Until Further Notice

Four nights ago, I went to my favorite restaurant for dinner. There have been so many changes in just a few days, I worried if I didn’t patronize them then, I wouldn’t have another chance for a while.

(It turns out I was right.)

The owner was at the restaurant. He is always at the restaurant, dressed in a well-cut suit and tie. When I saw him Sunday, my heart sank. He smiled, but the pain and anxiety was chiseled into the lines on his face. For the first time, he was dressed in jeans and a t-shirt.

One waiter worked the dining room, and the bar was closed. I wondered about my favorite bartender. Is he okay? I knew he was going to college full-time as well as bartending.

That night, they sat three tables, including us. I asked the owner what he might do as things progressed. Shaking his head, he said they didn’t do enough take-out or delivery business to consider it. His customers dined in. He was going to cut hours, and staff, and see what the week brought. Walking past the next day, I saw the sign on the door.

CLOSED.

Until Further Notice.

These are the words taped to the front door of most businesses, a new mantra, the preemtive response to what is yet to be revealed.  Every day brings new changes, new rules, and new statistics. Considering the 1918 flu pandemic, experts have some ideas of what to expect. The Imperial College COVID-19 ResponseTeam’s Report states infections will likely peak in mid-June (March 16, 2020).

It’s important to note it will get worse before it gets better.

The Washington Post stated, “Like the bumpy hills some foresee in coming months, the 1918 pandemic hit America in three waves–a mild one that spring, the deadliest wave in fall and a final one that winter”  (William Wan, Joel Achenbach, Carolyn Y. Johnson and Ben Guarino; March 12, 2020).

This could last  a long time, much longer than the two to four week shutdown currently in place for businesses, or the rest of the semester closed for University students.

The Imperial College COVID-19 ResponseTeam’s Report went on to say, “To avoid a rebound in transmission, these policies [social distancing, with home isolation of cases, and school and university closure] will need to be maintained untl large stocks of vaccine are available to immunise the population–which could be 18 months or more” (March 16, 2020).

We have a long road ahead of us. In The Washington Post on March 19th, an article by Heather Long and Abha Bhattarai in the business section stated, “’More than a million workers are expected to lose their jobs by the end of March,’ economists say. ‘Small businesses could run out of money before emergency federal loans arrive.’ ‘In mere weeks, the pandemic is on track to usher in a magnitude of unemployment that took months to reach during the Great Recession.’”

We are still in the honeymoon phase of a pandemic.

I read a comment on social media, “This should show us how lucky we are to live in America where we never run out of anything.”

I wondered, Do we even live in the same country?

We do.

I can only assume this person has not had any trouble purchasing toilet paper…or fresh vegetables, meat, milk, canned beans, rice, sugar, or even frozen pizza, like we have. Maybe his gym hasn’t closed, or his favorite restaurant. Maybe he still retains a sense of normalcy in his everyday life.

But scarcity is about to become the new majority.

Good luck finding Tylenol.

Did you know we don’t make penicillin in this country? China makes penecillin. And only last year was penecillin moved to the “resolved shortage status” (cdc.gov).

“Antibiotics, antidepressants, birth control pills, blood pressure medicine, among many others are made in China and sold in the United States. Millions of Americans are taking prescription drugs made in China and don’t know it” (Corporate Crime Reporter, August 27, 2018).

The pandemic just came full circle.

Four years ago I visited Nicaragua with my cousins. All surfers, Nica is where they’ve chased down the biggest waves. It was my first time to a “developing” country. I loved it. Nicaragua is wild. The rainforest breathes a life of its own, concealed by a tangle of green, gatekeeper of ocean and sand. Breaking through the brush, the ocean roars. Like a symphony, the waves pull at the chords, their faces shimmering like glass blown, hearts cracked open, the adagio crashing into the final crescendo.

I didn’t surf, and I didn’t SUP, like I intended. My first attempt at entering the water ended in a mad scrabble with a mouth full of water and sand in every crack, crevice and orifice. Once I made it past the breakers, I was fine. Getting in, and getting out, was a test of resilience and determination. It surprised me, but it shouldn’t have. It went with the culture. Raw and  primitive, rough, it invogorated my senses.

Stretching our comfort zone is the biggest gift traveling gives us.

It stretched my limits in many ways. I drank a lot of margaritas with lime juice squeezed by hand, but I also wiped my ass and threw the dirty tissue into the plastic pail in the corner, like everyone else. No bathroom tissue, of any kind, went into the toilet. The pipes couldn’t handle any paper products, intended for it, or otherwise.

I said to Russ last weekend, when he came home from the store with kitchen napkins instead of toilet paper (because he couldn’t find any at three grocery stores), “Oh my God, we have turned into Nicaragua. I’ll be throwing shitty table napkins in the garbage can, so I don’t clog our pipes, just like I did there!”

He said, “Yeah, but at least Nicaragua had toilet paper.”

What does anyone say to that?

America has taken a hard turn. We are closer to being a developing nation than a global leader. Scarcity will become the new majority. Your, my, neighbors will go hungry. Even if it’s not right in front of your face, like it is for me, it’s still happening, regardless of whether you acknowledge it or not. What will you do? Will you turn a blind eye and pretend it’s not happening in your backyard? Or, will you be like a beautiful wave in Nicaragua and face it, shimmering, with an open heart?

Recently, my mom bought Everclear at the liquor store, in place of the elusive hand sanitizer. (Never thought I’d use “Mom” and “Everclear” in the same sentence.) Remarking about the turn of events, she said, “What a tsunami!”

She’s right.

It’s a shit show alright. 

Until further notice.

 

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