My First Hint of the Oncoming Pandemic
Somewhere in a short news report last December I read about a town in central China experiencing a contagion — an unknown flu — born out of what was called their “wet market.” I gave it little attention. A week later my son sent me a new computer as an early Christmas gift and the week after that I received a special mouse pad he had ordered for it, made in China. The package was awkwardly wrapped and covered with all kinds of custom receipts and Chinese stamps.
Like a faint bell ringing in my mind, I thought of the article I had read in passing. I didn’t open the package with the mouse pad but instead went to the post office and asked if they thought the package was safe to open. I gave them the name of the town experiencing the illness and said I was a bit worried.
No one knew anything back then. Oddly enough, the postal clerk had spent time in China and told me the city my package came from was far from the central city I had read about and it was fine to open it. So I did, and found a mouse pad that was perfect for me, images of earthstones and crystals. I am using it now as I write. Every so often when I look at it those few minutes in the post office come to mind.
Rumors and reports then quickly began to proliferate about the contagion, yet to be called a pandemic. Less than three months later I read another news report stating Tom Hanks and his wife Rita Wilson had been tested and the positive report had sent them into quarantine in Australia. The moment I read that was the first time I truly began to believe whatever was going on was serious. Tom Hanks was one of the most truthful guys on the planet. If he had been struck down by the contagion, it was suddenly far more real to me.
I have a rather gullible nature, so I try and compensate for that by not readily accepting information, by making sure I find the most accurate facts and outcomes. What has struck me this past year is how little reliable information there has been swirling around us, how difficult it has been to sort through what to believe and what to discount. And how rapidly that unknowing can spin into fear.