I don’t have the money to take a cruise right now, anyway.
I’ve got to hire a plumber to fix some drippy leaks and figure out why water backs up into the vents on my house when the yard is soaked. That, and not airline tickets and cruise ships, is where my money is going.
But even if I was full up on cash and aching to roll, I think I’d settle for a car trip and a family picnic. Since 9/11, travel has been punishing at best. Now it’s looking more and more like a nightmare waiting to happen.
ISIS and their desire to blow us up/behead us/take us prisoner/rape us and sell us into slavery is like the ubiquitous elevator music of our travel. We know, as we are wanded, patted down, searched and yelled at by airport personnel that this little bit of medicine is for our own good. We take it in hopes that it will ward off having us end up like the Passengers of Flight 93, careening into the earth to save the nation’s capital from attack, or like James Foley, kneeling in the sand to recite some bit of ISIS dogma before we are murdered by a satanic braggadocio.
We’ve got a handle on all that.
We’ve learned to tune the noise down low and go about our business, semi-secure in the law of averages and what has so far been well-placed faith in our government to ferret out these murdering dirt bags before they get to us.
Then, along comes Ebola, which will not show itself to the wands and metal detectors and which can not be bothered to telegraph its intentions with email and cell phone calls. Ebola travels from human to human in the silent stealth warfare of life against life.
Disease knows no faith, nationality or cant. It does not announce itself by shouting slogans and waving weapons. In the famous words from Terminator 1, “… it can’t be bargained with. It can’t be reasoned with. It doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear.”
Ebola is the latest in an endless line of attacks humanity has faced from other life forms. The virus, with its magnificent simplicity, and its half-life/half-not-life status, is particularly difficult to manage. Unlike bacteria, a virus can’t even breed itself. It cannot, as the scientists say, “multiply” on its own.
It needs a “host” and when that “host” is us, and the virus in question is a killer, you’d better, as Okies say, get back Loretta. Because things are going to get crazy. Each virus has its limits, and we, being the smarter of the two in this battle, can size up those limits and figure out how to take the thing on by getting it on our turf instead of its turf.
The turf of the Ebola virus is literally hand to hand. As in, it passes from hand to hand. So far (and hopefully from now on) it doesn’t pass by breath. An Ebola victim can’t exhale on you and infect you. It also can’t pass from one person to the next until it has reached the stage where it shows itself. When it demonstrates its presence with a fever or a headache or nausea, then it is powerful enough to reach across the divide between persons and jump, on a touch or a shared bit of bodily fluid, from one person to the next.
It’s far more infectious than HIV, but it’s not contagious like, say, the flu. However, it is deadly, and I don’t mean deadly in years the way HIV is, but deadly in days. And the death it gives is agonizing.
We don’t understand Ebola. And we haven’t been so good at doing what we don’t admit we do with these deadly diseases, which is to “contain” it among what we appear to regard as the riffraff of the world. From the nightly news to daily conversations, the horror of Ebola is not that it is laying waste whole countries in Africa. It is the all-too-human fear that it’s going to leap the fence of national borders, rivers and oceans and get to us.
The best single disease vector on our planet today is the commercial airline, which is also the vector for the social disease of terrorism. A jet plane can do in a matter of hours what once took months or even years, and in the case of isolated areas of the world, what, in centuries past, didn’t happen at all.
Plague of any type can now spread at the speed of a jet engine. And it goes everywhere on this planet. Thus we have a man from Liberia, dying of Ebola in Dallas, and a health care worker from Dallas ending up in quarantine in Belize.
That’s the latest story, you know. A poor health care worker from the same Dallas hospital where the Liberian man died and a nurse contracted the disease, went on a cruise and ended up in quarantine because she got sick. Does she have Ebola? Given the length of time since she handled the specimens (she’s a lab worker) it’s unlikely, but possible.
Her exposure, if there was one, occurred long enough ago that Ebola has almost run out its string with her. All living things, including somewhat living things like the Ebola virus have an amount of time it takes them to reproduce. In the case of disease, it takes a lot of these reproductions, these multiplications, before symptoms develop. We can measure it and predict it within parameters that allow for individual variations. If this health care worker has Ebola, her body is keeping it down well enough that it’s taken a long time to manifest.
All this raises questions. Government questions. Health care questions. And what are you and I gonna do questions.
The what are you and I gonna do questions are actually the easiest because they’re the ones we have complete control over. Holiday season is coming, and a lot of people will want to hop a jet and go to Grandma’s house. I like to take trips in October because the weather is pleasant and the tourists are thinned out. The answer for me about what I’m gonna do is largely academic. I don’t have the coin to go gallivanting. I’ve got plumbing to fix. I
may load up the car and take a couple of day trips around Oklahoma. But that’s about it for me. However, given the various complexities that are being heaped on travel, a staycation is looking more and more like the smart move, and not just for me.
I mean, who wants to go on a cruise and end up quarantined? Who wants to go on a flight and end up alerted that they have to watch themselves for symptoms for the next three weeks? Who wants to be patted down, wanded and yelled at? And I’m not even talking about squeezing yourself into those tiny seats and hauling luggage through airports.
I love to travel. But, fortunately for me, I also love to be at home. I’ve got plumbing to fix and things are in a roil on the travel front. I see a staycation in my future.