It is 6:52 on Sunday the 5th of April 2020. We are still in “shelter-in-place” and will be so at least until the beginning of May.
I read somewhere on the internet that during this time where we’re all stuck at home that writing in a journal is a good idea. This virus is the most historical event that anyone under the age of 50 has ever experienced. Like a stone thrown in water we’re in the big splash phase but the ripples from this will be large and continue for some time. So the thought about writing a journal is that future historians would be able to draw on plenty of primary sources from many individuals who have lived through it. This certainly reverberated with me as I’ve kept a journal my entire life and this will be an interesting chapter for future readers.
The reason I haven’t written more is that my son has discovered the joy of the laptop and PC. He learned that playing Fortnite is much better on a PC than on a Nintendo Switch and that using my laptop to have Fortnite YouTube videos running at the same time is a great way to spend a morning or afternoon. So I immediately lost both, my PC and laptop because he really wanted to have the improved experience and I understand how exciting video games were to me when I was a kid. Fortnite is also a great game for a lockdown like this because it is the ONLY game that friends from around the world play at the same time. You can just open it up and be sure to have a few friends to play with already in game.
But going back to my journal, I had a major scare recently. WordPress just came out with version 5.4 “Adderley” and usually updating isn’t a problem. Before updating they always recommend backing up your WordPress site in case there are any issues. Well, given the importance of this website to me I definitely have plenty of backups but the most recent one was from late last year. And since I haven’t had problems with upgrades before I just went ahead and pressed the upgrade button. That was a mistake.
Suddenly I was greeted with a wall of text saying that folders and files could not update due to CHMOD permission errors and a lot of them. This meant the upgrade failed and now I could no longer log into WordPress. This is definitely no bueno and going to take more to fix than just pressing a few buttons. I really didn’t understand why I would have received those errors, my permissions are on the liberal side of things, I hadn’t changed them and they worked for all the previous upgrades.
So I went to the forums and it looks like more than a few others have had the same error. The solution was to manually do the upgrade which means downloading the new distribution, deleting old files and uploading new ones. This is a pretty scary to do because if you mess up your whole site could quickly become very broken and in the worst case require a fresh install. For me, yes, I do have backups but would have lost my posts from late 2019 until now. My posts are precious to me as they are a record of my life and I’m very cognizant of how this is all very temporary, things will change and soon nothing will be left of me but the words I write in this journal. Each and every post is a moment in time of my mind and that is more precious to me than gold.
Speaking of moments, we’re certainly going through an unprecedented time that nobody, not even those above 50 have ever experienced before. We find ourselves looking back at the 1918 pandemic “Spanish Flu” and the Great Depression for some sort of guidance but only the very elderly remember those times, for the rest of us we look to the history books. Therefore, we really have no direct precedent for a time like this and not knowing what the outcome will be is a very scary thing.
On a personal level my family and I are all still OK. This seems like nothing more than an extended snow day that if it ends at least by the end of May everything will turn out fine. I do work in one of the top two hardest hit industries but my company is wonderful and has a very good balance sheet. However, I would need things to get back to “semi-normal” by the summer at least or things could get tough. I keep the anxiety at bay because I am an optimist and believe that although there still may be concerns and infection cases in the summer the economy will resume. After all, things could get very ugly if you do not allow your people to make a living. Eventually the need to earn a living will outweigh even high death tolls. If people cannot earn a living then society will disintegrate and people will be killing each other along with the virus. This is a very apocalyptic scenario I know but without precedent it is very hard to see the future.
