When I was a kid, my family went hiking a lot. When we were hiking a steep trail with switchbacks, I always wanted to cut the corner, to hike off the trail up to the tantalizing visible trail above us, to blaze my own stubby path and traverse an area where no one had gone before. My dad never let me.
“Stay on the trail. No cutting the corners.”
“Why?” I would whine. “The trail is right there!”
“Because you’ll damage the forest. The trails are here to keep people from walking wherever they want,” he would patiently explain to me.
It took me a long time to understand how my ten-year old shoes could seriously cause any damage to the forest by cutting across the corner of a switchback trail.
The truth is, I wouldn’t damage a frickin’ thing by cutting across the trails. But, as my dad always tried to explain to me, if everybody did what I wanted to do, the forest would be irreparably damaged. My selfish behavior was fine in a vacuum, but if everybody was as selfish as me, it would ruin the whole experience. It’s great to be a trailblazer in business or life, but when trailblazing causes damage to the things society wants to enjoy, it’s usually better to just stay on the path.
I forged this lesson forward when I taught my daughters about littering. It’s absolutely true that if you throw a wrapper out your car window while driving down the highway, it’s not a big deal. It won’t ruin anything for anybody if some paper container with ketchup and three slices of dill pickle that makes your mouth tingle is sitting half-buried in the median. So why does littering provoke such a steeply fined civil penalty in nearly every jurisdiction?
My dad could tell you. It’s because if everybody did it, this world would be a disgusting pigsty of strewn garbage. Actually, it would look a lot like the Pyramids of Giza complex in Cairo, Egypt.
Social distancing is the only thing that is going to slow the spread of this Covid-19 coronavirus. I’m seeing a plethora of people on social media making plans to get together for lunch, to grab a drink, or to see a movie this weekend. The Southpoint casino here in Las Vegas tweeted out this photo last night, bragging about how busy they are:
There are far too many people who still think this is all just a big joke. There are far too many deniers — Flu-Truthers as I like to call them, spewing their vocal ignorance to the masses. I guess I kind of get it. There are 55 deaths from this virus in the United States right now. But not seeing what is happening all around us—having the extreme myopic tunnel vision to focus only on that number—is so incredibly ignorant, asinine, and obtuse that it’s like the driver of JFK’s limo deciding to take another lackadaisical lap around Dealey Plaza after hearing a few loud bangs.
So many people are freaking out right now about the lack of available tests for the virus here in the U.S. There’s no question that this was a colossal failure on the part of the CDC. However, at this time it just doesn’t matter. Governments love to know data and numbers in order to make decisions, but we have all the data we need. We can extrapolate from findings in other countries which have somehow been light-years ahead of us with testing for Covid-19 cases.
The exact number of infected is going to be vast, distressing, uncomfortable–and also completely irrelevant.
If I get sick with Covid-19 symptoms, I’m not going to the hospital to get a test. Why should I? What difference does it make what the test results are? Whether its Covid-19, or just the regular flu, the treatment is the same. I’m going to remain isolated. I’m going to eat soup, drink Nyquil, and try to get lots of fluids. I’m going to stay home and make sure I don’t infect anybody else. Above all, I’m not going to go to a hospital and stand in a waiting room with a bunch of other sick people and healthy people trying to get care for their sick loved ones, and either infect someone else, or actually catch the coronavirus myself when I didn’t actually have it.
I will only go to the hospital at this point if I’m in dire medical need.
Unless you are elderly, in poor health already, or immune-deficient, I suggest you do the same. In the end, the result of the test doesn’t matter. ALL THAT MATTERS RIGHT NOW IS SOCIAL ISOLATION.
Testing and compiling data is not going to save a single life at this point. It is CRITICALLY IMPORTANT that people stop going out. Stop congregating, stop meeting your friends for drinks, stop “supporting local businesses in these tough times.” This will be so much worse if we don’t adhere to the guidelines the doctors and health officials are laying out.
I know you’re all young, healthy, strong as an ox, and not worried about contracting this virus. I know you think this is all overblown and it will be over in a week or two. I know you think even if you get it, it won’t be that bad and won’t matter. And, if you just toss your plastic Starbucks cup out of the car window on your way home from brunch with your friends tomorrow, that act of littering won’t matter either. It’s the same thing.
Unless we ALL stop acting so goddamned selfishly and stop pretending that this disruption to our lives is so inconvenient, we are truly screwed. If attitudes don’t change, we are going to have the biggest economic, medical, and social disaster the world has ever seen. STOP going out unless you absolutely have to. You are being SELFISH. You are contributing to a devastating global pandemic with your absolutely narcissistic and egocentric behavior, all in the name of “it won’t affect me so why should I care?” Would you destroy a national landmark you had no intention of coming back to just because you never have to see it again? Would you toss your garbage bags into the neighbor’s swimming pool just because he won’t know and you won’t have to clean it up? I know my examples are ridiculously bombastic (thanks, Eric) but I just don’t know how to get this message through so many thick skulls.
If we don’t self-isolate in exponentially larger numbers than what’s happening right now, the U.S. government is going to have no choice but to enforce some quarantines. My most dire predictions will come true within a week from today if we don’t collectively and voluntarily make some serious changes. Get ready for martial law and civil unrest, because I don’t see this egocentric collective behavior changing, despite news from around the globe that should be absolutely terrifying to the vast majority of this country.
Spread the word. If your friends ask you to have brunch tomorrow, to go out to dinner, or to go see a show, tell them you’re not going. And, more importantly, tell them WHY you aren’t going. Ask them to follow your lead. Make them understand the importance of curbing this self-centered behavior.
My dad wants you to stop trailblazing. Please don’t be 10-year old me. Please listen to him.