By Craig Hastings
What would I be doing tonight if in the summer of 1974 when I was 17 years old had this COVID-19 disruption occurred? My friends and I were car guys and our lives centered around driving and working on them. Of course we didn’t really have much else going on because there were no social media gadgets and gimmicks to fool with. No, if my generation wanted to see and talk to one another we were required to transport our entire selves to a randevu point to meet up with whoever it was we wanted to socialize. Sure we had landline telephone capabilities but in my household my parents wanted the one and only one line kept open and available should a real need occur. There were seven of us in my family so it only made sense for everyone to use the phone only at a time of real need and not idle gossip. It was kind of a pain in 1974 but at least that summer I was mobile. No more bumming rides from my brother or parents.
I have to wonder if my gear head buddies and I would have practiced the six-foot distancing, face masks, germ sprays, and hand washes per government order. I’m doubting most of us would have. Remember, being together in one place was the only means of communicating and socializing. Admonish me if you wish but no apologies would come from me then. It’s much too easy to be critical today while sitting at home on one’s computer logged on to one’s Facebook account sharing conversation with as many people as you wish and at the same time forwarding real time pictures of what you’re up to. I wonder if the many would be as obedient to government stay at home orders if the many had no form of communication other than their ancient land line telephone? Until the courts rule on the issue these are just orders, not the law.
From my past six weeks or so of experiencing stay home orders and business closures one thing is for certain; had it not been for the cell phone device not many reports of citizens ignoring or disregarding government rule would have ever gone public. In the first few weeks of the COVID-19 I’m certain a few people were doing their own patrol on the lookout for those not following the orders. I guess they themselves missed the stay at home directive or they wouldn’t be cruising around town looking for others doing the same. I’m not advocating that anyone disregard our government’s questionable stay at home orders, business closings, park closings, sporting event cancellations, etc. But….
Is this really the first time that any state government, our own federal government, or world wide agency ever gave any thought as to how a pandemic would or should be coordinated!? Our own federal government to me, obviously shot from the hip on this one. No one knew what to do with us. Us being the citizens and our businesses. How is there not a directive somewhere in FEMA’s operational procedures on how to manage people should a pandemic occur in the country? How was it not predictable that some parts of the country would be less affected than others? How was it that first and foremost the government wouldn’t move to protect the food services? Not the transportation of same either. One operation that has gone extremely well is the transportation industry! But why were not all of the private meat service processing plants converged on by health service personnel to make sure everything possible was being done to keep those employees monitored for signs of the sickness?
So instead of drafting and implementing food handling guidelines at the source of those foods and sending professionals to those sources to assist them, the entire country is ordered to stay home and not eat anything we can’t buy in a store! Very quickly that changed to allow pickup and curbside service. Wonderful! But what if some foods never reach the retail stores and restaurants because it was never processed due to sickness running rampant through the employee populations in the processing plants?! What?! Really?! Of all the brilliant minds that have come and gone through the doors in the past say sixty years, of the many federal government health and human protections services, not one of these people ever thought; “Ya know, what if ever…”? I don’t believe it! I’m sure someone has, but, why wasn’t there ever a real discussion and then a plan put in place?
So here I sit day after day and listen to everyone now blaming everyone before them. This was absolutely the failing of every one of the Republican and Democrat Presidents and their administrations for the past fifty or sixty years. FEMA has plans to deal with floods, tornados, fires, hurricanes, and earthquakes and the people they affect but, not a pandemic. The absolute worst catastrophe imaginable and…nothing.
Let me step down off my soapbox and get back to me being seventeen and what if a pandemic had happened back in the day. Unless forced by our parents or local police to follow the governor’s orders, Jake, Tim, me, and always a few others would be sitting on the old Four Seasons Clothing Store parking lot until 3:00 a.m. in the morning talking about cars, girls, and other cars. You see, our cars were our cell phones, iPads, laptops, and desktops. Getting together and just going on a simple drive together sharing all of the day’s events and our plans for the next was our way of life. It was a good way. I’ve said it before, had I the choice of what’s in social vogue today and what I had in 1974, I’ll take 1974. These guys became part of my family then and still today. And not just Jake and Tim, many more of us bonded through our cars, our music, and all of those into the early morning hours conversations. I doubt that many of the millennial generation ever shared what we did about ourselves. And how could they? Who today packs three or four guys in a car and drives a two square mile for eight hours most every summer night and many winter nights too?
Nope, I’m sure a few of us in 1974 would have defied the governor’s stay at home order, six-feet apart order, and I’m not picturing Jake or Tim wearing a facemask in my Roadrunner either. The smells would be missing too. Fresh cut grass, oil, gas, rubber, exhaust gas, and Staley’s grain processing smell are forever emblazoned in my senses and will be forever. Any of them might trigger a memory of being together outside, in a car, or in the old Dairy Queen in 1974. God I miss those days dearly! Pandemic be damned I would have rolled those dice when I was seventeen. I’m old now though and barely in the at risk age group. So I am more careful and respectful of those more afraid than I am. I’m also not collecting memories that I’ll be thinking about forty-five years from now because…well because of the obvious with someone of my age! In the meantime do; wash your hands often, wear a mask anywhere you don’t feel comfortable, disinfect your kitchen and bathroom anytime you use them. Be mindful of your surroundings until this thing passes.