Pandemic Diary #2 — March 2020
We looked at each other from a distance, silence filling the great divide between us. I looked up towards the intercom speaker, halfway expecting the callous intercom voice above to countdown.
”3…2…1,” and we would both whip out our guns for a duel. But, alas, we were not on the season opener of Gunsmoke, and this was not Dodge City. The crescendo of the man’s coughing knocked me out of my stupor. He was leaned over, face red and wheezing. The 7 people still scattered about the waiting areas to my left and right adjusted their masks in horror….
“Well, guess that explains lack of commotion,” I muttered aloud as I passed the man — 6 feet away..6 feet away.
The Philadelphia Airport was a ghost town, all hustle and bustle halted by the Coronavirus onslaught. Except for the Brooks Brothers store — the place where expensive suits, ties, and dress shirts go to hide. When I walked by the window-pane flush with striped ties, the young man tasked to welcome new customers was bouncing from customer to customer with the energy of a hamster taking on the wheel after waking up from a coma. And that energy bounced around to everyone in the store. No one was wearing a mask or gloves. They were completely indifferent to the reality outside of those fancy Bocota double doors. The world had changed, but they just didn’t know it yet.
Or maybe it didn’t affect them.
As I waited in the group 8 line, which was full of folks donning masks and gloves to board the plane, the virus unveiled a completely different demon of American society.
“It’s honestly not any worse than the flu. Look at the numbers!” one masked man assured his family.
To write off this statement as ignorance would miss the point. These were people being proactive because they couldn’t afford to be reactive. A large contingent of the United States didn’t have sick leave from work, so any sort of sickness could sideline them from their job….permanently.
The Coronavirus might not kill them (maybe it would), but it could rip their jobs away, steal food from their dinner tables, or even take away the roof over their head. For the suits drinking champagne at the front of the plane, it was a casual trip from Philadelphia to Memphis. But for those in the back of the plane, it was an adventure through a ghostly circus of economic life and death.