My wife hates to fly. She gets very anxious, more so with each passing year.
I’m pretty good on airplanes. I completely buy into the data that it’s safer to fly than drive, and I know driving almost as much as I know breathing. That’s not to say I enjoy a whole lot about air travel, but I’m pretty calm about the mechanics of it all. It’s one of my few great strengths as a husband.
Turbulence is part of the equation. So many flights have it, and for the most part, it’s a series of speed bumps. You go through through the bumps, and you go on your way.
My wife finds any turbulence deeply unsettling, and if I’m next to her, I take her hand. I try to reassure her. It’s one thing I can reliably do. It’s neither ironic nor coincidental, but on point, that when I proposed to her, it was after midnight on the wet tarmac of the Binghamton, New York airport after a difficult flight from Washington D.C. through a rainstorm.
But sometimes the turbulence gets rough. Really rough. Rough like some hidden hand has picked your plane up in the air and is shaking it. The ride isn’t bumpy, it’s jagged. I’m being jerked around, literally and figuratively. And then my mind takes me places. And I worry about dying.
Moments later, the bad turbulence ends, and all is well. The plane lands.
The crisis involving this coronavirus began for me as light turbulence, but now it feels like the bad kind. The kind where I don’t know when or how this plane lands. And it’s compounded by the fact that it’s not only me on this plane, but all my family and friends and people I respect and people I had chance encounters with and people I don’t know but who are so important to the ones who love them.
We are all on the plane.
The last time I heard this many ambulance sirens piercing the NYC night was 9/11 . #COVID19 is slamming us…8000 cases and counting, hospitals full, #Trump declared us a national emergency zone. Things turned radically today….our surge has started. pic.twitter.com/jEwk7W2upe
— Laurie Garrett (@Laurie_Garrett) March 21, 2020
We are not in a race against time. We are hiding from time, hiding until it has gone far enough by us for us to develop a vaccine, or at least until we can mitigate the damage of being caught without one.
HHS report: “Pandemic will last 18 months or longer and could include multiple waves of illness.”
It’s called in some quarters “the novel coronavirus,” as if it were something nifty, something old that’s new again, a beloved classic, like when Volkswagen reissued the Beetle. Wasn’t that fun? The novel coronavirus — take it out for a spin.
Not such a good ride, as it turns out.
This is the parking garage at Vanderbilt Medical right now pic.twitter.com/SRaqoKgJxu
— Nationalize the Action Economy (@thepoeticgopher) March 20, 2020
On NPR this morning, I was heartened to hear an interview with a survivor, someone who fought the virus and came out the other side, came out alive. she made it through the gauntlet, made it through the tallies of the dead and maybe dying, the worldwide scramble for hospital beds, for tests, for ventilators, for masks. She’s heroic. The people who saved her are heroic. How many heroes will we need?
In some ways, this will bring out the best in us. But in some ways, that will be too little, too late. It already is for some people. Why not someone close to me? Why not you? Why not me?
I don’t want you to think I’m in despair. I’m not. I’m absolutely not in despair. I’m offering my hand to everyone in my house, everyone I talk to, everyone who might read this. I haven’t stopped having faith that each and every one of us can survive. If I can, you can, and if you can, I can.
I am living my life within the new constraints, finding peace and joy where I can, even the smallest silver linings: the added sleep, the extra moments with my family, the additional walks in the neighborhood. Youngest Master Weisman turned 12 today. He doesn’t get to have a party with friends, but we did our best to make his birthday seem a little special. In a specific way, it certainly will be memorable.
But the turbulence will have the last word. Like you, I’m in my seat on the plane. I’m wearing a seat belt across my lap, as if a strap of polyester will save me in a crash from 30,000 feet. I’m hopeful we will land. But as I sit within the gritty tension of the cabin, am I worried? Yes, I am worried.