The apocalypse is here, and it isn’t that bad.

COVID-19 is officially a global pandemic. Local and federal governments have declared a state of emergency and asked citizens to self-quarantine. Schools and offices are getting a crash course in working remotely.

Last Saturday, my wife and I went to the grocery store and found they were out of carts. We got a cart from a nice little old lady in exchange for helping her load her groceries into her car, then went inside to discover the reason for the shortage: the checkout line went all the way to the back of the store.

A line of grocery carts stretching from the back of the store to the front A grocery aisle, barren of pasta Empty boxes of toilet paper

The store was packed. Holly and I loaded two weeks worth of food into our cart and got in line. It took about 45 minutes to reach checkout.

Those 45 minutes set my confidence in American society higher than it’s been since 2016. Everyone was positively neighborly. We commiserated with the lady in line behind us about how long the line was. With school closed, they’re losing access to the free lunches her kids need, but someone in her neighborhood is providing lunches to fill the gap. Holly and I watched her cart so she could fetch supplies without losing her place in line. The ladies ahead of us joked about their cart piled full of beer–“do you think we have enough?” We swapped stories about previous times of trouble and shared intel about where the shortest checkout lines could be found.

The narrative we associate with global disasters is the one given to us by disaster movies. We expect that with the veil of civilization stripped away, people will show their “true natures” and turn on each other–that the ones who survive will be the most ruthless and the best armed.

Our present pandemic is showing that narrative to be false. The few cases we see where people act selfishly are covered by the news, of course, because they’re sensational, but they’re quite rare and they’re universally derided. (Language warning.)

Instead, we see people pulling together. We see Italians in self-quarantine playing impromptu concerts on their balconies:

We see neighbors taking care of each other:

Xpost from /r/COVID19positive - I posted a notice on my apartment door to warn my building that I have COVID19 symptoms. This was dropped through the mail slot. I don't even know them. So many onions in here... from r/HumansBeingBros

And we see artists processing fear into beauty:

A man and a woman wearing medical masks over their noses and mouths kiss tenderly.

This is a scary time for many. Our way of life has been upended, and there’s no telling when it will return to normal, or what “normal” will look like. But as Mr. Rogers put it:

When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.' --Fred Rogers

Now to keep this blog from being all sugar and no spice: If you have a favorite ideology that you wish more people would adopt, this is your moment. Talk to your neighbors (especially the elderly) and see what they need (while taking appropriate precautions to avoid infecting them). People will remember this month for the rest of their lives. The moral high ground is yours for the taking!

This week on the Internet

@QasimRashid on Twitter: 'Last week a Conservative constituent sent me deeply hurtful anti-Muslim tweets.😓 I responded by donating to his GoFundMe to help cover his crushing medical debt. He wrote me a thoughtful & compassionate apology and asked me to visit him. Today I met my new friend Oz 😊 #WinTheHearts

@cetELIESparibus on Twitter: 'For my next job interview, I'm gonna ask my 'future' employer on 'what are the things you've done for your employees during the COVID-19 community quarantine.

@beccaliz on Twitter: 'To the @ikea developer who is desperately debugging the shopping cart in production, I salute you. We're all having a hard time this week.'

@ryanbrooks on Twitter: 'A bar in my neighborhood is delivering entire liters of their premixed margeritas for $25 and you get a complimentary roll of toilet paper with your purchase and it's really starting to feel like there are no rules anymore

wow-david on Tumblr: 'My parrot has a vague understanding of the word 'no'. He knows to stop doing what he's doing when he hears it, and he knows how to say it. He knows it's a word that is used when he's doing something he shouldn't be doing. However, being told 'no' doesn't make him stop doing it in the future. If he's ever out of my sight or if I'm not paying attention, I know exactly when he's doing something bad. Because he says 'no' to himself as he does it.

Reading material


Robin Harris

Great blog, James! I’m looking forward to seeing more. And I will read some of your recommended reading material!


I absolutely love the way you’ve set this up, James. It’s more like the print version of a news and events program than the pages of dense prose that blogs used to be about. Also, my past writing teachers always used to say, “Your opening line should grab attention”, and yours certainly does here. Superior work in all aspects. I’m very proud of you, my friend!


Great work James! It was a fun read, something that makes the terror of these times more palatable. I would make the comment that we don’t yet have apocalypse type war gangs forming because there is STILL food in the shopping centers. If the supply chain breaks down i will be coming back to the blog for an update :) All around great work, i look forward to the next one.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *