Reusable Coffee Cups

March 5, 2020

Media stories... workplace plans. These are one thing, but I’m sitting here in Starbucks this morning as I encounter literally the first obvious sign of a looming pandemic. Starbucks, the note taped to the cash register says, has suspended the use of personal reusable cups in the interest of reducing the risk of viral transmission.

It’s a small thing. Such a tiny, small, little thing. But it’s a thing that reminds me even as we chat and debate and fill our lingering quiet fears with awkward dark humour, that this is a real thing and it’s very really coming in some shape or another.

Coronavirus has been a topic of conversation in our house because when you are the parent to a twelve year old girl you are not only the teacher of critical thinking skills — and oh boy is this ever the time for critical thinking skills — but simultaneously fighting the waves of misinformation, speculation, rumour and bat-shit crazy interpretations coming from the minds of teenagers locked together in a school for day after day after day with access to youtube and podcasts and blipblop-whatever-social media platform they use now.

I’m a runner, tho. And what I’ve been watching is the races. I just dropped a few grand on travel arrangements for a trip to Chicago in October to run the giant marathon there, a marathon where tens of thousands of people with gather together in a very close group and breathe and cough and spit and sweat all over each other in a hot, virus-paradise of spandex and human flesh. If there is going to be a pandemic, by October we’ll either know or be reading this archive of ideas with the innocent nostalgia of a unwittingly dodged bullet.

But here’s the other thing: my plan was to train with people this summer. Ten hours a week of running. Tens if not a hundred-plus klicks of distance. It’s lonely if you don’t have someone to share that with. But from where I sit — in a Starbucks afraid of touching plastic cups — the biggest threat to my training — and the training of all my friends, cuz I sure as hell am not immune to this virus any more than anyone else — is group runs.

We were running last night and my pal, who just got over a bit of chest cold last week, couldn’t avoid but coughing a few rough, wet bursts into the air in front of us as we climbed a long, light hill. Whatever. But no, right? It was sub-zero and who can say what a few seconds of cold air does to a virus, but there I went and with a nanosecond to react, I couldn’t, and I ran through a cloud of contagion for just a second. Not coronavirus. Not this time. But it’s that simple. It’s going to be that simple. How are you feeling tonight? I’ll be back here where it’s safe.