“Looking around at all the chill vibes, though, I can’t help but wonder, do people just not read the news anymore?” (Courtesy photo)

I Drive SF: The virus and the damage done

Just when you think it’s safe to go outside again, you wake up with a tickle in the back of your throat, or a stuffy nose

http://sfexaminer.com/category/the-city/sf-news-columns/i-drive-sf/

I’m a junkie. After being cooped up in this tiny apartment for two months straight, I’ve developed an unsavory habit. And no matter how hard I try, it’s impossible to kick. I can’t seem to get enough. Article after article, I always want more. If not for paywalls, I’d read every news item that crossed my feed. From breaking stories to think pieces. Comments too.

Like all bad habits, my news jones has some serious side effects. The most egregious of which is a growing paranoia that I’ll contract the virus through the reckless behavior of the people around me who seem to think they’re immune.

Just when you think it’s safe to go outside again, you wake up with a tickle in the back of your throat, or a stuffy nose, and the first thing that crosses your mind is, did that guy who bumped into me at Safeway give me coronavirus?

For most of the lockdown, I assuaged this hypochondria by reminding myself how diligent I’ve been with maintaining distance, always wearing a mask and washing my hands so much there’s not enough Aquaphor on the shelf at Walgreens – literally – to get them moist again.

These are desperate times for someone with sensitive skin and a tendency to overreact.

Now that states are relaxing shelter in place orders, more and more people are acting like we’re all good. The masks are coming off. The social distancing is getting less distant and folks are becoming more social. Parking sucks again.

Despite the 80,000 dead, this whole coronavirus thing just seemed to fizzle.

Looking around at all the chill vibes, though, I can’t help but wonder, do people just not read the news anymore? What about The Times? Or WaPo? The Chron? Not even the Examiner?

Seriously. What are they reading? I’d really like to know. I could use a new fix.

According to scientists and doctors, this virus isn’t going away anytime soon. Things are supposed to get worse before they get better. So if a large percentage of society stops taking the advice of professionals seriously, it doesn’t matter how cautious you are. All it takes is one stray cough…

The other day I was at my liquor store and a guy with his shirt pulled over his mouth was crowding me at the register. I snapped at him to respect my six feet. He seemed genuinely shocked. Like I’m a jerk for not wanting some rando breathing down my neck during a pandemic. Then there’s the girl down the hall who has regular visitors… What’s she on?

This may be the pure, uncut news talking, but I trust scientists more than the cavalier nature of youth. More than the angry mobs. Or the barrage of misinformation online. Or the government’s insistence that the virus is waning.

But I get it. People want their old lives back. My 3-year-old daughter constructs imaginary playgrounds in the living room out of building blocks and Legos. Then pretends her dolls are having all the fun she can’t. Which is sad as hell. But she displays more patience than most adults usually.

And I’m going stir crazy like everyone else. Case in point: worrying about catching the virus by walking down the street. Yesterday morning I asked myself, Am I sweating because of a fever or do I just need to open a window?

Still, it could be another side effect of the primo news I’ve been mainlining, but going back to old ways isn’t that appealing to me. More than anything, it’s… Well, anticlimactic.

Even though I think the articles that suggest using our time in quarantine as an opportunity for transformation and rebirth are mostly steeped in privilege, the writers may be on to something. Like the multitude of pieces on how COVID-19 exposed the problems in our system, as the U.S. continues to be an epicenter for the virus.

Do we not gain anything from the time lost? Have we learned nothing from all the sickness and death?

I guess it comes down to how great you were doing before coronavirus. For me, resuming the same old grind seems like a bummer comedown. And I’m not ready to go cold turkey just yet.

Kelly Dessaint is a San Francisco taxi driver. A veteran zine publisher, he is the author of the novel A Masque of Infamy. His long-running Behind the Wheel zine series was recently collected into a paperback Omnibus, available through all book marketplaces or direct from his blog, idrivesf.com. His column appears every other week in the Thursday Examiner. He is a guest opinion columnist and his point of view is not necessarily that of the Examiner.

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