Holed up, locked down and getting by

To paraphrase W. C. Fields, “There comes a time when we must take the bull by the tail and face the situation.” This is one of those times.


We’ve got a mess on our hands. Routines have been replaced with the reality of quarantine. Once unthinkable among Americans, it has been dusted off and exported from Guantanamo to the mainland.

After almost a week of mandated isolation and dystopian ‘social distancing,’ the natives are getting restless. Americans can only stand so much of one another in restricted airspace. The lid’s about to blow off.

The gigantic engines of commerce are ceasing to hum. An eerie silence is replacing the frantic ebb and flow of humanity on the roads and in the aisles. The tension is building while the gods of amusement and entertainment sit sidelined waiting for the Vesuvian top to blow.

In the hinterlands the shut-in captives wander aimlessly about in a fixed stupor, staring into the vacant space of their brains and wringing their hands at the vanishing cash flow and empty shelves of toilet paper. Holed up, locked down, getting by. Lord, Lord, what’s to be done?

While attempting to quantify the quandary we’re mired in, I’ve been occupying myself with things that get my hands dirty, things like cleaning out the garage, raking leaves and ridding the pool furniture of winter’s mildew. Dirt and grime abolish fear and panic. Besides, Armageddon is staged for the Middle East, not America. So, lighten up.

The mayor of Baltimore is pleading with local gangs to refrain from shooting one another until this scourge is past. Hospital beds are scarce and reserved. Progress is being made.

Like us, the Federal Reserve is uptight. But they’re dealing with the crisis creatively. They’re funding $1 trillion dollars a day for overnight loans to support liquidity. How can they do this, you ask? Easy. Simple legerdemain.

Madoff is negotiating prison release in exchange for revealing his secret of creating ‘illusionary cash,’ an art form like a high-stake check kiting scheme. It works until the float stops. While it won’t help the hardship resulting from most people’s shortage of ‘elusive spondulix,’ it might restore hope, and hope is a valuable currency.

How do we grapple with such a vast and invisible enemy? Estimates and extrapolations are about the best tools we have to quantify the situation. It helps to have expert advice in these cases.

So I call the eminent Cosmologist, Dr. Effingham R. Dimwitty, Esq., MSBS, fondly called ‘Dr. DS’ by friends. He offers a glimmer of light on the malaise.

“Dr. D, what’s your take on the situation?”

“It’s complicated,” he says. “It’s because a vagrant gene got loose from a Chinese bat and has mutated into humans. Some anecdotal conjecture suggests it’s a venal plot from interplanetary alien forces that apparently teamed with China in retaliation to the recent trade war.”

“Aliens? Really? Are people that spooked?”

      “They’re spooked on shortage of toilet paper.”

      “Who’s to blame?”

     “Best I can deduce, from observing the thick moss on the north side of my oak trees and size of mushrooms sprouting from cow patties, is that somehow politics got out of hand and disturbed the cosmic balance. Order had to be restored.”

      “Could this explain the recent meltdown in the stock market?”

     “Indirectly, maybe. But germs and stocks do operate on similar principles. Germs aren’t picky. Nothing’s off limits. Fear and panic follow in their wake They attack the strong and weak alike. Same as markets do. The strong survive, the weak perish. It’s nature at work, restoring balance and equilibrium.”  

      “What are you doing to avoid the alien influx?”

      “Same as you, just a prisoner of the earth, holed up, locked down and getting by”

Outside, life is happening. People walking, jogging, biking; children playing, dogs barking, flowers blooming, bees buzzing. Nature seems at peace with itself. Is there one word, or phrase that sums up this moment in history?

These lines resonate from John Donne’s poem, “For Whom the Bell Tolls:”

     “No man is an island,

     Entire of itself,

     Each is a piece of the continent,

     A part of the main.”

Whatever the final outcome, we’re all in this together. Let generosity rule.


Opinions differ on the number of 4-inch squares in a roll of toilet paper. Because of the shortage, I’m being frugal. In Turkey, there’s no shortage, they use stones.

Stay safe, enjoy the vacation and survive the day.


Bud Hearn

March 23, 2020