by Beau Hebert
Dear The Beauster: Since Coronavirus hit Seattle, my life has gone to Hell. The place where I bartend shut down and my girlfriend dumped me because of my obsession with flattening the curve. Is there a silver lining to this stupid pandemic?
Jilted, Jobless and Jaded in Georgetown
Dear J-J-and-J in G-Town,
I’m sorry that your life has turned into a Coronavirus Country song, but strap on your big boy latex gloves and hang in there! I believe this crisis, like my hair, has so many silver linings that I need to divide them into categories.
Retroactive Silver Linings:
It’s not the Black Death. Now that was one doozy of a pandemic, estimated to have killed up to half the population of Europe and between seventy-five to two hundred million people worldwide, with waves of outbreak that continued for hundreds of years. The Black Death also sparked massive social upheaval, political and religious persecution, and, by all accounts, was a horrific way to die, marked by bubos (large lesions) on the body, and the vomiting of blood. Not to dismiss the seriousness of our current pandemic, but I’d be willing to bet that none among us would choose to trade places with a Genoese villager of the mid-thirteenth century. I also predict that Coronavirus will rank quite low on the calamity scale when compared to some man-made atrocities, like World War I, World War II, the Holocaust, the Killing Fields and Everyone Loves Raymond. Please try to put Covid-19 into historical perspective.
Current Silver Linings:
Oh the irony that an infectious disease that attacks the respiratory system appears to have given Mother Earth an opportunity to take a giant breath of fresh air. The decrease in human activity as a result of quarantines has dramatically reduced Nitrogen dioxide emissions in China and the Po Valley of Italy. One scientist estimates that the two-month decrease of air pollution in China will have saved the lives of 4,000 children and 73,000 people aged seventy or older, a figure that well exceeds China’s death toll from Covid-19. There were also some, apparently false, reports that Dolphins have appeared in the canals of Venice. DOLPHINS! The Wellbutrin of the sea, frolicking, happy, often horny, always entertaining. Even if it’s not true, the thought of dolphins swimming the canals of Venice in striped gondoliers shirts is a silver lining unto itself.
Producing less, driving less, flying less, excavating less, fracking, manufacturing, shipping, shopping and consuming less – taking a pause from scratching at the Earth’s crust – is both a silver lining for the planet and for us as individuals to take stock of what’s really important and perhaps be kinder to each other. Since the “Stay at Home” order here in Seattle, I’ve been in contact with friends I haven’t spoken to in years, gone on many walks and exchanged pleasantries with neighbors I’d never laid eyes on before. As awkward as it seems to chat from six feet away, social distancing has removed for now the even more awkward “Seattle Side Hug,” that strange side-by-side rib grind that has become standard practice in the Northwest in lieu of actual hugging.
Hypothetical Silver Linings:
While Coronavirus has wreaked havoc upon life as we know it, I’ve heard the theory that, by galvanizing to combat an extremely contagious virus with a relatively low mortality rate, we’ll be better prepared to handle a more deadly viral pandemic in the future. If Covid-19 were as lethal as SARS or Ebola, the problem would be exponentially worse. That may be cold comfort for you right now, Dear J-J-J, but your chances of surviving this pandemic are very high, so consider yourself lined with silver!
But for me the big hypothetical silver lining, the solid platinum lining, is that maybe, just maybe, Donald Trump’s tragic mishandling of this catastrophe will be the thing that dislodges him from the presidency. Maybe, just maybe, his 2018 disbanding of a National Security Council unit focused on pandemic preparedness, cuts to global health staffing, dismissal of Coronavirus as a hoax, and his willingness to trade human lives for gross domestic product will be the thing that makes the American public finally say: “You’re fired!”
Ultimately, J-J-J, it is up to each of us to identify silver linings from this awful situation. There is nothing to gain by despair. You’ll get another job, and another girlfriend and you’ll hopefully quit talking about flattening the curve so much…one day your coronavirus country song will be just another twanging lament lost in the achey-breaky sands of time.