A year of traumatic absolutes…

I hazily recall the day but it was about December 2019 or early January 2020. I had been making a routine of stopping at the corner CVS when taking Pax (my dog) on her last walk of the day, anywhere from 1am to 4am.

NYC is quiet at this time, even before the pandemic. It’s peaceful. Like an abandoned movie set.

CVS always had a few bodies inside. Mostly staff busy restocking the shelves. That’s where I met Jose and several other regular night shift workers. Hard working guys and gals that love to talk. And over years we’ve built an acquaintance into more.

I can’t tell you how many robberies took place while I was there and every single time Jose was chasing the person out to make sure the rest of us were safe. And when it was bad enough, I’d back him up by calling 911. Like the time a guy pulled a needle and threatened the rest of us, warning us he had HIV/AIDs.

Most of the time it was small–a tube of toothpaste, or deodorant. Never much of a threat so it became a running joke to talk about. I tease often asking, upon arrival any given night with Pax in tow, how many times they had been robbed tonight.

“Too many to count”

Anyways, around new years 2019 I recall a comment Jose made about a virus China was experimenting that was a hybrid of the flu and HIV. I hope my memory serves well enough.

Even if it doesn’t, that’s fine… we talked about some conspiracy theory and had a good laugh about the plausibility and implausibility of it.

Then the pandemic craze hit. And none of us knew how to take it. I honestly don’t know that anyone thinks they have any answers and yet for the longest time it seemed antithetical to talk about. To explore. To wonder what’s plausible and what’s not.

Tonight I didn’t have a mask. I had pulled my shirt over my face out of respect for not wanting CVS to be fined (I’ve heard it’s a step $1,000+ fine for businesses if you don’t cover your face).

Noticing I looked like a fool, Jose asked jokingly if I didn’t have a mask. Normally I care them in abundance and disposable for trips inside stores.

I laughed a little and bemoaned the fact that I’m partially vaccinated and so it really isn’t necessary and I couldn’t wait for this craze to be over.

He had a mask on per store policy too.

Both of us have worn masks at times out of a desire for self-preservation. Sometimes a matter of store policy. Sometimes a matter of state policy. Often I think out of respect for the unknown. Hoping we were doing the right thing.

I also recall the times when I was fearful to enter without a new pair of disposable gloves, layered so I could take them off as I encountered surfaces and toss them to avoid cross contamination. I did this knowing studies even back in April 2020 suggested surfaces were not a likely vector of transmission. Nonetheless.

Tonight after I mentioned the vaccine. At times I know we’ve both bemoaned not getting a vaccine. At times we’ve both bemoaned whether or not the vaccine would work. Or talked about how people having had the virus (Jose being one, me not) not needing the vaccine (or do we) and how the clinical trials had or had not focused on this.

Jose is diabetic and so his bout was rather challenging but he pulled through and he’s adamant it was his own perseverance. I concurred again tonight, now that I’ve read a bit more about it being a virus that likely not only infects the brain (a relatively new area of science of viruses) but also how it does so in fascinating ways (loss of taste, respiratory mechanisms, haze/confusion, etc)…

Then, right after both of us are pretty much accepting the fact that we think the vaccine is a great thing… Jose asks if I heard about the girl who died 24 hours after getting her second dose.

Ultimately he said it boiled down to the fact that it was crazy that people go get medicine and it is the cause of their death sometimes.

I couldn’t help but think about the last year and how absolute everyone spoke about things when nobody had a clue. I am not really sure many have a clue yet to this day. Nor am I sure anyone knows who has a clue (if anyone). Hopefully the vaccine manufacturers do.

After calling out the deaths we both concurred that risk factors are tilted toward vaccination as the safer strategy. Maybe we’re wrong. Time will tell. Jose even mentioned people with legit hesitancy not certain if there are consequences and even though we’re both vaccinated he spoke as if that is a legit concern… and I 100% agree. I think (hope is a better word) the risk is minimal. Who knows!

All in all I was happy to have such a fluid talk. A back and forth without absolutes. Much like our speculation of the conspiracy of China testing a hybrid of the flu and HIV back in late 2019. That’s friendship and it is healthy conversation.

Stop assuming you have the answers. And don’t ever trust politicians to give them to you. They will give you what’s expedient for their future (and their party’s future). Not necessarily expedient for yours. They fail to explore. They fail admit being wrong. Admit failure. They double down instead.

I find that bland and boring and repulsive. I’d rather have a back and forth. A dialectic where we flip opinions and see what we come up with. That’s creativity and the only way to seek out the truth.

And for goodness’s sake, we have to balance risks and not speak in absolutes.

Speaking of, toward the end Jose mentioned the insanity that is those that have remained quarantined for most of the last year, how they are suffering PTSD… how is that better than the virus, on average? I don’t think it is!

Food for thought… the world is not black and white. Science isn’t either. Anyone that tells you science is settled is a politician. Not a truth seeker.

This applies far beyond COVID-19. It’s in your work. Your family and your hobbies. Watch about for the temptation to be stuck on absolutes and fighting politics, not seeking truth. Not seeking to learn. And dividing yourself from the world of ideas that are waiting right outside your door. Conspiracy theory or not. Take your dog for a walk and talk to someone you don’t know. Don’t make assumptions. See what you learn!