Yesterday, I heard a rumor that our city has run out of hand sanitizer. It might even be true. I trust the source and have no way of investigating the facts. By the time you read this, it might not be true anymore. Maybe it never was true. Maybe it will be true soon. The situation is dynamic. Dynamic is boring. Truth is time. You get used to it.
The novel becomes normal, the normal becomes routine. You get used to it. You can get used to anything. It takes about a week. But just don’t get too used to anything. Everything might be different tomorrow. Something might have already changed – the new normal slipping away while you were sleeping. You can even get used to this fluid foundation. You just wait for instruction. You try to co-operate. Another world is being born around you. No one knows what it will look like yet — only that it will be different. No one knows how.
Life inside of The Affected Area becomes less strange with every passing day. But seeing life outside The Affected Area grows stranger. Updates, photos, and plans come across my feed. They all look different now. They don’t seem to come from any sort of shared reality. They don’t seem like luxuries nor do I regard them with bitterness or envy. These updates just seem like messages from a dead world. Yesterday’s bulletins. Looking at these things, you feel like you understand something about that world that it does not yet understand about itself. You understand that it is already gone. It just doesn’t know it yet.
One thinks of science fiction stories. Of messages travelling the vast expanse of space. Of spaceships receiving messages from a world whose sun went supernova thousands of years ago. The daily correspondence from a dead planet. Read, it lives again.
Time is truth. Time is different. Time changes.
There’s some debate about whether or not to change words. Should we now call this a pandemic. There’s some hope that the virus might still be controlled. Maybe we’re not at the start of the future. Maybe we’re an isolated incident. An anomaly. The Good Old Days might return yet. Maybe they never really left. The Old Normal might bubble up again. It’s possible. Stranger things have happened. Time can fold. It can meet itself in strange places.
But I have my doubts.
And having these doubts, I feel like I should pass a message from This Particular Future to my friends still stationed in The Good Old Days.
You need to prepare. We didn’t have the time. It was upon us too fast. You have some time. Use that time to get ready. Not to panic, freak-out, or worry. But just get ready. Slowly start to stock non-perishable food and the goods you may need. Get into habits of hand-washing and start thinking about social distance. Consider what you have to do if your work closes or you can’t leave home for a couple of weeks. Maybe get yourself some board games. It’s about that basic and sensible. You don’t need to be some sort of prepper. You just need to get your head right so your nerves are solid when they have to be. It’s important.
You don’t need to freak out about the word pandemic or the idea of pandemic. Many of you have watched zombie movies and zombie movies provide a really terrible mental model for any disaster. There is no ‘you against everyone’, no brave hero facing down the infected masses, and there’s no group of outsiders. A pandemic means the infection does not come from outside. It means it comes from everyone. That includes you, Champ. You are not in traffic, you are traffic. You need to be able to co-operate. To get along. Do your duty.
The word “pandemic” is part of a package. That package should not serve to scare people, though I have no doubt that some so-called leaders will try to use it that way. Instead, the word pandemic should “help people visualize their communities when “keeping it out” – containment – is no longer relevant. The P word is a good way to launch this message. But the P word alone won’t help the public understand what’s about to change: the end of most quarantines, travel restrictions, contact tracing, and other measures designed to keep “them” from infecting “us,” and the switch to measures like canceling mass events designed to keep us from infecting each other.” So don’t be scared of PANDEMIC.
I mean, hell, pandemics aren’t even necessarily all that severe. It’s playing out a bit rough and inconvenient here but we’re on the sharp edge of this particular future. The mortality rate is subject to change, we don’t really know what we have on our hands, and it’s too early for a lot of fear and dire predictions. But it’s not too early to make some sensible preparations. It’s not too early to get ready. You have the time that we lacked.
So make some fucking use of it. Because things change fast.