Terry from Derry: The Elephant and the Mouse
By Terry Boyle
What a difference a virus makes. When I booked my flight to Ireland at the beginning of the year, I had no idea of the consequences. I knew that March wasn’t going to be the best weather. It’s the season for liquid sunshine.
In other words, the sun can be shining while it’s pouring down with rain. Sure enough, since getting here, it’s snowed, rained down hailstones, with the usual cold and damp. None of these things would’ve deterred me from booking my flight. I grew up here and knew what to expect.
What I didn’t expect, was the impact the coronavirus would have on my stay. Within days of landing on this side of the pond, there were rumblings about the virus activity in China. People were becoming infected at incredible rates.
With the elderly and vulnerable being the most susceptible to succumbing to the disease, we were hearing of deaths. Once the virus started to spread it was too late to stop it. Suddenly, there was talk about it spreading to other countries, and, one-by-one, there were reports of infection, sickness, and death.
None of us prepared for what was happening. Travel soon became anathema. Cruise ships, once the pleasure trips for a lot of people, were now under quarantine. People were donning masks; a futile attempt to keep the virus at bay, shops were running out of sanitizers and toilet roll.
Words like ‘self-isolating’ and ‘stockpiling’ soon became in use, as people began to fear for their health and welfare. Governments, unable to contain or prepare for the rapid spread of the virus, tried to avoid mass panic. However, their inexperience and ineptitude only served to create even more chaos.
Never in my lifetime have I see such a calamity. I was hooked to the news. It was as though we’d been invaded by aliens. Our financial backbone, the stock market, was tumbling into a free fall, testing for the virus was spotty and inadequate.
Advice, sometimes conflicting, was guesswork. No one really knows what this virus is capable of. We have a vaccine.
There are different strains that affect people in different ways. We are not sure if it’s seasonal or whether it will continue beyond the summer. The only thing we know is that there is no escape from it.
One country after another began to register more deaths, more cases of infection, with predictions of greater measures of curtailing people’s activities. China locks down, Italy follows suit, and the United States declares that travel to and from most of Europe banned.
The White House, with a know-it-all in power, acts in the most idiotic ways. The President pretends to understand what’s happening and tries to convince us to believe him and becomes the laughing-stock of the world.
I’ve no doubt that the Democrats will use his speeches to discredit and unmask his foolish attempts at leadership. The T.V personality is out of his depth, and we know it.
So, here I am in Ireland, compulsively watching the news, wondering if the orange man in the White House will close the borders of the U.S to everyone. My flight is only a few days away and yet, each day brings with it new developments that could see me stuck with no way back to the States.
Who would have thought our lives would suddenly change so much. We are watching our lives become unstuck by something so small, it’s scary.
The fear is palpable. People are afraid to shake hands, touch hard surfaces or be in the company of other people. Schools are closing, workers told to ‘self-isolate’ and we still are not seeing the worse of this outbreak.
What Hollywood saw as a good horror movie has come to life in real-time and it’s just as horrifying as predicted. There are no zombies, no vampires or werewolves, just a small infection that can destroy our world order, change our reality to a normal we’re unprepared for, and leave us shaking in our boots.
For a civilization that is so technologically advanced, we are at the mercy of an organism so small and undetectable, its name, coronavirus, creates panic. Our focus has changed from the endless circus of what happens in Washington to what is happening on Wall Street, the supermarkets or the local church. There is no area of life that has not been affected, directly or indirectly, by this infection.
I have no doubt that the conspiracy theorists will have a field day when it comes to unmasking the true culprit behind the rapid spread. I’m sure they will blame political entities for targeting the elderly and vulnerable. Or, some will believe it’s’ nature’s way of balancing out an overpopulated world.
But for most of us, we’ll be concentrating on the daily things in life. Can we buy what we need? When can I travel without fear?
It’s back to the T.V for me, and the endless analyses of what we don’t know. Those who thought of this as another example of media hype are sadly mistaken. This horror is one that won’t go away until we find a way to contain its spread or find a cure.