For those of you in Austin, Texas, it’s the intersection of 6th and Lamar. For those of you that aren’t, it’s basically a three-way intersection; six lanes heading Eastbound on 6th, two lanes of Lamar heading North with an inside left-hand turn lane onto Eastbound 6th, and two lanes of Lamar heading Southbound. A busy intersection to be sure, but early on the Sunday morning that found me and my family standing there, it was deserted. For the life of me now I can’t remember why we were there on the Southwestern corner of that intersection, or why we were crossing Westbound to go to the Whole Foods, but we were. We step up to the curb but the “Walk/Don’t Walk” signal is against us, big reddish-orange hand illuminated as if to say “halt!” I look, there’s nothing coming, so I glance over my shoulder towards my family and say “let’s go.” You know where this is going of course; I get halfway across the street and realize my family is still huddled there on the curb. I’m standing there in the middle of this however-many-lane intersection like Charlton Heston in The Omega Man palms turned toward the Heavens and looking all around; “c’mon, we can make it,” I say, waiving them forward with my hand, “there’s nothing coming…” Eventually, i.e., after the walking-man appears on the signal, they join me on the other side of the street.
Now this part gets tricky, and I’m generally on thin ice anyway, so I share this with the utmost caution. My wife is way better a parent than me; she’s by far a better mother than I a father, and I learn from her in that regard every day. She’s conscientious of her health and what she and our kids eat, and considers partially hydrogenated oils to be as lethal as rat poison. I, on the other hand (when she’s out of town), am the one saying “look kids, I got you something; it’s not really good for you and you shouldn’t eat them on a regular basis. You don’t have to eat it if you don’t want you, but I want you to try it, I want you to experience it at least once in your life…., it’s called a “Twinkie.” But I digress, she’s a great wife and mother. Once they catch up to me my wife says, “you shouldn’t do that, you shouldn’t cross against the light, they need to learn to obey the cross-walk signals and they learn that by watching you.”
OK, we’ve been married going on 24 years, and at this point our kids were 12 and 10 years old. My first thought was to say, “no, I don’t want our kids learning to obey a machine, you’ve seen ‘Terminator’ right? Is that what you want?” But after 24 years I know not to say that; arguing with my wife about how our kids should be raised just isn’t a hill I want to die on. So instead I say, “your mom is right, you all need to pay attention to traffic signals, including the Walk/Don’t Walk signs.” And I could have left it at that, but this was one of those rare occasions when I was right and my wife was, well, less right than me, so I continued; “but, you also need to think for yourself; just because the sign says ‘don’t walk,’ doesn’t mean you have to stand there on the curb when there’s not a car in sight.” And now I can feel her gaze like Superman’s laser-vision burning the side of my head, so I go on; “and the opposite is also true; just because the sign says you can walk, doesn’t mean it’s safe to walk. YOU decide when to cross the street, YOU decide if it’s safe or not, not some sign. You’re the one who’s responsible for knowing if it’s safe to cross the street, and no one else. Before you cross a street or step off a curb, you always look both ways; first left, then right, then left again (because it’ll be the car on the left that hits you first). Your mom is right, but you also need to learn to think for yourself, ‘cause no one else is going to do it for you.” And thus endeth my lesson that day on how to cross the street (e.g., think for yourself).
Influenza is a coronavirus, and COVID19 is a coronavirus, but COVID19 is not the flu. We’ve blown passed the number of deaths of our worst flu season, and that number keeps climbing. As Dr. Fauci said early on, “this is something we’ve never seen before.” COVID19 isn’t mutating the way we’d expect, and isn’t reacting to a warmer climate the way we’d hoped. Its incubation period is much longer than the flu, it’s more contagious, and it’s far more deadly than the flu. I’m a big fan of science; in the 3d century BCE, Aristarchus of Samos first proposed the heliocentric solar system. In 1542 Nicolaus Copernicus published his seminal work establishing the “Copernican Theory” of the solar system, and in 1969, “Houston” became the first word uttered from the surface of the moon. Science gave us all that and everything in between, and science will give us a treatment, a cure, and a vaccine for COVID19; eventually. As we all know, a vaccine for this virus is still 12-18 months away, and that’s a long time. We can’t wait a year; we can’t spend the next twelve months continuing to shelter-in-place. Our society is starting to open now, so now is the time for us to personally fight COVID19 ; the only thing we have with certainly to fight this disease is our own individual immune systems. Now is the time to stop smoking, to start eating right and exercising. If you’re like me and carrying a few extra pounds, now is the time to lose them. Get plenty of sleep and try to keep your daily stress-level to a minimum. Doing these things will strengthen your immune system within days, and even more so in the weeks ahead.
Finding a treatment, finding a cure, finding a vaccine will be difficult; fighting off the infection itself can be difficult and, unfortunately, sometimes impossible. But fighting COVID19 is easy, it’s as easy as crossing the street; all we have to do is think for ourselves. Pay attention to reliable sources, listen to what the genuine experts have to say, listen to science. As Neil deGrasse Tyson is fond of saying, “the beautiful thing about science is that you don’t have to believe in it for it to be true…” Put politics aside; put your differences aside, and listen to the experts. Listen to those who’s only interest is in fighting the virus, of saving lives. Society has to open, and I get that, but as I’ve told my kids, “just because a restaurant is open doesn’t mean we’re going to go get something to eat; just because I need a haircut and the governor says the barbershop is open doesn’t mean I’m going to go get a haircut.” I want to take my family out to eat, and we’ll go when we feel it’s safe. But in the meantime we have to be diligent, we have to be mindful; we have to think for ourselves.
Fighting COVID19 is easy; we just have to look left, then right, then left again.