The world is losing its mind over the coronavirus.
In big cities where people live, work, and socialize in close physical proximity to each other, that probably makes sense.
Here in Tucumcari, where we aren’t in each other’s faces all the time, very little has changed — which also makes sense.
School is out statewide for at least the next three weeks. A lot of churches have canceled services. I assume the bars and restaurants are all complying with the governor’s order to modify their seating arrangements. But otherwise, things are pretty normal.
The grocery store is still well-stocked. The hardware store still had plenty of dust masks when I needed one for the flooring project I’m working on. Nobody has treated me like Typhoid Mary this week, despite an ill-timed cold that turned into laryngitis just as the governor’s emergency order came down.
I am concerned, of course. I have friends in high-risk groups. My community’s economy depends, in part, on tourism. I’m not impressed with the contradictory messages coming out of the White House. But I am heartened by the common sense I see around me. People are being reasonably careful, but they aren’t letting fear get the better of them.
As I think about it, being in Tucumcari in the midst of this unprecedented disruption feels rather like being in Red Fork during a tornado.
In Red Fork, if a tornado warning went into effect, nobody panicked. Everybody just grabbed a beer and stood on their front porches to watch the storm. They weren’t stupid. They knew when it was time to go inside. But they also knew that worrying has never changed the trajectory of a storm, and they’d been through enough storms to know that this one, like all the others, would pass, and when it had, they would simply get up the next morning, survey the damage, and start cleaning up the mess.
Rural New Mexico hasn’t been through anything like this. But people here are pretty self-sufficient, and they know that if all hell is going to break loose, panicking won’t dissuade it. So they watch the storm, and they wait, and they know that when it passes, it will be time to start cleaning up the mess.
There’s something reassuring in that.