Too bad the COVID-19 coronavirus isn’t the size of, say, a bedbug.
It would be so much easier to fight if we could see it sunning itself on the gas-pump handle or watch it climbing up and down the hills of our knuckles.
Or suppose the virus could be swatted like a housefly. Experts would be interviewed about the best way to whap it without spreading the virus: “Swat the virus firmly, then remove with an antiseptic wipe. Sanitize both the surface and the swatter. If you swatted the virus on your dinner plate, dispose of the dinner and the plate.”
Children could be encouraged to collect specimens in glass jars, similar to the Japanese beetle challenge of years ago. (I didn’t participate, preferring not to spend my time drowning glittering blue-black bugs in kerosene, but then I was known to be lazy.)
If we could see the virus, watch it flying under the porch light or jumping from our fingertips to our faces, we wouldn’t be weary of quarantine procedures; we’d have to be paid to come out. Not just out of our house, but out of the little cubbyhole under the desk where we retreated after waking to see a virus cluster next to our pillow.
We’d be even more cautious if the virus were the size of a hamster.
Speaking of which, the other day, while picking up trash in the ditch in front of my house, I came across a cardboard box. It had rained recently, and the box was both flattened and soggy, but I gamely pulled it out of the muck at the bottom of the ditch and more or less folded it so it would fit into my plastic trash bag.
As I was sliding the box into the bag, a plump gray animal hurried out of the folds and jumped back into the ditch. It might have been a rat, or a vole or maybe a muskrat.
To be sure it wasn’t leaving family members behind, I pulled the box out of the bag and unfolded it.
No other animals were in residence, but I did find a tidy grass nest.
The creature, whatever it was, probably had been napping when it felt its house rising into the air.
I was glad it had escaped and, I thought as I maneuvered the box back into the bag, even more glad I hadn’t discovered a nest full of babies.
But suppose this was the virus, about the size of a Nerf football?
If we could see it on our steering wheels or sitting on the shoulder of the stranger next to us in the checkout line, our zeal to eradicate it would know no bounds.
It’s this business of the virus being unseen that makes everything so difficult.
The world appears to be churning along normally, but we’re told an invisible enemy that, under a microscope, resembles a disco ball spinning above a dance floor is out to get us.
Unlike other crises, when we are updated by military figures with maps and strategies, we instead are informed by scientists and medical experts with graphs and trajectories.
Come to think of it, though, I really don’t mind listening to scientists and medical experts. It is a lot like watching “Nova” episodes: I learn a little bit about interesting things.
I’m also inclined to trust scientists and medical experts.
When I go to the doctor, as I did recently, to ask if the outbreaks on my forehead were bug bites or what, the doctor said they might be or what but were likely bug bites. He gave me bug-bite stuff, and it worked, mostly. What’s not to trust?
Which is why I’ve decided that although I’d prefer a visible adversary, and I’d prefer it to be visible only through binoculars or by squinting out the kitchen window while my husband says, “See that tree branch? Follow where it’s pointing and way, way out in the field is a coyote.”
Visible but far away, in other words.
However, in this life, we take what we get.
And if what we get is a minuscule virus and wise, thoughtful guidance, I’ll take it and be grateful.
Write to columnist Margo Bartlett at firstname.lastname@example.org.