A man has been standing on a street corner snapping his fingers for hours. You walk up to him.
You: Why are you standing there snapping your fingers?
Man: I’m keeping the tigers away.
You looking around: But there aren’t any tigers here.
Man: See … it’s working...
Mother Mary’s “LOCAL SOUP.”
Serving up tasty local tidbits …
With a touch of salt and an occasional pinch of spice … as needed!
Maybe it’s just my strange sense of humor, but I laughed out loud the first time I heard that joke … and I’ve never forgotten it.*
Now, however … now that we’ve all been standing on our designated quarantine corners snapping our fingers to keep the Corona Virus away for a month … now it perfectly defines the dilemma we find ourselves in.
It’s impossible to know many virus tigers really are out there.
And it’s impossible know to whether they really will kill us.
Unless we stop snapping our fingers ... and that means opening up the Schrodingeresque Pandora’s Box we’re currently hiding in.
When this started the choices seemed simple.
Shut down at least half of the economy ... or kill millions of Americans. That appeared to be a no-brainer.
But now that we think we’ve learned more about the virus … and seen the consequences of shutting down the economy ... the equations no longer seem to balance.
One of the most significant things we’ve learned living in Covid World is that it consists of intertwining parallel realities.
For the elderly and infirm and the healthcare professionals who care for them … the tigers are real and deadly. For the young and healthy … apparently, not so much.
For the independently wealthy, those who can work from home, and those with sufficient retirement income, finger-snapping is more of a temporary inconvenience than a problem.
Meanwhile almost everybody else … small businesses, hospitality and service workers, oil workers, and too many more to list … are sacrificing everything ... and they'll likely never get it back.
Yes, we’ve been keeping the tigers away. But this system is unstable. It's about to implode.
Releasing the tigers.
America was built on the dreams of small local businesses and they are desperate.
Like my son Rob, they have snapped their fingers heroically ... restructuring their small Covid Kingdoms to keep their families, employees, and customers safe ... while, at the same time, trying to keep their dreams alive.
Like Rob, they have followed the CDC playbook. Before Covid-19 ... a phrase we will all use the rest of our lives ... Palm City Farms Produce & Market was a small, but nice produce and specialty market. Everything good about it, except the quality of the food itself, is slowly being stripped away.
First, Rob stopped taking cash. Then he stopped allowing customers into the store. That made us a “Safe Place to Shop.” But once the word got out, customers from all over lined up out the door … and they were no longer safe.
So, he switched to taking phone orders only. The idea is for customers to check our Safe Shopping Menu to see what we've got. Phone in their orders and ... half an hour later, come pick them up. No milling around with strangers breathing on you while you wait for your order to be filled. Just insert your card, grab your food, and go.
Sounds good on paper, right?
But life is nothing if it's not one humbling learning experience after another. Sometimes you just have to laugh ... or shoot yourself in the head.
We alienated half of the community we worked so hard the last two years to create. Some folks showed up expecting to be served the old way ... others couldn't get through because the phone system turned out to be inadequate ... and then there are the ones who left messages we didn't answer because we didn't know they'd left them.
We're trying to fix things, because we hope to stick with this model for a while. Once the tigers are loose, some people are going to need a "Safe Place to Shop" more than ever. It's a small niche, but one we hope we can survive by filling.
I'm sharing this to let you know how hard this is for small business owners ... even when you're an essential business!
Imagine you're not. You own a small restaurant. You can reopen now, right? At 25% capacity? How is that opening? How will the employees who rely on tips survive? Why will they even come back to work once they actually start receiving heightened unemployment? And all that's assuming the customers actually come back.
So, even if you're on the reopening list ... you've done everything right ... followed the guidelines ... cared for your family, employees, and communities ... everything you've worked your whole life for is still slipping away.
The "Great Government Bailout" isn't going to save you. You can't get your bank to answer the phone, much less process an application.
That's the reality small local businesses are living. There is no Door #2 with a Lady hiding behind it to save them.
Their only option is to release the tigers.
Should we be afraid?
None of us actually knows the answer to that question.
The working hypothesis as we reopen Florida is that it will leave the young and healthy pretty much unscathed ... and immune going forward. For all our sakes, I hope that's right.
But for everyone else … including me … the tigers are real and we'll have to fend them off on our own.
Am I scared?
I’ve always been one of the lucky ones, which gives me that underlying sense of invincibility that can be so dangerous. Plus, it's still hard to believe the threat is real because nobody I know has gotten sick ... yet. For that, I credit the fact that we live in little old Martin County surrounded by intelligent neighbors who've been pretty diligent about social distancing.
But without the traffic on the highways, at night I can hear the growl of tigers roaming free north and south of us. There is no fence to keep them out ... and I have asthma. I know what it's like when you can't breathe.
So, yes. I am afraid. But it's more of a Scarlet O'Hara "I'll think about that tomorrow" kind of fear than a paralysis. We can't afford to let it be more than that.
Where do we find the strength?
We each have to dig deep into our own well of strength, but all this reminds me of my Great-Great-Grandmother.
A long, long time ago ... back in the 1840’s, she was a sweet young thing riding sidesaddle with princesses and singing ditties in the courts of Germany.
A couple of years later, she tossed all that to the wind and sailed off to colonize what was literally Indian Territory in Texas.
How did such a sheltered and refined German courtier survive surrounded by rattlesnakes, hostiles, and wolves?
Quite nicely, thank you … because she adapted.
She chopped wood and learned to plow fields, shoot, and skin game. She lost her table cloth to the Comanches and her husband to the Civil War … but she raised seven kids with her head high and she never quit … not even when she had too little to eat and way more reasons than I have to be afraid.**
We can do this!
All of us have ancestors like Betty … people who dreamed, faced great challenges, got up again when they failed, and fought their way to a better place … or we wouldn’t be here.
All we have to do ... is live up to the blood that pulses in our veins.
As for the tigers?
They’re going to roam for a while. Likely until we develop a good treatment or vaccine.
Get used to them and adapt.
We can sit home moaning and crying about the lives we've been forced to put on hold ... or we can move on and start living our new lives like Betty in Indian Territory … with our eyes open, our wits about us ... and our masks at the ready.
(Wash your hands! We'll need you when this is over!)
*P.S ... Apologies if you were expecting a piece about a Netflix show.
**P.S. ... Not-so-prim-and-proper Grandma Betty cut such a swath across central Texas that she became a legend in her own time. My family always talked about her, but only recently I discovered that she has her own Wikipedia Page. Who knew?
Mother Mary's LOCAL SOUP is not a real soup. It's an idea.
Our Local Beer, however, really is BEER!
Palm City Farms Produce & Market is only minutes from Martin Downs, Pt. St. Lucie, Indiantown, and Okeechobee City at the corner of SW Citrus Blvd & SR-714.
3706 SW Citrus Blvd,
Palm City, FL, 34990.
From Mother with love..