Universal precaution

The past few days have been a comedy of errors. Perhaps you would call it a dark comedy, given the many people for whom so much is at stake in the things going wrong, despite the hilariously slipshod nature of the proceedings.

Every year, there is a big writing conference called AWP (The Association of Writers and Writing Programs): this year, it’s being held in San Antonio, which seemed like a fine idea until the city declared a state of public health emergency due to cases of the coronavirus. There was a lot of speculation about whether the conference would be cancelled: we were told on Monday morning that a decision would be forthcoming that evening (the conference, for reference, starts today, which meant people were waiting to see if they should cancel a bunch of travel plans with 48 hours or less of lead time). Much hand-wringing was done, as we all collectively tried not to touch our faces with said hands.

A rumor went around that the conference would definitely be cancelled, and a number of people started undoing their own good work, un-booking flights, axing panels, begging hotels not to charge them. Then, an hour or so later, it was announced that the conference would, in fact, be happening after all. The whiplash was real.

Now, a huge proportion of attendees have cancelled, and an also huge number of major exhibitors. I’m still going. I went to the ENT yesterday for a regular appointment, and my doctor (while scraping wax out of my ear; as I sat silently weeping in the chair, being so scraped) told me it would be fine. I plan to eat a lot of tacos and take pictures of the ghost-town-iness of it all.

This morning, I almost had to cancel after all because weather was delaying my flights, but that got sorted. At the pharmacy yesterday afternoon, while I was buying the last bottle of hand sanitizer, the woman checking me out said, “Trust in God. That’s the UNIVERSAL precaution.” Which, I guess, that’s where we are.

Then, as an afterthought, as she handed me my bag, she said, “And also wash your hands.”