I am also not too worried because I had a front row seat to the financial crisis of 2008. I worked for an industrial supplies company and it was my job to call on the maintenance engineers in the skyscrapers of downtown San Francisco. I was shown the actual floors in those skyscrapers of companies that had absconded in the night because they could no longer pay their rent. I remember walking by Countrywide Financial with their big glass front that let you see people working at their cubicles. I remember walking by one morning when they had locked the doors and seeing a manager up on a podium speaking to all the staff members inside. A few days after that Countrywide was gone. I also remember sitting at the bar of my favorite dive Chelsea Place listening to a stock trader who worked for Charles Schwab that was being transferred to Denver. Not even Schwab was immune as one of their main offices moved from the prestigious middle of downtown to a cheaper (albeit still expensive) area south of Market St. I remember seeing the Dow Jones ticker on that building go up and down with wild swings. I remember my boss saying “oh man, the DOW just went down again.
But I also remember not being too concerned. I had only been back from Vietnam for two years and had no money to speak of. We didn’t own any stocks, we rented an apartment, my salary was very low and as a salesperson I was confident I could get another job quite easily. If we needed to pick up and move we could easily do that whether it was to a different state or even to a different country. So although the Financial Crisis was terrible from a macroeconomic scale and affected millions of people it had virtually no effect on me personally except for perhaps keeping my salary a little lower.
Now we find ourselves in a situation that is looking to be much worse than a recession and are throwing out the word depression. This time around I’m firmly midlife and I do own stocks, I have a house, I have kids and thus a tremendous amount of responsibility I didn’t have before. This time around I cannot just pick up and go elsewhere like I could during the Financial Crisis. I’m not in immediate danger of losing my job so long as things get better by late summer.
As for the disease itself nobody I know has died from it. The only time death has even remotely touched anyone I even know of is one that made the news because three people from her family died. But outside of that nobody in my over 1,000 acquaintances have died from this disease. So on a macro level, yes the toll is devastating but looking at the hard facts and figures I don’t see a need to worry about anyone I know dying from this. That does sound rather cold to say but in a similar way I cannot concern myself with all those that die from car crashes or the thousands of other ways people die everyday. This is new and has the potential to affect everyone (unlike the car example because some people can choose to not drive.) and we are all likely to get it. We are all likely to get this disease eventually but the hard truth is we needn’t worry too much unless macroeconomic figures really affect our moods.
To put it another way people should also concern themselves a bit more with the regular flu. That is a terrible disease thousands die from every year. Yes, there is a vaccination but I don’t remember me, or anyone I know getting one until the early 2000s. I still don’t usually get one because the first one I got in 2006 made me sick! So again, to put reality in a very cold, unfeeling words, yes people are going to die. Yes, many people are likely to die, but most likely nobody that you actually know.
Going back to the economic aspect, during the Financial Crisis the word depression was also thrown out and apocalyptic scenarios were envisioned. Such scenarios sell newspapers! But we came out of it alright and experienced tremendous and unprecedented growth for the decade that followed.
Here we are again envisioning terrible scenarios but scenarios I think are a result of hyperventilating as society as a whole. Yes, shutting off the entire economy is certainly something to be scared of. Yes, the ripples from this will be huge and the world is going to look a little different afterwards. But this is something that all of us have to work through and I think we have the smarts and technology to make it happen. Pharmaceutical companies have never worked so hard on a vaccine (the payoff will be enormous), we’re learning to work from home, we’re discovering the importance of health and so far everyone is behaving themselves outside of some hording and ignoring social distancing. Perhaps this will also spur the population to pay more attention to global warming as that is something else which will affect us all. I don’t expect too much from the half of Americans who elected Trump but perhaps the smarter folks will gain a majority again and action will be taken.
I think we’ll turn the engine back on and slowly things will start moving again. Yes, many places will go out of business, yes there will be a lot of unemployment but I think the recovery will be pretty quick given how fast everything shut down.
But should they not and everything continue to deteriorate it is important to realize that the sun will still shine, flowers will still blossom and we get to live another day. Death comes for us all, some more quickly than others but we are all slowly dying, it is just a matter of time. It is best to use the time we have to really appreciate simply being alive. Perhaps this is a lesson that the virus could teach us. Yes, we should do all we can to help keep everyone healthy, for all life is precious, but we should not spend our time being scared or anxious.