting us now? Yeah, that’s what I thought. Forced into virtual lives where all of our interpersonal communication comes through texting and google hangouts, we are starting to awaken to the limitations of these virtual platforms. Suddenly, we are recognizing just how much we thrive on face to face communication with our fellow human beings.
I have no idea what the world will look like when the doors to society magically reopen, and we all emerge from our corona-inspired hibernation, like sleepy bears looking for honey, porridge, and ale, but I hope we do not lose sight of the opportunity that stands before us. Perhaps, just perhaps, this whole circumstance will serve as a much-needed gut punch to our collective consciousness that the very technology that was developed to bring us all together has actually been serving to alienate us further and further from real connection.
Steven Craig is the author of the best-selling novel WAITING FOR TODAY, as well as numerous published poems, short stories, and dramatic works. Read his blog TRUTH: In 1000 Words or Less every THURSDAY at www.waitingfortoday.com