I left the house yesterday, for the first time in a while. Some things need to be done in person… I drove downtown to my bank’s main branch, one of the few that’s open. With all of it pre-arranged, I put on a mask, gloves… walked in, put down a piece of paper, grabbed some cash and left. It took less than 2 minutes. I’d like to pretend the mask was so they wouldn’t know who I am, and the gloves so I wouldn’t leave fingerprints. The piece of paper would’ve been a stick-up note, of course… I was alone, so I just went back to the car and drove home… but I wish I’d have had a driver, so I could’ve jumped into the car and screamed, “Step on it!!” — because that whole episode was about as close as I’ll ever come to robbing a bank.
The drive home reminded me of when I got my first car in 1986. Driving up and down Granville St. in the middle of the day with so little traffic — that’s what it used to feel like driving here 30+ years ago. It also reminded me of how I used to drive in those days… in an effort to always be able to speed off with no traffic in front of me. Like, if you’re on a road with two lanes going your way and you’re approaching a red light, and there’s a car stopped there in one of the lanes, you change to the open lane. Or if there are already two cars there, pick the one that’s likelier to go faster than the other, so you can find that space to go around both of them. Switch lanes to follow the faster car. When one is a truck and the other is a Ferrari, it’s easy. Or when the guy in the left lane is turning… or the one in the right lane is turning, but there are pedestrians. Whatever the case, pick the lane that’ll open up quicker.
But what happens when both are the same car, like identical? And you didn’t notice which one approached the light quicker. It could go either way… so you have to make a simple guess. And if someone behind you is also approaching the light, and they think the same way you do, they’ll see two cars in one lane and one in the other, and simply pick the emptier one. Now that guy is next to you, and neither of you knows who’s going to go faster.
What’s interesting about that situation is that you got to go first in making your decision… but it might not be to your advantage. You zigged, so he zagged in response. You acted, he reacted. Going second is often the easier choice, especially if there’s something to learn from the guy who went first… but even if there’s nothing to learn, the guy going first isn’t always right, and when he’s wrong, you get to be right. And when you do get to learn something… well, imagine a game of Rock-Paper-Scissors where you get to go second… a moment after your opponent has thrown their move. Not much of a game.
It’s generally accepted that going first in chess gives you an advantage, at least initially. White gets to go first, and most chess players prefer white. That was easy. But when it comes to handling the huge unknowns of a global pandemic… things aren’t as simple as Chess Club.
The world has given us plenty of examples. There’s a “let’s learn from the others” club. Canada is part of that club. New Zealand as well, one of its proudest members.
There’s the “we’ll do it our way” club, with the U.K. as the charter member, and Sweden joining in later, even after the founding nation cancelled its membership.
There’s the “we’re too unorganized to respond properly, for a variety of reasons”, where the U.S. is the predominant member, but others are scrambling to join.
There is also the “we knew what was coming and saw all of the examples but still didn’t respond properly” club, and its newest member is Mexico. They are suddenly realizing a lot more could have (and should have) been done, but now it’s looking like that lack of flattening the curve will lead to a situation where their medical infrastructure can’t handle it. Or, conversely, as other sources claim, there’s no problem that can’t be handled. And into the mix, no mandatory isolation… and public fighting between the private sector and the government, with some business leaders demanding the country stay open and urging people to ignore suggestions from the health minister. Throw into the mix the drug cartel, who themselves are handing out care packages to people (rice, pasta, cooking oil, toilet paper) with pictures of “El Chapo” on them… against the expressed wishes of the government. The model where everyone is pulling in different directions, to better serve their own individual needs or beliefs… has not worked well. Here comes one more member for that particular club… one you don’t want to join.
Closer to home… there was a spike in new cases, but it was to be expected. The outbreak in the poultry facility is just one cluster where testing is catching up to the outbreak… so we may see bigger numbers in the coming days, but they don’t necessarily reflect a bad trend; in fact, hospitalizations and ICU cases are at their lowest levels for the month. But… it does imply… we have a ways to go before the real openings can begin. These numbers need to go down, steadily… not just keep level. Let’s all keep doing what we’re doing… as fruitless as it sometimes seems, because things are going so well around here; it’s because of what we’re doing that they are… and let’s not wreck it. We’re getting there. But you want it to be over now, and I get that too. Join the club.