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Free Fall

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There's a classic routine featured in the early silent comedy films. Action begins when a worker digs a big hole and walks away, leaving no warning sign. Next, an innocent walker falls into the hole.

The denouement takes one of three forms: In the first, the walker falls all the way through the earth and exits in China. In the second, the walker falls onto a trampoline and bounces out of the hole. The third outcome is when the walker falls for awhile and then lands on something such as coal car or an underground river or a (fat) policeman.

Here in California, as a result of the pandemic-inspired shelter-in-place order, we've fallen into a hole. Many of us are in free fall.

I'm not afraid of falling all the way to China. But I know people who are: restaurant workers who don't know when they'll get another job and can't pay their bills. Or gig workers...

On the other hand, I don't expect to quickly bounce back. We've been sheltering in place for three weeks and don't know when it will end. But I do know folks who are carrying on with their (more or less) normal jobs: government employees, healthcare workers, and folks in essential trades.

I'm going to be falling for awhile and don't know where I will land. Will it all end pleasantly, like swooping down the slide at a water park? Or will I land on the COVID-19 monster that sucks the air out of our lungs?

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Bob Burnett is a Berkeley writer. In a previous life he was one of the executive founders of Cisco Systems.
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