Paraskevidekatriaphobia. Thanks to Wikipedia, I just learned that word this morning, Friday the 13th. It means fear of Friday the 13th. Given the craziness of the past few days, it’s reasonable to assume that more people than usual will suffer from some high anxiety today.
We are certainly in a bizarre situation, which the age of social media has made much worse than it might otherwise be. Add to that a slow and incompetent government response, capped by a Chief Executive who gave a typically inaccurate and far-from-reassuring Oval Office speech on Wednesday night, and you have a full-blown panic in the U.S.
The run of toilet paper I find particularly incomprehensible. I’m attributing it to what I call zombie apocalypse syndrome. I think a lot of people feel like that mythical event has begun. Hence the intense weirdness we are seeing more and more of.
I’m not trying to minimize the seriousness of the coronavirus. It needs to be taken seriously. But after weeks of not taking it seriously, Americans are freaking out over it. And why should they not? The stock market is in free fall, and every major American sports season currently otherwise ongoing–basketball, hockey, and baseball– has been cancelled or postponed. March madness has taken on a very different meaning this year.
We are facing an insoluble dilemma. Without serious and even draconian measures to limit the spread of the disease, we might experience a true pandemic, with tens or even hundreds of thousands of deaths. No one can accurately predict the number, because no one knows how virulent this bug actually is.
But these measures which are being taken to limit the spread of the disease are killing something else: the American economy. Another incomprehensible thing, along with the toilet paper hoarding, is how much money this is costing Americans.
Let’s look at the silver lining, though. We have two new phrases which have entered the lexicon overnight. They are of course social distancing and flattening the curve.
Let’s hope the curve can be flattened. In America, the virus has a head start on us due to the inertia of both the government and the population in responding to it. Now, though, the response is full-blown. So is the fear. So is the economic damage. Let’s just hope both the fear and the damage to Americans’ wallets and pocketbooks can be contained as well.