The Joy of Watching Paint Dry

We’ll all be reading about and talking about and reflecting upon the coronavirus crisis for the rest of our lives. Hopefully it will be the last, or at least worst pandemic for a while.

The passage of time will cause different observations. For example, in the early stages it was easy to be sucked into the whirlwind-like nature of what was coming our way. Everything was “surging” and “spiking” and the hockey stick curves were frightening in painting the picture of this geometrical scaling. (The fact that even the very tippy-top of the curve represented fewer than 1% of all Americans was rarely noted.)

Then there were the metaphors of “waves crashing” over us and the force of a hurricane or tornado.

But now we know that it wasn’t a wave at all. If anything it was a slow-moving mudslide, meaning that every hour was almost exactly like the hour before…and the hour after. Every day was almost exactly like the day before…and the day after, the only difference being a very small movement up or down.

Websites were created to to show us exactly how many hospital beds and ICU beds and ventilators would be needed in all 50 states. We could scroll through graphs that presented us with this information months in advance! My state of Texas, for example, will need 663 ICU beds 14 days from now. As a state, we have 2,259 available so I guess we’ll be okay.

I could check again tomorrow, but what’s the point? The numbers don’t change from day to day. New York Governor Cuomo has been telling us for almost two months exactly what was coming and when. So have the scientists.

I think part of the disruption this crisis has caused is due to the huge disconnect of the absolute predictability of the path of the disease, with the total uncertainty about its impact on the economy…and how long a recovery will take.

I’ve written elsewhere in this blog about how this crisis has caused me to go inward, to be more self-aware and self-disciplined and to feel that I’m more in control of my life. And thus I’ve found comfort in waking up every morning and knowing that there will be almost no significant change that day.

Bombs are not going to fall. Roofs are not going to blow off. Airplanes are not going to fly into buildings. Tomorrow is going to look almost exactly like today, which looks almost exactly like yesterday. Progress will be measured in millimeters, not miles. It’s not one step at a time, it’s one inch at a time…but always in the right direction.

Our path forward is, well, forward! And steady and persistent. And if the pace makes watching paint dry look exciting?

So be it. The only thing we know for sure at the end of the day is that we’re “…one day closer.”

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