Outside the Bubble

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I keep writing these Life on Lockdown pieces and then not posting them because I decide that they won’t do anybody any good. Neither will this one, probably.

For the last four-and-a-half months, The Mrs. and I (and many amongst the readership, I am guessing), have been living in a kind of bubble—sticking to a relatively small geographical footprint, altering our behavior in ways big and small, and maybe most important, giving up stuff we enjoy, for the greater good. We’re doing it because we take the COVID-19 crisis seriously. For selfish reasons, surely—we don’t want to get sick—but also because we understand how the virus works, and we don’t want anybody else to get sick because of us. We’re not great humanitarians; neither have we been brainwashed by Bill Gates or George Soros or whomever. We’re just trying to do what good people are supposed to do—look out for each other.

This past weekend, for the first time in nearly five months, we stepped out of our bubble and traveled out-of-state. We did our best to take our bubble with us—masks, copious hand sanitizer, extreme caution about where we went and what we did. But what we saw left me in despair.

We are never going to defeat the virus with mask mandates and voluntary behavior modifications alone. Every business in the states we traveled had a sign on the door saying that masks are required by the state, yet every business had people inside who weren’t wearing them. And there’s absolutely no penalty for it. Until the cops are ready to write tickets to unmasked people—on the first offense, no warnings, and with some significant fine, not a token amount—the mandates amount to the state saying “pretty please” instead of just “please.” And as for voluntary actions—saying “please”—people from Dr. Fauci on down can recommend masks and social distancing in all settings, but the success of them relies entirely on a willingness to follow those recommendations all of the time. Even in your own damn house, even with people you love, even with people you’re sure aren’t infected. You’re sure. But how do you know?

Nobody likes wearing a mask, especially during the dog days of summer. And even if you’re resolved to do it, for the greater good, it’s natural to think to yourself now and then, surely I can take the goddamn thing off for just a few minutes. I’m more than six feet away from other people . . . aren’t I? Surely it’s OK to go into the 7-11 without a mask just this once? We won’t be there long.

After nearly five months, you and I are tired of this shit. We do all we can, but we slip sometimes. And by doing so, we put ourselves and others in danger, not out of malice, but danger nevertheless. Add that to the danger caused by “maskholes” and the virus-is-fake-news crowd on social media, and in positions of political power. They’re maybe 25 percent of the population, but their stubborn refusal to comply with sensible guidelines, combined with the occasional slippages by the rest of us, is more than enough to ruin the best collective effort.

All weekend long, The Mrs. and I folowed every mandate, every rule, every recommendation. But now, on Tuesday, we’re awaiting word from her doctor regarding whether we need to self-quarantine for the next two weeks based on what we may have been exposed to by leaving our bubble for a couple of days. And while we understand that we took a risk by leaving, the punishment seems disproportionate to the crime.

We need strong enforcement of mask mandates, now. And more than that, we need a hard lockdown, now—not like the one we had in March and April, in which the definition of “essential business” was absurdly broad. Everything needs to be shut tight, people subsidized by the government to stay home, nobody goes anywhere for two months, and this might get over.

Trouble is, the country would never stand for such a thing even if we weren’t governed by the maskhole class. We have long since lost the will for the kind of public-spirited, all-for-one/one-for-all cooperation required to defeat a challenge of this magnitude. So we’re stuck.

Today is as good as it’s going to get. Tomorrow will be worse.

And the day after that.

And the day after that.

I wish I had an upbeat ending for this, something hopeful, a wry joke, but I got nothin’. Come back tomorrow for a return to the usual escapism. 

5 thoughts on “Outside the Bubble

  1. Scott Paton

    I share your weariness, JB– your frustration, exasperation and anger as well. All those good things. I say my heathen’s version of a prayer for a new administration and an efficacious vaccine in the New Year. But even if these necessary things come to pass, I don’t think I’ll ever get over the heartbreak of witnessing so clearly the arrogant stupidity of such a significant percentage of the American population. Extra sadly, seeing this behavior exhibited by certain people whom I once looked upon favorably.

    1. The arrogance is heartbreaking, and infuriating. Prime example: one of our local right-wing talkers went after the Wisconsin Department of Health Services yesterday on Twitter demanding clarification of some virus statistics. When given clarified numbers in black and white, the host and her Twitter followers simply dismissed them. Trumpism is a cult, marching in deluded lockstep like the People’s Temple, and they’re turning the whole country into Jonestown.

  2. T.

    Trump, the one guy who NEEDS to get the virus, is still strutting around waving his Nazi/Klan flag, being the shitty kid who never got spanked. I’m gonna laugh when he burns.

  3. mikehagerty

    JB, you pretty much described life here as well. Same proportion of maskless people sure it’s not going to be them getting or giving the virus, same people you swore were smarter than that during the decades that you’ve known them showing just how not smart they can be. Despair is the right word for the feeling in watching it all.

    Stay safe.

  4. mackdaddyg

    I’m downright ashamed to be an American these days. A lot of good people are doing good things, but the countless jackasses who refuse to wear a mask demonstrates how ignorant and selfish a lot of people in this country are. That goes from the very top all the way down to average folks.

    I’m no history expert, but I can’t help wondering if the US would have won World War II if its citizens behaved like this, with all the needs for sacrifice from 1942 – 1945.

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