One of the lessons I learned as a young driver was that during major snow storms, the world becomes a kinder, gentler place to drive. People let you change lanes or get in front of them. Drivers stop to help others stuck in a snow bank. Nobody’s in a hurry because everybody’s going to be late. The rush-hour mentality disappears.
It’s all of us against the snow.
Today we’re engaged in a serious, life-and-death fight against a global pandemic. The Covid-19 virus is obviously on a totally different level than a snow storm. But like the snow storms, the pandemic has created a global bond: it’s all of us against the killer virus.
The way most of us are fighting is by quarantining ourselves. People are sheltering in place, a phrase I’d never heard of until recently. We only go out to buy groceries and other necessary items. Restaurants and theatres have been replaced by adventurous dinners at home, books, and movies or series on TV. We’re cooking, reading and bingeing in place.
People are checking up on each other, too. In our condo building, we’ve begun a ritual of coming out on our decks every day at 12:30, just to share a cup of coffee, say hi to everyone, maybe even sing a silly song. It allows us to be sure everyone is healthy. And it reminds us that a world still exists beyond our condo walls.
In New York and other hard-hit areas, at a pre-publicized time every day people open windows and stand on balconies to loudly applaud and shout their appreciation for the people on the front lines of the Covid-19 battle: doctors, nurses, fire fighters, police, trash collectors, grocery store clerks, mail carriers… those countless people who endanger themselves in order to take care of the rest of us.
Throughout all of this, there is one prevailing attitude: We’re all in this together, and we’re going to beat this virus.
I’ve also been impressed with the online contributions of people around the world. In some cases, it’s just personal, first-hand accounts of surviving the quarantine and the virus. Some celebrities have contributed public service announcements (PSAs) to encourage people to practice social distancing (another new phrase). And still others have offered their own unique talents to help us get through this scary, historic time.
Early on, celebrity couple Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson tested positive while in Australia. They immediately quarantined themselves, and shared their experience with the world. Rita Wilson even recorded what happened as she went stir crazy one afternoon: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=27-JIihLjF0
Steve Martin’s contribution had nothing to do with his comedic talent. He’s also an accomplished banjo player, and offered the world some “Banjo Balm” for no reason, other than to provide a 78-second respite from the word coronavirus. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EV6GMFp0Ea0
Since Rotterdam Philharmonic concerts had been cancelled, and much of the city is locked down, the orchestra’s base player used the time to organize, orchestrate and edit a video recording of 19 of the orchestra’s musicians, each playing their own instrument in their own bedroom against a common click track. The result was the 4th movement (Ode to Joy) of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nNBtwsPigcc
In many Italian towns where people were in lock down, and the country’s death toll was rising, they began coming out on their balconies at the same time every evening, and creating music. Combining their voices, instruments, and even pots and pans, they used music to bring themselves together. In Florence, one established opera singer, Maurizio Marcini, stepped out on his balcony and delivered the powerful tenor aria “Nessun Dorma” from Turandot (Puccini). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x-X43RQM3Lc (If you watch this, be sure to stay until the very end.)
Meanwhile, we’re all using modern technology to talk to each other. We’re calling/texting/skyping/zooming friends and family, chatting, gossiping, exchanging recipes and TV shows, recommending books, and making sure everyone is okay. Apparently, it takes a crisis – and a lot of technology – to get us talking to each other.
And who knows? Maybe five or ten years from now on a snowy afternoon, I’ll be sitting in my easy chair and my grandson – who doesn’t exist yet – will come and tug on my shirt sleeve to get my attention. I’ll smile as he climbs up into my lap. He looks up with his big brown eyes, and says, “Nonnino, what did you and Nonnina do during the great constantine of 2020?” I laugh as I correct him, once again. “Not constantine, Larry the Second. Remember? It was the great quarantine of 2020. And let me tell you… that was quite a time.”