It's not the first time something like this has come up. Ebola, Zika, Swine flu; they were all dangerous, even deadly. But this one, the coronavirus COVID-19, has provoked a response stronger than I've ever personally seen. Probably because this time, I can really see it. I mean, travel restrictions are nothing new, but I've never traveled anywhere I'd need a passport. Hearing about it on the news is pretty typical, too. But with churches, schools, and sporting venues closing down, and companies encouraging and being encouraged to work from home if at all possible, it just feels like this is so much bigger. And instead of my life continuing on mostly normally with perhaps a minor inconvenience or two, things are now very different, with no one really knowing when things might return to normal.
What's weird is, the things that make me feel the most uneasy are the smallest things. Rush hour streets with barely any traffic? Eh, it's been known to happen from time to time. Empty grocery store shelves? Saw that all the time working in a North Carolina grocery store whenever a few white flakes fell from the sky. No, oddly enough, it's all the hygiene posters on just about every billboard in the office.
I think part of it is how important it seems for being out of place. You might expect to see reminders of thorough hand washing in the bathrooms or above the kitchen sinks, but as the only things posted on the main notice board in the hallway next to the Employee of the Month awards? It's so odd that it can't help but call attention to itself.
And, I'll admit, part of that comes from certain video games. When the game artists put together the world, they have to consciously decorate with posters and signs that one might expect to see; and in a world that is ravaged by a deadly virus, the signage they tend to come up with are focused on that, reminding people to practice good hygiene and get proper medical attention long after most of the world's inhabitants have fallen (leaving you mostly alone to face off against hordes of bad guys).
These simple reminders to wash your hands have become a sort of visual symbol of a world that tried to fight against a sickness, and eventually lost.
I don't know if this virus will get out of control and leave us in the devastated society portrayed in so many works of fiction. But for now, all I think I can do is hold on to hope for the best, while trying not to panic and prepare for the worst.