Yesterday I did three mostly unremarkable things: I went out to dinner, I hugged a friend, and I didn’t sterilize my groceries after I got them home.
I know, I’m such a risk-taker. But y’all, it would have taken me all day to walk to the store and I couldn’t have carried all of that crap back by myself! The 30-pound bag of dog food alone would have killed me.
So I drove. In a car. On roads populated with other people driving in cars.
We know that driving in cars is dangerous. We actually use this fact to help alleviate our rather ironic fear of flying: “I’m safer up here than I was on the drive to the airport,” we quip nervously when the turbulence kicks in. But lots of us don’t really believe it.
We should. According to asirt.org, 1.35 million people die in road crashes each year, to the tune of 3,700 deaths every single day. In contrast, in 2017 there were 10 fatal airliner accidents resulting in 79 deaths, nearly half of them persons on the ground. Considering that under normal conditions more than 44,000 flights take off every single day carrying 2.7 million passengers to work and weddings and all sorts of wonderful adventures, the wise among us would take those odds all day, every day.
At least, we would have in January.
But we don’t fly anymore, because we might get sick, or get someone else sick, and then one of us could die. So we drive.
For going on three months now, I have sheltered in place. I’ve “scrubbed the bubble” so to speak. If I contracted COVID during this time, you’d invariably be able to trace it back to one of three trips I made to stockpile groceries. Or maybe to that one Amazon package I tore into greedily, automatically, before I remembered to douse the thing in Clorox and let it sit in the garage for a week. As a healthy (old but not elderly or sick) adult, I didn’t do this for me. I did it for my uncle with COPD and my nephew’s baby. I did it for the grocery store worker with lupus who couldn’t afford the luxury of staying home and for my friend’s severely asthmatic daughter. I did it for the doctors and nurses on the front lines who had long ago run out of PPE (was it only two months ago that I had to google what that was?) and were helplessly watching people die in hallways. We had to flatten the curve so as not to overwhelm our healthcare system any more than it was. We were an army of Rosie the Riveters being called to action (by lack of action). It wasn’t just the patriotic thing to do, it was the right thing to do; the human and humane thing to do.
Staying home saved lives.
Our country is beginning to re-open and it looks very little like the pre-socially distant one we lived in way back in January. Shaking hands is now dangerous and archaic (I’ll just tell you I don’t have a gun and I guess you’ll have to believe me). Not hugging is the new black. “I love your mask,” I said casually to the woman handing out curbside meals at the restaurant last night. I said this sincerely and without irony. I did; I loved her mask.
For the record, not driving saves lives. So does not smoking, not subsisting exclusively on Big Macs and fries, not falling off ladders, not playing with loaded guns and not being sedentary, by the way. But I still have places to go, people to see, groceries to haul. Should I stay home because you might be taking your 96-year-old grandmother out for a Sunday drive or your niece is bringing her newborn son home from the hospital today or your family is on their way to Disneyland?
So I will drive. I will drive carefully and with your grandmother and your great-nephew and your whole family in mind, and I will not drive drunk (so irresponsible) or in a hailstorm (just foolish). I will obey all traffic laws, wear my seatbelt and be cautious and courteous behind the wheel.
But I will drive.