Weathering the storm

Mid-March in Winthrop, Mass. Yes, this season will be shorter, but let’s salvage it as soon as we’re told it’s safe to do so. Photo by Bernie Wideman

By Bob Muggleston

The good news? The lights are on, there’s still plenty of food and the internet works. All those house projects and Netflix series’ you would tackle if you just had the time? There’s time now. The bad news is that, as a nation, we’re embroiled in a major health crisis. There’s a good chance your job has changed drastically, or even been eliminated. We can’t interact with our friends and family in the way to which we’re accustomed. In-person encounters are now from a distance recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and possibly while wearing a mask.

How things change in just a matter of months.

It’s early April as I write this. While the view out my window here in Connecticut hasn’t changed much, the world around me sure has. In ways I never could have imagined. The makers of the 2011 film “Contagion” did – apparently that movie is wildly popular right now – but while the writers of Hollywood scripts have always been fairly prescient, don’t we simultaneously dismiss these narratives, even as we enjoy watching them unfold onscreen?

Many of the events taking place right now are the types of things that TV reporters discuss in news clips in a disaster film, as a means of exposition for the main plot. I can say the following because my family and I are healthy and don’t know anyone who’s sick: Our present reality is surreal, like we’re all trapped in some sort of apocalyptic thriller.

Schools are closed, “non-essential” businesses have been shuttered, everyone is sheltering in place, and the honest truth is that we really don’t know when this will end.

All due, of course, to COVID-19. (What a wonky name for something so insidious).

Some snapshots from life as I now know it: A couple of days ago my buddy, Mark, dropped off a bag of material for my wife – a schoolteacher – to make into masks. When Mark dropped the material off he left the bag on our deck and called me on his phone from the driveway. No requisite beer and chat in the house.

Yesterday, during our now-daily family hike in the forest next to our house, some hikers not only sidestepped us, but went as far as scrambling 20 feet off the path into the woods. Friendly smiles and waves, of course, but from a considerable distance, their dogs uncharacteristically leashed.

On Friday I had a “Zoom” conference call with Points East staff – our third in the span of about a week and a half, when normally we get together once a year. During the meeting, among other things, we discussed this issue of the magazine (May), which will only appear in a digital format. Joe Burke, the owner, has decided not to charge any of our advertisers for their ads. Fewer eyeballs, but also because he wants to do what he can to make this time a bit less painful for the folks who typically place ads in Points East – boatyards and marinas, sail lofts and chandleries. Here at the magazine we’re not the only ones suffering.

On a larger scale, neighbors are reaching out to help one another. Politicians are (sort of) getting along. As a nation we’ve always responded well during times of crisis. Toilet paper hoarding aside, that seems to be the case now.

Regular readers of Points East know that, whenever possible, I try to keep things light. Unfortunately there’s not a lot to chuckle about right now. I think the thing to remember is that once all of this blows over – and it will blow over – left behind will be a lot of small businesses either decimated or trying to assess their paths forward through the wreckage.

Here’s my plea: Don’t leave the plastic wrap on your boat. Yes, the season will be shorter than usual, but the services we rely on, and the places we go, might not be there for us next year if we do. And many small businesses are family-run. The money you spend might go a long way toward getting them back on their feet.

Stay safe, everyone. I hope to see you on the water soon.