I finally got the residents of my building to discuss the pandemic. Representatives of a third of the apartments gathered in the laundry room. (There’s no lobby—and no way I’d invite so many vectors into my home.)
I don’t think any of them understand bird flu very well.
A fifth of those who came are trying to organize a rent strike, albeit for unrelated reasons (‘kill the landlord’ being a general theme around here), another fifth are so lonely they’d attend anything they don’t need to go outside to get to, and two-fifths believe bird flu embodies some kind of conspiracy, though they differ vigorously as to whether it’s a hoax or a genuine threat. One fifth nodded a lot when I spoke—-my bobble-headed peeps. A heck of a flock!
I ain’t much of a shepherd, but I got most of them to consider the likelihood of famine, riots, plague, and bedlam. New Yorkers are surprisingly open to apocalyptic visions, so long as you’re addressing the near future and you don’t invoke conventional religion.
They wouldn’t consider buying protective gear or Relenza or getting pneumonia vaccinations. We did exchange gmail and yahoo and hotmail addresses. I hope my secret—that I have … health stuff—is safe with them. I know that survivalist readers will hurl at the thought that I told neighbors about my pandemic safety stash. What was I thinking?
Nice things, I guess. I even befriended my next-door neighbor, a Ukrainian gentleman whose children live on the West Coast. Long before I moved here, he was this building’s super. He’s a vigorous old man whose immune system could tell tales. He’d probably empty a bar washing down some borscht.
I’ll try to find someone to keep an eye on him when Round Two begins. He’s agreed to get a Pneumovax 23 shot, for which he’s way overdue.
We should all make something useful of our hiatus. Don’t forget this is the first pandemic in history that followed years of warnings. The others came ‘suddenly.’ What does it say about our civilization that we’ve chosen to remain unprepared—even as H5N1 circles like a big shark, tearing into us from time to time? Just sampling, so far.
Blabber & Smoke
People are already making fun of the government for what little effort it did make. In my view, the Feds wasted billions on pre-pandemic vaccines and antivirals when what we needed were hospital beds, ventilators, and nurses. Others loudly argue the reverse. Let’s agree that, whatever we need, there ain’t enough of it.
A lot of atrocities took place in our brief first-wave crisis. We’re now hearing how people took the law into their hands—or out of the hands of others. (Some cops surrendered without much fight.) Mayors jumped to seal off their communities at any cost (not that this helped much) or deployed cops, deputies, and guards to divide their constituencies by race and class. For years we’ll be hauled off to sit on juries assessing criminal charges and civil damages from that month of uncertainty. How much hardship will three months of chaos wreak?
This is our chance to ensure that frightened citizens don’t need to steal food and medicine—or kill their neighbors—in Round Two. If a hurricane slammed into Miami, tore it up, and then froze offshore for months, would everyone just go swimming till it made landfall again? Won’t anyone prepare?