I’m due in Budapest tomorrow. I had planned to be there because we were expecting visitors from the USA who are no longer travelling. And because they were going to be there and I had a workshop on Wednesday (now cancelled), and the Gala dinner on Saturday (now cancelled), I was going to be there for the week, too.
It’s not often that I’m anywhere for a full week these days, so I’d made the most of it. I’d loaded Monday and Tuesday with wellbeing appointments including a much-needed, twice-postponed visit to the dentist. Wednesday was work. And Thursday to Sunday, I’d planned to catch up with people I’ve not seen in a while.
But then the National Emergency was called and social distancing became the phrase of the day.
And yes, I get it. I get that we should stay home and wait for this particular storm to run out of rain. I get the need for preventive measures, for schools to close, for universities to close, for borders to close. I get the idea that people should be discouraged from congregating in groups. I skipped mass this morning, fully conscious that were anyone in the village to catch the dreaded virus, I might be seen as the carrier.
The Washington Post has run some interesting simulations on social distancing and reckons that keeping 1 in 4 people moving freely and the other 3 distancing themselves has a better result than full-on quarantine. Dropping that to 1 in 8 has even better results. My question is whether I can be that 1 in 4.
If I don’t go to Budapest, it’s no big deal. For me. Okay, I miss out on my deep-tissue massage for my bursitis, I don’t get waxed, I don’t get that much-needed boost to my immune system, and my wobbly crown just might hang in there for another month. And if it doesn’t and it falls off, and I have an unsightly gap in my front teeth, who will see me anyway??? In the grand scheme of things, no biggie.
But each of the people I have an appointment with is self-employed. If they don’t work, they don’t get paid. Perhaps they have money banked to tide them over these lean times. Perhaps not. I don’t know. If I cancel, and other clients cancel, they still have to pay their overheads. They still have to pay their bills. For some people, social distancing isn’t an option. Not all of us can work from home. Not all of us get a paycheck even if we don’t work at all. Not all of us have the savings to tide us over.
There’s a tendency to make such crises all about ourselves. And perhaps rightly so. I just can’t help thinking that rather than sheeplike panic, we need to think a little more responsibly, weigh up the risks, and then act accordingly.
From all I’ve read, if I don’t touch anything in public (or if I do, I should wash my hands immediately afterwards), and if I stay 1 metre (3 feet) from anyone coughing or sneezing, chances are I’ll be grand. I have my sanitizer, my gloves, and my scarf. I’ve been practising not touching my face. I can get my body core exercise in by trying to stay upright on the two trams I have to take without holding on to anything. I just hope that Máv doesn’t reduce the number of trains so that everyone piles on to the one and I lose my all-important one-metre safeguard.
This reminds me of my childhood when going to Dublin for the day was a massive excursion. Never before has going to Budapest felt like such an adventure.