The coronavirus has brought out the worst in people.
There are government leaders who don’t seem to know a virus from a vegetable, cruise and airline passengers traveling when sick, and hoarders stockpiling like there’s no tomorrow.
I was at a store and noticed that all the shopping carts were stacked with toilet paper and bottled water. This baffles me, because if I have to live in dire times, I’m stocking up on alcohol — and not the rubbing kind.
As for toilet paper, where’s the good ol’ Sears and Roebuck catalog now that we need it? Since those handy pages are no longer available, I’m saving all the flyers that arrive in junk mail, especially now that I can’t recycle them on this island. But a warning: Don’t flush it.
In addition to sickness and death, another sorry outcome is irrational fear. Before the city shut down, a friend emailed that customers had stopped going to Seattle’s Chinatown, worried about … what, exactly, that the virus caught a ride in the bin of dried turnips? But the president keeps talking about the “China virus” so fear of the Chinese is again rearing its ugly head.
If you’re among the fearful, then full disclosure: My maiden name is Wong.
My kids used to say I was scary, because when they were growing up, they knew not to incur the Wrath of Mom. And yet we can’t blame China for that well-placed fear, since I was born in Hilo. The only other thing that links me to the most populous country on Earth are the jades I occasionally wear. But then, so do all my friends, Chinese or not, and we’re a benign bunch.
In a panic, people look for a scapegoat. Some frothing at the mouth believe that COVID-19 is a man-made bio-weapon engineered in a Chinese lab for the purpose of world domination. Look, the country making a bazillion products used everywhere around the globe is already heading for world domination. They don’t need no bio-weapon.
Then there are those wacky researchers who are Googling “corona beer virus” in their wobbly quest for information. These geniuses think the coronavirus is connected to Mexico, where Corona beer originated, so they are showing solidarity by refusing to order the world-famous lager and clamoring for the closing of the southern border.
Too much ‘okole maluna if you ask me.
While we can legitimately blame baboozes for misinformation, we can also criticize social media for spreading it like …well, a virus. My kids — who no longer find me scary — laugh because I still use a flip phone and can barely distinguish an app from an apple. But when searching for something to watch on TV or read on my iPad, I’ve noticed that much of what turns up on flat screens big and small is a high-tech version of the National Enquirer.
At frantic times like these, one real danger is that brains will turn to mush. But pupule is not confined to one single demographic. While we can poke fun at the aforementioned wackos, there are also college students flocking to Florida for spring break, middle-agers looking for cheap airline tickets, and grandparents boarding cruise ships.
Scientists are still trying to figure out how this virus works, so how about we simply pause until more is known about COVID-19? But let’s be akamai, agree that these are not normal times, and take reasonable measures. As for racist rants, those are always dumb.
Now is when we need to take care of ourselves, look out for each other, be kind and share resources.
Above all, let’s turn down cable TV, put away our not-so-smart phones and … stop hoarding, ganfannit!
Rochelle delaCruz was born in Hilo, graduated from Hilo High School, then left to go to college. After teaching for 30 years in Seattle, Wash., she retired and returned home to Hawaii. She welcomes your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her column appears every other Monday.