Read more from Maya Sinha’s column, Wit’s End.
We’re a few weeks into the coronavirus era, and from where I’m sitting, it looks pretty serious. As I write this, a cruise ship is quarantined off the coast of California — I can see it from my house — where 3,500 people await test results from a San Francisco lab after the National Guard dropped test kits down on them by helicopter.
“No one will be allowed to disembark until all test results are received,” the cruise ship company has announced, like that nightmare where you’re trapped in a classroom with a trigonometry final in front of you, and there’s no way to say: “There must be some mistake. I passed this class 25 years ago! Please, let me out.”
The governor of California has declared a state of emergency, and up the coast in Seattle, schools and workplaces are shutting down to prevent the virus’s spread.
Every kid in America is now told several times a day to wash their hands, but after the three o’clock school bell rings, you catch them reaching into their own mouth to extract a loose tooth.
“Did you wash your hands first?” you ask nervously, missing the days when they could just catch lice or pinkeye from a classmate.
“Yeah. I think I washed them this morning.”
Then you clutch your forehead with anxiety, inadvertently touching your own face. Oh no!
Though everyone is understandably on edge, there must be some upside to a new, intermittently deadly global virus. In the spirit of never letting a crisis go to waste, here are some possible ways to improve your life in the coronavirus era:
- Stop going to work. For anyone tired of driving in commuter traffic to sit at a desk, now is the perfect time to lobby for a telecommute option. If your company is on the fence about letting everyone work from home, move things along at the next meeting by coughing a lot, then reaching for a donut out of the box in the middle of the conference table. Later that day, locate a fresh pair of pajamas, which you’ll be working in for the foreseeable future.
- Pull the kids out of school. Delight your children by keeping them home on a “corona-cation” of indefinite length. If they’re still in the lower grades, it’s going to be a real monkey house, but if they can read chapter books and do simple math, they are already the equivalent of many functional adults. Homeschool them by announcing once, in the morning: “Please keep it down in there. I’m working!” Then let them surf the Internet about whatever subjects catch their fancy. They will learn some interesting things that will surprise you.
- Opt out of all extra-curricular activities. Now is the time to look into your heart and ask: “Does my four-year-old really need to play organized soccer?” “Will my pony-obsessed daughter honestly miss coding camp?” “Does my husband truly want to take a cooking class with me on date night, or is he secretly hoping we just order pizza and stay home?” Probably no one wants to do any of those things, and thanks to the coronavirus, your family has an honorable excuse to skip them. It’s about staying healthy!
- Quit cooking. A few days into the coronavirus panic, I casually filled a shopping cart with nonperishable foods and medicines. I was no wild-eyed prepper, just someone who could always use an extra four jars of shelf-stable marinara sauce. I stacked these “emergency supplies” in a big plastic tub, planning to store it in the garage. What actually happened was that I didn’t go shopping or cook for a week. When someone got hungry, I just filched from the tub, filled with easy comfort foods like canned soup, shells-and-cheese, tuna, and energy bars. Everyone enjoyed the break from fresh vegetables, fruit, and meat. But the grocery stores stayed open, so eventually I had to go back and buy some real food.
- Appreciate the old people in your life. Americans have mixed feelings about the elderly as a group. In 2018, Forbes reported that people born before 1942 have made out like bandits, possessing “roughly 1.3 times the amount of wealth as Boomers, more than twice that of Xers, and 23 times that of Millennials.” In addition to being richer than everyone else (thanks to huge increases in housing and education costs), septuagenarians still want to be in charge: Witness the 73-year-old, 76-year-old and 78-year-old battling it out for President in 2020. Still, we don’t want Grandma and Grandpa succumbing to the coronavirus. Now is a good time to phone that older relative, ask how they’re doing, and offer to help in any way you can. If there’s a lull in the conversation, you can say: “Tell me the story, again, of when a family could have a comfortable middle-class life on one income? Wow.”
- Cash out of the stock market and hoard gold. Till about two weeks ago, 401(k)s were boring. But when the coronavirus hit, retirement funds became an exciting roller coaster: Watching the market rise and tank, then soar to dizzying heights, then plummet within 24 hours to record lows, was suddenly an engrossing pastime. “Get yourself a PowerBar out of the emergency tub, kids! I’m sweating bullets trying to figure out whether Dad and I will ever be able to — whoop! There it goes again.” Perhaps it’s time to pull your money out of stocks and spend it all on gold doubloons. Buy a big white shirt and some tall boots while you’re at it! In this new “pirate” phase of retirement planning, you’ll need a strongbox with a heavy lock, a shovel, a parrot, and a loyal crew: Use your own children, who now spend their days hanging around the house doing nothing. Tell them to bury the box somewhere in the yard, draw up a treasure map, and fetch you a tankard of ale! Everyone will be happier than in their old, pre-virus life. Let’s hope so, anyway.
Featured image: Shutterstock
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