DAY 1 – I have everything I need to self-quarantine and thus avoid catching the Dos Equis virus, or the Tequila Mockingbird, whatever it’s called. Ah, the coronavirus. Must have come from drinking that Mexican beer. Some call the sickness the novel coronavirus or COVID-19, although President Trump calls it the China virus. An aide referred to the Kung Flu. Anyway, we were told to stay away from everyone else, and stock up on necessities. That explains my 43 bottles of Smirnoff and the eight boxes of cigars. My food supply is adequate, although the pantry has “use by” markings going back to Christmas. Isn’t it a shame so many people are hording?
DAY 3 – Houston announces the shutdown of bars and clubs — on the eve of St. Patrick’s Day. Staying away from other people isn’t so unusual. People have stayed away from me most of my adult life. Still, I avoid most riots. I do miss watching sports on TV, but notice that ESPN is showing the 1978 Rose Bowl and panels of aging jocks, sitting behind a long desk, discussing the subtle nuances of permanent disabilities. TV news is all about the virus, with experts now telling us we should have started planning for it earlier, and absolutely no one is taking responsibility for all the screw-ups. After watching so many TV warnings about touching contagious surfaces and the spread of germs, I wash my hands after every broadcast. Same with opening the mail. You never know which diseased neighbor mailed in his ticket to Publishers Clearing House. My broker says not to worry, this crash is only a slight hiccup.
The daily newspapers are also full of stories about the virus, and readers must be worried. I received a long email from The New York Times which read in part: “The World Health Organization has stated that it is safe to receive packages…This includes newspapers.” The Houston Chronicle says, “We have provided gloves to all our press workers and delivery agents.” Even so, I disinfect my newspapers with a 30-minute fry in the microwave just in case.
DAY 7 – My wife is worried that we don’t have enough food to last through the quarantine. I tell her we have plenty. The TV news is interviewing people who have the virus. I begin reading “War and Peace.” Emails keep trying to sell me facemasks for a mere $75. Stores are being raided by shoppers buying Purell, food and toilet paper. Why toilet paper? Is there a run on the runs? Just to break our supply of meals, I order some food delivered. When the deliverer says: “Would you –ah-CHEW! – sign here just below by shaking hand?” I shut the door.
DAY 11 — Actually, I got a late start on the pandemic worry by watching news from the White House. Early on, President Trump complained on Twitter that the “Fake News Media” and Democrats were doing everything to “inflame the Corona Virus situation” while he claimed the “risk is low to the average American.” He also predicted that positive cases in the country would soon reach “zero.” Then the situation got worse, and Trump suddenly changed his tune. “I’ve always known this is a real — this is a pandemic. I felt it was a pandemic long before it was called a pandemic.” His nose grew another inch.
Schools, most stores and cockfights are closed, but toilet paper is still on the market for as little as $150 a roll. Any gathering of 250 people or more is prohibited, unless they are lined up outside the ER entrance at a hospital. My broker won’t return my phone calls.
DAY 14 – I finish “War” and am beginning “Peace.” Wonder if some people are singing the Statler Brothers song that goes: “Counting flowers on the wall, that don’t bother me at all. Playing solitaire till dawn with a deck of fifty one. Smoking cigarettes and watching Captain Kangaroo. Now don’t tell me I’ve nothing to do.” The TV news is interviewing people who know people who have heard of the virus. Our food supply is holding up well. I really like oatmeal for breakfast, lunch and dinner. “Social distancing” is the key word – stay at least 6 feet away from contact with others. This makes talking on the phone difficult. Gun stores say there is a run on guns. Some fear that officials — particularly if a Democrat is elected to the White House later this year — will try to limit or restrict access to firearms.
DAY 19 — We are told not to touch our face. That explains my bad breath and beard. I check my stock portfolio. Now I know why they’re called “brokers.” As with any event these days, people choose sides. I prefer those who are minimizing this pandemic by comparing it to other deaths. Heather Mac Donald at the Manhattan Institute, writes that deaths so far in the pandemic make up .000012 percent of the U.S. population. “By comparison, there were 38,800 traffic fatalities in the United States in 2019. That represents an average of over one hundred traffic deaths every day.” Going on: “Even assuming that coronavirus deaths in the United States increase by a factor of one thousand over the year, the resulting deaths would only outnumber annual traffic deaths by 2,200.” She blames the press for creating hysteria. Others minimize the coronavirus by comparing it to the Bubonic Plague in the 14th century that killed an estimated 50 million people. Remind me to stay away from knights, court jesters and witches – and not to drive with Ms. MacDonald.
DAY 22 – Cabin fever is getting to us. I tell my wife it’s hard smoking a cigar while wearing a face mask. She suggests I go for a walk in the hospitals. Or take an ocean cruise. TV reporters are interviewing each other. I start humming, “Counting flowers on the wall, that don’t bother me at all.”
Ashby is always quarantined at email@example.com