JERSEY CITY, N.J.—When I first saw the VIP Diner, I said it looked like a place made men, Mafioso, would visit. Apparently that was a subconscious memory of The Sopranos, Season six, Episode 12, in which the VIP Diner had a cameo. Why they do not trumpet this all over their walls I do not know. I would if it was my diner.
This morning at the diner, everyone was talking about Ebola. The phrase “World War Z” floated from one booth, referring to a movie in which “United Nations employee Gerry Lane traverses the world in a race against time to stop the Zombie pandemic that is toppling armies and governments, and threatening to destroy humanity itself,” according to IMDB.
We are not quite there yet.
The blunders and the obfuscation and the trying to blame nurses for their own illnesses are appalling.
On the other, beautiful, honest, hand, we know about them.
I am not delighted with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention right now. I am not enchanted with the unfortunate, unprepared, blindsided Texas Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, which made tragic mistakes with Thomas Eric Duncan when he sought help there. I am rarely delighted with the FDA either, while we are on the subject.
But I am delighted with the First Amendment and the free press. It was not at all long after the errors occurred that we learned about them, and began to talk about them, like the people at the VIP Diner were doing.
Imagine living somewhere where the regime controlled the information. Everything would be fine—until it wasn’t.
It is clear that doctors and nurses and other health care workers are at risk. It is not clear that the rest of us are.
It is time for a top-down, proactive directive to keep them safer and for funding to pay for training and protective gear for anyone who might care for a person with the Ebola virus.
It’s never time to panic.
Once upon a time I lived in England, during The Troubles. By troubles I mean the deadly Irish Republican Army bombing campaign. (I know their grievances were real, and I know that the way the two sides reconciled was inspiring; that’s for another story.)
Every restaurant window had sandbags, so the glass did not fly in on the patrons in an explosion.
Unattended bags were not OK at all. To this day I go on high alert if I see one.
At my workplace, the British Film Institute, we had a bomb threat and evacuated. People took the time to get their bag lunches and we leaned on a wall outside to nosh.
I asked in what I thought was a nonchalant tone, “What if it really is a bomb?”
Tons of English scorn! “Oh, don’t panic!” they said, in three-part harmony, as if they were in the King’s College Choir.
I like that stoicism.
Later, I really was in a bombing. And this brings me to the point of how provincial we are being.
The theater shook, and a basso profundo sound rattled my bones. When I came out, the street was full of debris and dust. Sirens.
Later I told my parents “I’m OK,” and my mother said, “Why wouldn’t you be?” When I got home that year I realized how little about the IRA bombings were reported in America, but they were serious in Great Britain.
Ebola is serious in West Africa. Many fine, loving, charitable people are in West Africa. Their suffering should end. When the epidemic ends there, the rest of the world will be safe from it.
So I think it is important that we keep our eyes on the bigger picture, the larger world, and support those helpers and doctors and groups who are trying to take care of the good people of Africa.
Two (or three) infections have been contracted here. Thousands and thousands have been contracted there. Just to keep it in perspective.