Contemplation on Social Distancing

How has self isolation changed my life? Not as much as I would have thought. I certainly don’t miss the commute. Since I am primarily working with a team at another geographical site, coordination is by Webex and Mattermost. Mattermost is an open source persistent team chat application somewhat like Slack. The actual daily routine hasn’t changed much. If anything, it’s gotten better since now everyone is attending remotely and observing teleconference protocols including keeping their mikes muted when they aren’t talking and depending on the meeting owner to call on them.

I like having lunch with my wife without having to take an extra hour out of my day to meet her somewhere and then drive back to work. I like being able to take my dogs for a quick walk in the back yard when I take a break. I certainly have a wider variety of healthier snacks.

Even my social calendar has managed to improve some. I attend a weekly meeting where we get together and talk for a few minutes. Then everyone writes for an hour and a half. Then we take turns reading three or four minutes of what we just wrote.

Before the quarantine, we met at the Huntsville Madison County Library Downtown Branch. I had to figure out something quick to eat for supper and then drive to the meeting. Afterwards, I had to drive home. Now, we use Google Hangouts, and we even have an attendee from San Diego that would never have made it to our physical meetings. And because there is no time pressure, we’ve started reading four minutes of what we wrote instead of three minutes like we used to at the library.

And doctor appointments have gotten easier. Instead of having to drive to the doctor’s office and wait in a waiting room until the doctor is ready to see you, you can just sit at home and wait for them to connect via Zoom or one of the other telemedicine video chat apps. My psychologist prefers the face to face meeting but I like the teleconference.

Don’t get me wrong. I like seeing people face to face. I like shaking hands and hugging my friends. I like meeting in physical meeting places sometimes. But quite frankly, I wouldn’t mind keeping up some of the social distancing measures even after we get COVID-19 under control. I’m not an introvert. I just think we can use our time more safely and efficiently. Driving around in rush hour traffic, exposing ourselves to whatever virus is making the rounds, eating unhealthy fast food because it’s convenient is not very smart.

The quarantine has been great for reducing the carbon footprint of the whole world. People aren’t driving. Factories aren’t producing pollution. What could we do to retain some of those benefits after the COVID-19 crisis has been managed? And the other big question is, how can we ensure that we don’t find ourselves in this same situation the next time a deadly virus breaks out? We need leaders that respect science and depend on expert advice instead of making things worse by trying to ignore the problem and hoping it will go away.

There are a lot of important questions we need to look for better answers for. We need to restructure our economy so that we can better survive the outbreak of a pandemic. This is not going to be a one time crisis. The next viral outbreak could come at any time and we need to be ready to deal with it.

And there are other crises we could plan better for. Things like hurricanes, tornadoes, volcano eruptions, tsunamis, meteor strikes, etc. Planning is the wise thing to do. Having a plan in hand can save numerous lives and large sums of money instead of floundering around in the chaos that accompanies not understanding what has happened and how we should respond to it.

Wash your hands, keep social distance, stay home, and tell the people you love that you love them.