We all see the same things happening today as every single citizen’s life has changed. Coronavirus has given us common cause. As BoomerCafé’s co-founder and executive editor Greg Dobbs writes (and this is no typo), there’s nothing funny about it… but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing funny about it.
Some decent jokes have circulated on the internet since the coronavirus started spreading. My first favorite was an offer to swap a four-bedroom home for a 12-pack of toilet paper. Then a better one came along. It described the newest sales pitch for real estate agents: “Can’t you just see yourself quarantining in this beautiful home?”
And why not?! All our lives are abruptly altered— no one escapes this time— and we can either laugh about it, or cry. I’ll choose the laugh. In times of crisis, all kinds of things get us through, first amongst them natural human resilience. But humor helps too.
However, no one should lose sight of one absolute: this pandemic is no joke. And like any of you, everywhere I look, everything I see, reinforces that.
Like a video I saw of two people not just pulling toilet paper off a supermarket shelf but physically fighting over the last package. When I saw that, I knew, this was no joke.
Or when a friend told me she scored the very last container of chicken at our supermarket, one of only two stores that serve our community of about 30,000 people. I knew it was no joke.
When I went myself to Costco— not to panic-buy but simply to refresh stocks of a few things I always get there— I found that in the paper products section, they were out of their typical towers of toilet paper and facial tissues but they did have a pile of paper towels. I didn’t need any. But I bought them anyway. Just in case. This was no joke.
When my daughter in the locked-down city of San Francisco sent me photos of how she is using soap suds, then warm water to disinfect the bananas she was lucky to buy from a grocery delivery service, I knew it was no joke.
When my local paper, The Denver Post, which serves a city that treats its major league teams as religious icons, ran a special box on the front page saying that most days of the week until further notice there will be no sports section, I knew this was no joke.
When I saw a credible projection that the internet’s capacity could literally crash against the demand of tens of millions of people newly repositioned at their computers at home— teleworking, tele-learning, streaming movies and video games and other stuff to relieve their boredom— I knew it was no joke.
When the Federal Reserve took radical steps to juice the economy and the stock market’s response was its biggest drop in decades… then two days later, the administration announced a trillion-dollar plan to boost the economy, including checks to almost every American, but the market merely tanked yet again… I knew this was no joke.
When I saw my nest egg shrinking at warp speed, that was no joke.
When I saw the world as we know it virtually shut down, putting tens of millions of people out of work and tens of millions of children out of school, it was no joke.
When I saw an email from a friend saying that her husband, a doctor, had come down with the symptoms of the virus and she added “that probably means I will too”… then two days later, she did… this was no joke.
When I saw global figures rise from 165,000 infections and 6,500 deaths when I wrote my last column just five days ago to 237,000 infections and 9,700 deaths as I write this one today (which will be even worse by the time you read this), I knew it was no joke.
When I saw a chart in The New York Times, showing how middle-of-the-road projections of coronavirus deaths in the U.S. could equal the number of deaths in 2018 from strokes, diabetes, Parkinson’s, pneumonia, flu, gunfire, car crashes, and a few other things combined— in other words, second only to heart disease and cancer— and some worst-case projections from the CDC are even higher— I knew it was no joke.
When I saw the President of the United States, who for weeks dangerously dismissed the peril of the pandemic, which dangerously delayed the response of the government, standing in the White House briefing room making serious and finally even informed-sounding statements about how bad this thing really is, I knew it was no joke.
But like I said, “no joke” doesn’t mean we can’t joke. Remember, humor can help us get through this. Which is why I’ll end as I started, and with a good one from the media.
In its campaign to stop citizens from cacheing toilet paper, Colorado’s Grand Junction Daily Sentinel printed an editorial on its op-ed page but left part of the page blank… and then welcomed readers to tear it off and use it to wipe their behinds. “Many claim,” the editorial read, “that this is the highest and best use of The Sentinel. Or that we’ve been scraping bottom for years. Here is a chance to make it literal.”
So if the hoarding continues, we might have to turn to newspapers. No joke.
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