The worst people in a plague are the people that continue to go on about their business as if there is no plague. The worst people in a plague are the people that hall monitor everyone else for their less than perfect quarantining. The worst people in a plague are the jokers. The worst people in a plague are the scolds. The worst people in a plague are the ones that suggest we all had it coming. The worst people in a plague are the ones that accept no responsibility. The worst people in a plague are those that do nothing. The worst people are the foreigners, the scofflaws, the rules-obsessed, the self-obsessed, the worried, the scared, the vulnerable, the teenagers, the liars, the cons, the wingnuts, the denialists, the hypocrites, the grand standers, the sick, the maybe sick, the potentially sick, the well “but are you sure? how do you know you’re not still contagious?” The worst people in a plague are all people who are not you or your immediate family (and even those a-holes are walking a fine line). The worst people in a plague are all the people that could get you sick, and that could be anyone. I mean, the neighbor’s kid? That little dude is not wearing a mask, looks shifty af, and maybe put a contaminated toe over the curb into your azaleas on while riding his trike past last Wednesday. The worst people in a plague are all the people who are handling this differently than you are at this exact moment.
The actual worst people in a plague are those that do less-than-nothing to help yet will profit (enormously) off of everyone else’s misery. You don’t see those guys because they’ve been self-quarantining in their remote estates since Richard Burr warned them about the virus back in February. Since then, they’ve been having groceries delivered by helicopter, casually chatting with drug and insurance companies about how much they can charge for the coming vaccine, and using the death totals in the five boroughs to determine how many more Instacart shares they should buy. But you can’t do anything about those guys, because capitalism and in the US, anyway, we’re slow to mobcaps and pitchforks even when we’re allowed to leave the house. So it’s easier to go after the overworked, underpaid DoorDash driver for breathing too close to your (closed) front door, and critique your neighbor’s social distancing protocols from the upstairs window, because you’re anxious and out of “Westworld” episodes to distract you.
But since we’re being petty, my personal plague bête noires are the people that insist anyone struggling in this new normal lacks the heart, soul, or moral character to accept these new privations with grace and humility. “You should feel lucky and grateful. Think about people in the olden days, back in history! How might you have survived what they went through without the conveniences of the present?”
I do feel lucky and grateful. All the time, thanks. I know things could be worse. I also know that luck runs out, sister, and any metaphorical craps table built on unicorns and gratitude-journals is no replacement for, like, a government that would expand health care, halt evictions and foreclosures, and absolutely guarantee (at minimum) 80% of salaries while requiring people to stay home during a pandemic. You know, like, basically every other reasonably functional nation in the world.
As to the second point, glad you asked. I have spent quite a bit of time envisioning myself in the past. I was a weird, often-sick kid, and even if I’d made it through pneumonia and chicken-pox and innumerable sinus infections, I probably would have gotten flagged for either talking to imaginary creatures or refusing to go to church and burned at the stake somewhere around puberty. If I’d yet prevailed, I’d still be a woman. And putting aside my black thumb and inability to stitch so much as a button, there’s also the fact that I’m mouthy. I don’t do well with authority in general, and my traditional response to Men (in particular) Telling Me What To Do is somewhere between sarcastic snort and “I’m going to burn this place to the ground” rage black-out. My clear disinterest in arranged marriage and dying in childbirth might have led me to a convent, if convents even existed in that particular place in that particular point in history (not a given), where I might have had access to books and intellectual conversations, but the outfits are terrible and I don’t have the god gene and remember the authority thing? Knowing me, I would have tried to light out for the closest city with theaters, art and interesting architecture. And if I wasn’t mauled by wolves/bears, set upon by brigands, assaulted/murdered by bored soldiers, kidnapped by a warning tribe, infected by dysentery, tortured for blasphemy, or sold into something like slavery whilst on the road, I might have made it to said city, where, penniless, my only option would have realistically been prostitution. And because I would still be me and not, like Julia Roberts, this would end quickly and painfully with me either starving to death or coming down with syphilis or both. And you know, I could have, probably would have, just died from famine or war or plague, you know? (Boy, do you ever, am I right?) So, the simple answer is no, I don’t think I would have survived history at all.
Jury’s still out on how I weather this historical chapter. For the first time in my adult life, I can see real utility in marriage outside of sex and shared expenses. The companionship would be be really nice. Maybe even the irritations of companionship. Like, if you’re losing your mind over the way your partner doesn’t just Put The Damn Cup In The Dishwasher, you’re probably, for at least a moment, not thinking about which one of a million things Donald Trump didn’t do back in February will probably end the world as we know it. It would be nice to have someone to wake up to and someone to go to sleep with. It would be a real comfort to know someone will be around the call the ambulance and hold my hand until it comes. I’m more than a little annoyed that I’m jealous of people that have that right now. I’m more than a little annoyed at myself for feeling bad that I don’t.
Marriage is probably how would have survived the past, if I’m honest. Peasants usually married for love and, well, my surname is Fields, so I think we all know where my people were (or weren’t, in point of fact) at the Battle of Hastings. I might have been an easier sell in the homespun, pre-Tinder economy because I still have most of my teeth. And there might have been a charming, if flea-ridden, presumed village idiot, just lonely enough to tolerate a mouthy broad with no talent for sewing or farming and lots of treasonous opinions about the church and state.
You never know.
It could have been a great romance.
Picture today was taken in St. Andrews, where at least a few of my ancestors apparently did live, at the ruined castle, where they almost certainly did not.
As of this writing, 252, 628 people have recovered from COV