Just when I was wondering how to start off this column, I turned on the TV. And there it was, across the bottom of the CNN screen:
“Daily life grinds to a halt as world adjusts to coronavirus pandemic.”
Tell me about it.
I mean, here we all were, just a few short weeks ago, going about our business and perhaps feeling annoyed by a variety of what seemed like problems and inconveniences. And then, suddenly, along comes something like this (if there has ever been anything quite like this) to perform an instant, global job of perspective-restoring.
As it turns out, we didn’t have it nearly as bad as we thought, did we?
I know. I don’t have a thing to complain about, compared to someone who has lost a loved one to the virus, or is pining away somewhere under a quarantine, or is laid off from a restaurant or airline job. My only significant hardship so far has been when wife Brenda and I have to substitute an elbow bump for a goodnight kiss.
Still — and I’m sure countless readers can identify with this — my daily routine has pretty much fallen on its face in just the past few days.
For instance: Two weeks ago today, on March 4, you’d have found me up at 5:15 a.m. and off to Chapel Hill to spend the day teaching two journalism classes and then hunkering down in the library to grade papers or whatever. The previous Monday had been the same, since I was routinely up at UNC and out of Brenda’s hair two full days a week, as has been the case for a decade or so.
That same Wednesday evening — as has been the routine for even longer than that — I hurried home in time for the choir rehearsal at our beloved Emmanuel Episcopal Church.
Now, flash-forward to a week ago: Wednesday, March 11. There were no classes that week, since it was spring break, but we had our regular choir practice that night, the only question being whether we would be passing the Communion cup that next Sunday.
And then, in the next two days, bang-bang!
Thursday afternoon, there were two messages in quick succession from the church. The first one said there would be no Communion that Sunday, just a morning prayer service. But then, hours later, came word that the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina had “suspended gatherings of public worship” and Emmanuel would hold no services at all for the next two Sundays, other than antiseptic online versions.
And on Friday, my other shoe dropped, with an urgent message from the journalism school: Spring break was to be “extended a week.” And beginning March 23, “classes will be offered online and will remain that way for the foreseeable future.”
Whew. You can imagine what turmoil this has created among UNC colleagues — all crashing to learn how to go digital with a teaching approach that has long been strictly face-to-face.
(At least that part is less of a problem for me, since I have taught online versions of my UNC classes for the past two summers and have most of the needed audio lectures and such tucked away in my trusty laptop.)
Back home, there are countless little questions as well. Does one keep making regular visits to the fitness center, grabbing hold of so many machines that have also been grabbed by so many other sweaty hands? Should we suspend eating out? If so, what about ordering food from drive-up windows? Surely there will be no sitting down in crowded theaters. But how about just getting together with friends? Is it OK to keep getting out of the house to hang out in various libraries? (Actually, in the day or so since I first asked that question, the public libraries in both Southern Pines and Pinehurst have announced that they are closed.)
Enough, already. Again, my “problems” pale in comparison to those confronting so many others around the globe. Still, here at home, in spite of our spending nearly $300 to stock up at the grocery store the other day, there’s no escaping the same unsettling awareness that Pilot Editor John Nagy expressed in this space this past Sunday:
“I am not prepared for coronavirus, nor are you.”
Steve Bouser is the retired editor and Opinion editor of The Pilot. Contact him at email@example.com.