On infrequent expeditions I suit up. Most of us don't. I feel embarrassed, with my heavy scarf covering the parts left uncovered by my Stetson and high-collar winter coat. Backing off, maybe raising a gloved finger to forestall further sociability with people who seem clueless. We're not used to this.
I have the masked-eye-contact thing down pretty well. It stayed with me since my years as an OR orderly in the early 1970s. I worked with highly infectious septic cases then, severe burns, abdominal infections, persistent bone infections requiring progressive amputations. Open-hearts, kidney transplants.
I know the drill.
There were four deaths this week, two north of my rural village, and two south. Neighbors and friends. A radius of about ten miles. There's a plastic barrier at the cash register now, at the gas station, and the staff are muffled appropriately. Customers still haven't got the memo.
But this isn't a dystopian travelog. There is something in the air, and it needs to be addressed. We've been told and told, keep your distance, wash your hands, you'll be ok. But how has that landed, out here, out in the sticks, where there is plenty of distance, social or not? This isn't about whether peopl observe the protocols, or believe in them in the first place. There's a sense that if you get too close, something will rub off on you.
You might get Slimed.
I tried the Netslick movie one-month freebie. It may be that my inaccessible Profile has my Surveillance Capital Score for plague-vampire-zombie splatter-flicks at 100%, I wouldn't know; I don't watch them. But that's what fills my screen, like some Zoom Gallery from Hell. "Outbreak!" "Pandemic!" "Z"-something-or-other! scream the titles, going back to the days when life was lived in Black-&-White.
But it is not Art Imitating Life! No. I reject that. That metaphor plays into a certain "narrative" these days. But it probably got started innocently enough, just to sell movies.
So here is how we used to think about germs, in the Operating Rooms, as we processed the stabbings, gunshots, self-induced abortions (they were illegal, remember?), self-immolations, and all the other terrible and terrifying conditions, each of which had, somewhere under the bandages and breathing apparatus and laundry, a human being. A person. Somebody like us, like me, who was not going to make it much longer without intrusive and sometimes humiliating intervention. In the OR, nobody died. We always managed to get them stable, at least. A big part of that success rate was Aseptic Technique.
Then there's how it feels under the Pandemic: being grossed-out by people, just because they are in our space, an artificially expanded personal space. Backing off, turning away. Trying not to inhale until you're clear. Trying to remember not to scratch your nose. Washing hands compulsively.
The Germ Theory is a great scientific advance. And while everybody is getting up to speed on that, there's some other science, about behavior and so on, that we could benefit from as well, just now.
It's well established that behavior is closely correlated to perception (well, duh). We act on what occurs for us (not necessarily what is real), long before any rational thinking can take place.
But that old saying, "fake it til you make it," has some neurological basis. If you are an actor in a play, you might start by breathing in a way that matches an emotion, to convey that emotion for the audience. And even, you hope, to induce that emotion in them. Theater. Grand Opera.
Here's the point: if I go around acting as if other people are lepers, or worse, zombies, pretty soon that is going to alter my perceptions, my world-view. And I'll start thinking of some human beings as "those people." The Unclean.
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