ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK:
A Coward’s Journey
My parents wanted me to stay with them during the Pandemic. This could lead to me either spending two months at their house or murdering them with the Corona I didn’t realize I was carrying. I declined, thinking I just couldn’t live with myself if I ended up spending two month with them.
But then what? Do I stay in New York?
My room in Astoria was roughly the size of the coffin I may soon be buried in, and I couldn’t envision being cooped up in there for two month without going completely insane. Also, I’m not sure if I wanted to be quarantined with my roommate, mainly based on a conversation I had with him a week ago.
“I’m not worried about the pandemic,” he said, while flipping through channels.
“How many Americans do you think are gonna die?” I asked, assuming he would say an incredulously low number.
“So you’re not worried and you think 18.5 million people are about to die?”
He was either a sociopath or a moron, and I didn’t want to stay here and find out which.
As I was debating my options, my brother called.
My brother lives in Phoenix with a wife and four year old daughter. Not having a family of my own, or a girlfriend I can do Quarantine Sketches with for the next eight weeks, I decided my best option would be to abandon New York in its time of need and stay with him.
The problem is: should I fly? As always in America, there were two very nuanced views on the subject. On one hand, you had hordes of hillbillies flocking to the beaches in Florida like a Last Hurrah before the Black Plague takes them, while on Twitter you had people saying anyone who so much as steps outside is a serial killer.
Social distancing was crucial, but it did conveniently allow Millennials to engage in their two favorite past times: being self-righteous and not doing anything. And not just engage in them, but thanks to this pandemic, these two past times had now miraculously coalesced into the Ultimate, Millennial, Wet Dream: being self-righteous ABOUT not doing anything.
But this moral austerity tinged with self-righteousness was far superior than the partying, Corona-ignoring fools flocking to parks and beaches across America.
Americans used to die in battle…now a lot of them couldn’t even be lazy for their country.
I needed to decide soon. My life savings were dangerously low according to the number the coin machine printed out earlier that day. Also, Planet Fitness recently sent out an email saying they would now be cleaning their machines regularly and I couldn’t think of a clearer sign that the end was at hand.
It was obvious I needed to be around family- a.k.a people I could mooch off of- until this whole thing blew over/ we all die. But was that enough justification to go on a plane? And what if by flying I accidentally gave an old person Corona, or even worse, what if they- and this would be really awful- got me sick?
Fortunately, there is so much varied information out there, you can find any article that espouses whatever you need to hear at the moment. After googling ‘Is it actually safer right now to go on an airplane’, four articles immediately popped up reassuring me that this was the right decision.
A very persuasive point one of the articles made was was that now that flights are fairly empty, you are in fact with less people than the average New York apartment.
I was sold.
I went on Kyak, spent 4 dollars on a flight on March 17th, and then immediately felt a sense of calm rush over me. I had made the right choice. Very soon, I would be sitting comfortably in an otherwise empty-
“It’s a completely full flight,” the attendant barked angrily.
I was standing at the counter, seeing if they could find me a window seat.
“Everyone needs to check any additional baggage right now. No exceptions.”
“Wait, it’s seriously full?”
It was United, so to make us feel a sense of normalcy in these scary times they were maintaining their usual level of indifference and rudeness.
“How’s it full?” I asked, motioning to the near-empty terminal. “There’s hardly anyone he…”
My voice trailed off as I caught, out of the corner of my eye, a stampede of coughing, sneezing, laughing, screaming, pushing, teenagers blithely heading towards me.
Mother of God…there had to be at least 100 of them.
The two adults with them shouted for them to line up behind me and wait for their Boarding Group to be called.
I turned to the one of the adults- a cheerful, overly-spray-tanned woman in her 50’s- and asked what in God's name was happening.
“We’re coming back from a week-long school field trip,” she exclaimed proudly in a happy-go-lucky, Tucson, twang.
“Where have you all gone?”
“Where haven’t we gone!”
Apparently, in the last five days they had been to Disney World, Washington D.C., New York City, Wuhan, China, Chernobyl, the 4th Floor of the Center for Disease Control, an Ebola Test Lab…
“We had to end the trip early cause of this whole Overblown Corona Panic…and also a lot of the kids are getting sick.”
I was beginning to think the article I specifically read to delude myself into thinking this was a good idea may not have been 100 percent accurate. Surely, being trapped in a narrow tube with a 100 teenagers who had just gotten back from a 'Corona Tour' of the United States was not the healthiest course of action.
At this point, Russian roulette would have been a safer activity.
I found my row and watched in terror as swarms of spittle-spewing savages filled up every single seat around me. Soon I was drowning in a cacophony of phlegm-spewing coughs and wet sneezes and grimy fingers twirling in wax-encrusted ears like pencils rotating in creaky pencil sharpeners…
I was in the eye of the Corona Hurricane. I’d be dead by the time we landed.
I should never have left my apartment. I should have stayed in my room and gone stir-crazy. And now I would die, because I couldn’t take being alone, and the painful self-reflections that would have ensued as a result.
There were three teenagers behind me. One of them was either woefully uninformed or was told the most hygienic way to cough is to do it directly into the neck of the person in front of you.
A girl across from me was sneezing every four seconds. I could see the droplets glide through the air, landing in people’s necks, ears, mouth. It was like watching the Pandemic in real time.
And these sick, unhinged, minors were all heading to Phoenix, a town primarily known for being full of old people.
Before, I felt a moral obligation to stay quarantined. Now I felt a moral obligation to crash the plane to keep thousands of people from dying.
Once the plane landed, we stayed on the runway for the next 45 minutes, in case I missed being infected by every strain of Covid-19 on board. Finally, the door opened, and I bolted out of there.
I darted through the jetway and into the terminal. I could feel them behind me, like the shadow of a wave encroaching upon a lone surfer. I jumped into the first bathroom I saw and hid in one of the stalls.
No more than 5 seconds after sitting hunched over the toilet, I heard them all come in, shouting, screaming, banging things, still coughing incessantly…I couldn’t get rid of them. In their violent, hormonal, anger I felt as if the Corona Virus had become sentient, and was expanding and multiplying all around me.
Huddled tightly in my stall, I was forced to make those series of self-reflections I was hoping to put off by going on this trip.
Ever since I heard about Corona, I had been in denial. When Italy’s death toll skyrocketed, there was some part of me that wasn’t worried…American exceptionalism being ingrained in my bones. And when Epidemiologists went on podcasts to warn the country, I assumed they were being hyperbolic. And when I wanted to go on a plane, I found information to make me feel better about what I was going to do anyway.
Donald Trump has always created his own reality but so do we every moment of every day. The need to self-delude is not just an aspect of human nature, it is human nature. And Trump is not the virus but a symptom of the times.
Just then, I let out a cough. Jesus, was I already getting sick? Could it happen so quick?
I went on Google and asked ‘Is contracting Corona actually healthier for you?’
15 articles popped up.