Monday, March 30, 2020

We're All Germophobes Now

After 9/11, life in America changed in significant ways. Assumptions of our safety and security were shaken to their roots. Our behavior and our beliefs were greatly modified.

Air travel was completely transformed, as well as security measures in our buildings, sporting events, and schools. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and its sub-agency, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) were created. Our freedoms and privacy were negatively altered with the introduction of the Patriot Act. Our heightened fear resulted in increased government authority.

What will our post-Wuhan world look like? When we emerge from our erstwhile sanctuaries like nuclear war survivors coming out of their bomb shelters, will everything appear the same, or will it be a barren, post-apocalyptic landscape (metaphorically speaking, of course)? A lot depends on how long our self-imposed national quarantine continues.

We are witnessing another 9/11-esque event, with economic structures crumbling in slow-motion all over the country. When we wander through our towns in the aftermath, many of our favorite shops and restaurants will be gone. Our personal situations, investments, and incomes will be negatively impacted.

No matter what happens at this point, some things will never be the same. For one, we are all transforming into germophobes. This will result in numerous cascading effects in our lives.

Our collective consciousness on personal hygiene and cleanliness has been permanently raised. Most of us are experiencing a heightened awareness and an altered kinetic feedback affect toward shaking hands, touching our face, licking our fingers, and “social distancing”.

Hand sanitizers will likely be standard accessories in homes and automobiles from this point on into the future. Sanitizing wipes will be used more frequently. Our motor learning reflexes have been re-tuned to urge us to wash our hands more often, especially after touching potentially contaminated objects like public door handles and stair rails.

More people are likely to turn into “Monk”, the fictional multi-phobic detective on the television series of the same name. Played by Tony Shalhoub, Monk lived in constant fear of germs. He would never get near anything he perceived as dirty or anyone who was sick. If he was forced to shake hands with someone, he would immediately shout for “a wipe” from his assistant. I thought his behavior was extremely neurotic (and funny), but now I’m not so sure.

The Japanese have been culturally programmed on hygiene for generations, particularly in food preparation and serving. Shoes must be removed before entering traditional Japanese restaurant rooms (and hospitals, where sanitized sandals are provided). Contamination of cooking utensils, kitchen areas, and eating surfaces is strictly verboten. I once sat down in a casual airport restaurant in Tokyo, putting my shopping bag on the dining table. You wouldn’t believe the horrified looks on the waiters’ faces as they ran toward me to take the bag off of the table.

Most, if not all Catholic churches no longer share the “Blood of Christ” communal chalice among the congregants during Mass. The holy water receptacles at church entrances are dry. The shaking of hands after the Apostles’ Creed has been eliminated and will stay that way. (No loss there. I always hated it when the guy behind me was sneezing and coughing into his hands before the Greeting.)

Social media and video communications are on the rise due to the need for social distancing and to avoid unnecessary travel. This will most likely continue increasing in popularity over personal interactions after the crisis is over.

As a result, the university system in America may face permanent disruption when more students turn to alternate learning platforms. And it will be much harder for professors to spew their leftist propaganda over internet connections, where their indoctrination sessions become more visible. I won’t be crying over the downsizing of excessively wealthy leftist-controlled ivy league schools.

This past week, my granddaughter in her school program for three-year-olds had several video classroom sessions in lieu of physical classes. She also went on a virtual class field trip to a butterfly zoo and a virtual play-date with a friend. Next month when she turns four, her parents are planning a virtual birthday party with friends and relatives Skyping in. What a brave new world evolving before our eyes, for better or worse.

Delivery and pick-up services from restaurants and grocery stores will continue to be booming businesses. They are already gaining incredible popularity during this crisis period. Online providers like Amazon are getting swamped with orders as well. Avoiding crowded restaurants and retail stores will increasingly be imprinted into our psyches.

Crowded cities may also be increasingly less desirable habitats, contrary to the wishes of Green New Deal advocates. Their goal is to eliminate private transportation by cramming everyone from the countryside and suburbs into mega-cities. This also includes the homeless, whose unsanitary and disease-spreading presence will be less tolerable.

Unfortunately, as a consequence of this high density living the wealthier residents of NYC are rapidly fleeing like rats from a sinking plague ship to South Florida and the NY Catskills, bringing the contagion with them.

Many are also waking up to the dangerous myth of a perfect world with open borders. Apparently, millions of “racists” and “xenophobes” are being spontaneously generated around the globe, as more citizens and their governments become advocates of strong borders. Suddenly all nations, including the states within the EU, are realizing the critical importance of border security in light of pandemic vulnerability. Hopefully the lesson will stick.

My wife’s brilliant thought today (no sarcasm intended) was her belief that RV’s will become even more popular, as fewer people will want to fly in germ-ridden planes or be exposed to all of the potential foreign contaminants lurking in hotel rooms. Maybe we will need to sell our Hilton stock (like hedge fund manager Bill Ackman recommended in his fear-mongering tirade that tanked the market while he walked away with $2.6 billion), and buy an RV park.

It’s a well-known fact that the most germ-infested thing in hotel rooms is the TV remote. For the past several years, I have either cleaned it with a sanitizing wipe or put it into a plastic zip-lock bag before using it. Many hotel rooms now have a sign next to the remote saying it was “sanitized”, but I don’t trust that and I don’t think others will, either.

I used to chuckle derisively at media stories of celebrities bringing their own bed sheets. pillowcases, and towels into hotel rooms, but I am re-thinking that dismissive attitude of mine. On our next vacation, we will be bringing our own supply of Lysol to the hotel, if not some of our own linens.

Subtle changes to our collective lifestyle will be all but unnoticeable. The potential downsides of small unsanitary habits and activities that we previously ignored now loom larger in our subconscious. Handling money, licking a finger before turning a page, using a dirty public restroom, even buying a used book or dusty curio from a thrift shop will start triggering a stronger avoidance response in our brains.

Drive-in movie theaters are making a resurgence as people are getting less comfortable in an enclosed theater with a hundred coughing strangers while sitting in a filthy chair with a sticky floor. However, the drive-in movie fad may fade when movie-goers try to use the grotesque rest rooms usually found in those places. Meanwhile, Netflix stock is rising because more families are choosing to stream video while cocooning in their nests.

Public wearing of surgical masks will be more commonplace in America, as they are currently in most Asian countries. Salad bars and buffet restaurants will likely become much less popular, if they continue to exist at all. Diners will not be as enthusiastic about using communal serving spoons at these places. And there will be a lot less tolerance of any unsanitary behavior in public, where coughing on people and licking groceries is now considered an act of terrorism.

There will be many negative consequences in the aftermath. Training ourselves to practice better hygiene in our daily lives may be one of the more desirable and positive outcomes of this Wuhan virus crisis.

Andrew Thomas
as published in American Thinker

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