In every horror or sci-fi or large-scale adventure flick, there’s always someone who dashes through the door or flings himself into the fray before anyone else, frequently shouting something along the lines of, “I’m not afraid,” or, “Don’t worry, I’ll be OK,” or, in the words of many a Darwin Award winner, “Watch this!” The character in question invariably gets billing way down on the list of credits. Why? Because he’s also invariably expendable and doesn’t survive more than ten seconds after tossing off what turn out to be his last words.
Me? I want to sit back, study the situation, and act only when the risks are manageable. I’m not gonna be the first one down the basement steps, or fly the lead X-wing fighter against the Death Star, or charge off across the snowfield only to become a zombified White Walker. It’s all well and good to be given a great epitaph and mourned by one’s companions as a brave, lost soul, but the big drawback is missing out on the triumphal celebration once the Orcs bite the dust or the Night King shatters into a million pieces. The first one through the door never gets the girl (or guy), never is crowned king by a joyful populace, never drives off into the sunset in a Ferrari.
I received an e-survey today from Playhouse Square, the huge theater complex in Cleveland where my husband and I have season tickets. The questionnaire asked what it would take to get us to come back and attend performances again. Mandated masks for all patrons and staff? Scattered seating? Hand sanitizers everywhere? No touching of doors required? At least the first three, definitely. Are we going to agree to be jammed into seats shoulder-to-shoulder, with no room between our knees and the seat backs in front of us, the way we always have been? Nope. Are we going to mill around in the lobby among crowds of hundreds of other patrons, with many of them not wearing masks? Not happening until long after virus cases are at zero.
Likewise, restaurants. I saw photos from last weekend of venues in the Flats, trendy Cleveland’s food and drink mecca. There wasn’t even standing room available, the people were packed in that densely. Social distancing? HAH! Not the slightest attempt at it. A news reader said last night that the Ohio government is going to crack down on establishments that don’t follow safety regulations. They might say they’re going to inspect bars and restaurants and penalize for non-compliance, just to put the fear of fines into the owners, but if it actually happens, I’ll be shocked. I saw several unquestionably non-essential businesses open and operating all through the lockdown, just in my neighborhood. No, going back into social settings will mean paying the money and taking the chance in many cases, from the look of things.
So what of all these people eager to flock back to normal life, heedless of the risk, defiantly close together and maskless? I’m afraid that many of them are going to end up as mentions at the bottom of the credits. They’re recklessly ignoring the thing in the basement. They haven’t paid attention to how their characters fare in the movies. I’d rather be one of the Sams: Samwise Gamgee or Samwell Tarly, both of whom got billing close to the top, but who acted with prudence in the midst of their courage, and who survived cataclysms to lead peaceful, happy, safe lives.