Watching the Change


Jason Messina

Chihuly Garden and Glass, Glasshouse Exhibit only able to be photographed well due to the absense of people.

Jason Messina

The jokes all started out funny but as the threat grows the atmosphere starts to change. Covid-19 has thrown our country through a loop in the timespan of about week. I have been in two major American cities in the last eight days, and have watched the changes worsen.

At first, it was just another comic relief, people taking pictures of Corona beers, jokes about finally a new plague, and even people touching their faces out of mockery, but now things are different.

My trip started with a visit to New York, New York, for a college radio conference. The plane ride was a big indicator that things weren’t necessarily business-as-usual.

We flew Southwest Airlines, an airline that, in my experience, is usually a little cheaper—and packed. You can imagine the shock when the pilot told us that there were plenty of open seats. Everybody had at least a one-seat buffer if they wanted it, and I had a whole row to myself.

I have flown on planes my whole life, but I have never had a row all to myself especially while going to a major city.

This can, of course, be attributed to people canceling their trips, but we were assured that there were very few cases of Covid-19 in New York.

After the plane, things felt fairly normal, at least until you would turn on the TV. It was like a bad montage, every time you changed the channel it would be another station talking about the virus. My solution? Turn off the television.

I wasn’t reminded of the virus again until the main award conference when our announcer told us three colleges weren’t there due to their schools canceling their trips to keep students away from the possibility of infection.

After the conference, while my peers returned to Decatur, I was traveling to Seattle, Washington. Once again our planes were speckled with empty seats.

The new major development was, however, that whenever I coughed or sneezed due to allergies, heads were on a swivel, and I would be met with several scowls. Within a second I transformed into a pariah.

It made sense though Seattle was already a city that had 22 deaths from the Coronavirus. The numbers now in Seattle are 31 deaths statewide, and 376 cases confirmed statewide.

I tried my hardest to keep any allergies hidden as the trip continued. The city was clearly not in the state I expected it. Instead of a bustling city I entered a ghost town.

I traveled using Lyft while here in Seattle, and all of the drivers have expressed the same thing, scarce rides, not many people trying to get rides anywhere, this is a city where people constantly use rideshare apps to get to work. A driver who had started just the previous week told us that Lyft claims Seattle as one of their top cities, and within a couple of days due to the virus his income dropped.

None of this was going to stop me from being the tourist I was, so I went to see many of Seattle’s local attractions: The Space Needle, the Museum of Pop Culture, and the Chihuly Garden and Glass. The one thing all these locations had in common was an eerie emptiness.

This also wasn’t just a random time, it was right in the midst of spring break season. These places should have been packed.

The first confirmed case of Covid-19 in America happened on January 21, 2020. It is currently March 12, 2020, and we have just now started to address the problem as a country, starting with a travel ban to and from Europe. It shouldn’t take 2 months for us to try and deal with this problem.

Despite all of this, I’m not panicking. I’m not letting the media scare me into hoarding toilet paper. Living in fear isn’t a rational way to exist. I’ll finish my trip and come back, and in the meantime, I will take care of myself and not lick random items, and I won’t make jokes about the current environment, but I will still laugh at them when I see them.