Everything in the world seems to be changing so fast and moving so quickly. I write my columns a few days in advance of publication, so by the time your paper is delivered by our brave and hardworking carriers (who will be staying at least 6 feet away from you), it could be hopelessly out of date.
But at my house, right now, things have slowed down. I’m working from home right now because I am lucky enough to be able to do so and lucky enough to have a supportive office. I am able to sleep in a little, and the frantic rush of getting out the door, dropping Janey off at doggy day care and making the commute is just gone. Now Janey is my personal assistant-security guard. She’s great at enforcing social distancing because she doesn’t think anyone should be allowed within 8 feet of us.
I’m also blessed to live in Buxton, which is pretty conducive to spreading out and avoiding people, but I can still safely leave the house and walk around the natural world. I saw a cute, fat bird from my desk yesterday. It was the highlight of the morning. (I do worry that spending too much time self-isolating will drive me insane, but aren’t all great writers possessed by some sort of madness?) And my mom is turning out to be an excellent office-mate. Except for all the absent-minded whistling. I know it’s part of her creative process, but geez.
I’m worried about the economy, of course. Businesses – particularly bars, restaurants and any place that involves large groups of people – have to necessarily shut down temporarily, in order to prevent the spread of coronavirus. But this hits people’s wallets right where it hurts. Most of us don’t have funds tied up in the stock market, but we plan our lives around a weekly paycheck. Who knows when or if the government will bail us all out. In this sort of emergency, neighbors have to rely on neighbors.
I don’t have a lot of extra money to throw around, but I have a little. Generally speaking, I don’t like to shop much, and I don’t have many big expenses – the car is paid off, I don’t have children and I live with my mom, so I don’t have to pay rent. I’ve been buying items online from local small businesses that are currently closed due to the coronavirus pandemic crisis (and who are continuing to support their employees).
Specifically, I’ve bought books from Print: A Bookstore, socks from The Sock Shack, and various doodads from the International Museum of Cryptozoology (including Bigfoot soap, because everyone needs extra soap right now). Lots of businesses are still shipping, and for ones that can’t, like bars and restaurants, you can always buy gift cards. If you like jewelry or art, check on the website Etsy. Most millennials have some sort of side hustle, so it’s almost a guarantee that your favorite local barista or bartender does. My mother wisely suggests that now is a good time to get your Christmas shopping done – you’ll be spending the money anyway come December, so why not spend it now, when the economy could really use it? If you have a rainy day fund, well, now it’s storming outside.
Local small businesses that treat their employees well are the backbone of the economy and community, but they never seem to get bailed out. (Businesses that don’t treat their employees well can, of course, go straight to heck.)
It’s strange to have a crisis where you have to stay away from other people. Humans are social animals. In an emergency or tragedy, our instinct is to gather together. That’s why you always see images of impromptu vigils at the site of mass shootings. We come together. But in this case, we have to come together while remaining (at least) 6 feet apart.
This is a scary time. A lot of Mainers are one missed paycheck away from bankruptcy, or one bad cold away from pneumonia. But my dad always said, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” And if there is one thing that I know about Mainers, it’s that we are tough.