Stop Licking Each Other

Stop Licking Each Other

We are all patients in this pandemic

I know, it’s easy for me to say. I’ve been social distancing my entire life. When I was a kid, my parents could not punish me by sending me to my room. They knew damn well that’s where I wanted to be, lost in my books or toys or science experiments. When they were angry, they’d say, “Go outside and play with your friends, young man, until you learn your lesson!” I’d go out and sit behind the shed and talk to myself about how misunderstood I was.

Now everyone is telling me to go to my room, and I love it. Seriously, I’m not only allowed to avoid crowds, keep away from people, and day-drink — it’s encouraged. In fact, it’s mandated. It’s an order.

Still, I know how hard it is on my extroverted friends. They’re going batshit crazy staying home and with no end in sight they look to me for understanding and comfort. Now, the prospect of hosting a small dinner party over a blow-out keg-bash is suddenly very appealing, and not anti-social at all.

But even my socialite, party-animal friends are learning the art of stopping, and doing it for a greater good. And they, like me, are frustrated when they see a group of selfish covidiots gathering in the streets like it’s a Mardi Gras sex party. I saw a group of young men passing around a Chic-Fil-A sandwhich. WTF? Won’t that sandwich make you sick enough on its own?

We all need to be sent to our rooms. And not just because we hope to not catch the virus ourselves. COVID-19 will not discriminate between intro- and extroverts. We need to do this because we are all sick from this virus, and the only way to get better is by following the simple advice of medical professionals around the world: Stay home. Get lots of rest. We are all patients.

Dr. Vincent Lam, a prominent Toronto emergency physician during the SARS outbreak, wrote a book called The Flu Pandemic and You: A Canadian Guide. Released in 2006, this book precedes COVID-19 by nearly 15 years, and yet it is a frightening reminder that we knew this was coming. Perhaps we could have — should have — been more prepared. But a new lesson I have taken from it is that we need to adjust our mindset a little. Think of it this way — if you knew you had the virus, would you still want to go out and lick random people for fun?

Lam writes:

An influenza pandemic causes individual people to be ill. However, its dynamics, movements, and growth affect large groups of people, so that the whole population becomes a kind of “sick patient.” In an influenza pandemic each patient not only will be a sick person but will be a potential source of risk to those around him.

Dr. Vincent Lam, The Flu Pandemic and You

It’s a simple shift. Instead of being individuals protecting ourselves from people who are infected, we can consider that as a society, as a population, we are already sick and need proper care to be cured. Because we are sick. Our economy is in ruins. Our social structures are collapsing. Our networks are starting to crumble. And if we don’t do as we’re told, we’re not going to pull through.

Maybe if each of us, no matter how healthy, just act as if we already have the virus, and to fight it, we need to stay clear of other people. That will stop the spread.

And, if you need help adjusting, I’m here to help. This is what I’ve trained for. It’s time to sit back, reflect on yourself, your place in the world, and enjoy the silence.

Be well.