To the Person Living in Defiance of Social Distancing

We all know someone… someone in our lives who is living in blatant disregard for social distancing. For no good reason, too! They are not an essential worker, nor are they contributing to constructive economic activity.

Watching it from a far elicits… a complex emotion.

You know who I am talking about. We see them on Instagram stories jumping from state to state or living their best lives at an outdoor block party like nothing is happening in the background. Maybe you’re that person or maybe, from their perspective, I’m that person when I am on a hike, or maybe we just caught that person at a bad moment?

I think it’s probably because they’re bored or, worse, they live with the “it won’t happen to me” mentality.

The latter is an insidious byproduct of an invisible enemy. The “it won’t happen to me” mentality is something we all know too well, though, so why judge? This is not the time for a superiority complex. After all, it’s likely something we’ve all probably fallen victim to one time or another.

My pseudomonas infection won’t become pan-resistant.

I won’t get CFRD.

I won’t be hospitalized during the holidays again this year.

We should know how hard it is to fight back against something when we can’t feel its hands wrapped around our necks like the coronavirus is wrapped around our planet.

Our world is fighting an invisible enemy, and it’s something most people have never had to do before this.

In some ways, I can’t blame the anti-social distancer hitting two different barbecues in the same weekend. We all want to get back to normal.

The stress pounding on our lives is getting stronger by the day. It’s hard not to feel something deep in your chest when you watch another store on Main Street close its doors for good. Just this past weekend in Hanover, we learned a coffee/gelato café will not be opening its doors ever again.

Social distancing is a terribly vague term – hell I probably couldn’t tell you what it even means anymore. There is no consistency around these policies whatsoever. On one extreme, we have the UK government telling people with CF and other comorbidities to practice shielding – voluntary removal from the outside world in an attempt not to have any contact with the virus whatsoever. I have a dear friend of mine over in the UK who told me she finally went outside this past week for the first time in 7 weeks! 7 weeks!

On the other end of the spectrum, countries in Southeast Asia are returning to life with social distancing in place – reduced capacity workplaces, mandatory masks, and makeshift plastic barriers between desks.

We are somewhere in the middle, I think.

It all falls under the umbrella term, “social distancing.”

In the beginning I was infuriated just like everyone else when we saw the Spring Breakers going wild in Florida. I was infuriated when I saw New York City’s slow decision to shutter the restaurants and bars. I was infuriated when the cruise liners were still out and about only to become another set of viral vectors. In the beginning I felt the need to get up on my soap box and scream from the top of my lungs, “YOU NEED TO SOCIAL DISTANCE, OUR LIVES DEPEND ON IT!”

Now… it is different. We’ve been living like this for what seems like an eternity and I have learned that this virus.. is well… a virus. I no longer possess the mental capacity to feel the deep anger I did a few months ago. Now when I see a friend on Instagram live in blatant disregard for social distancing, I shake my head.

I shake my head because I know what it is like trying to get back to normalcy. Hell…I want to get back to normal, too. I want to get back to playing hockey 3 days a week, hiking the Appalachian Trail with my friends, and going out for drinks after a long school week. I want to walk into a store and not scrutinize the other person standing in line from behind my respirator and I want to see my university’s campus come back to life!

But I know what’s at stake and maybe, just maybe, all those years I was sick and chasing normalcy is something that has tremendous value now. I know what it’s like to wait for a breakthrough, and you do, too. Our friend frolicking on his playful Instagram story doesn’t know what that feels like… quite yet.

Waiting for that breakthrough is hard… the road ahead of all of us will be hard, and I want you to think about that the next time you’re about to lambaste someone who isn’t social distancing according to the definition of the day. I know I will.

Think about any time you’ve been scolded in public for coughing, sneezing or spitting out a glob of mucus.

In the grand scheme of things, social distancing feels like such a small inconvenience compared to the way things are going for some people. I don’t know… maybe it feels small to me. After all, I am a New Yorker, and like most people who are from the tri-state metro area, we all know someone who has been stricken with the novel coronavirus, and even some who have landed in the hospital bed, or a few who have paid the ultimate price. This is such a shitty time, and all we’re asking people to do is use a little intelligence when it comes to opening the world back up. The world does have to get going again… eventually. When it does – and I’m not here to say when it should – a little empathy for your fellow citizen may go a long way.