Last week, my husband and I decided to abandon city life to last out the coronavirus in Michigan. Our choice was to stay in our condominium, where we couldn’t go out without encountering others in our densely populated vicinity, or repair to a dated but comfortable single-family residence with land around it where we could go outside and get fresh air. Already I had converted to the principle that our first duty to one another is to stay home, become do-it-yourselfers, and stop moving around. Flatten the curve.
So we emptied the fish tank, shut down the apartment, packed up the car. We dispersed voluntarily, preferring to go rather than flee. By leaving Chicago early, we could be sure that we wouldn’t be bringing along this slow-motion but selectively life-threatening disease. Like securing one’s own face mask first before helping others on an oxygen-deprived plane. Seventy minutes later, we were hauling our baggage up the country-house stairs. Despite our arrival being somewhat precipitous, we will likely be here for several months.
Our removal was one drop in the sea-change overtaking society. With accelerating speed, the Virus has emptied shop shelves, cancelled flights, stilled restaurants, closed Opening Day, grounded millions of tourists. Put educations on hold and sucked billions of dollars out of brokerage accounts and more modest pockets. Suddenly, most recreation is dangerous. What used to be good for us (like going to the gym) is life-threatening. Ironically, people of retirement age, those who are the most affluent and freest among us, are the ones most at risk of COVID-19. As we prepare for an event we can’t begin to imagine, an invisible agent approaches, pushing out what was convenient, convivial, and carefree.