Stories from the Future

My son and his beloved MC in Thailand

Once my son and his girlfriend MC moved to China, they literally joined the future. They have a 12 hour head start on each day. They have had a long head start on the Corona Virus. Here is what they have to say.

Last night on her Instagram story, MC described their journey this way: 


Something tells me MC was a little rattled. Her usual delivery is quite measured. I would never expect her to dismiss other people’s decisions as “stupid.” 3,000 deaths can rattle a person.

Since their vacation in Thailand, my son and MC have been hopscotching around the virus, flying to Indonesia and then to Malaysia. They’ve been able to visit at least 10 temples. They’ve been able to work from a variety of Internet cafes. They’ve been privileged to hold American and Canadian passports, respectively. They’ve been privileged in that they don’t look like they are based in China. But my son is Chinese. One quarter Chinese. From the story he posted on Instagram last night, he is well aware that this is a fraught time to be Chinese.

Every day, I field anxious questions about these two. Everyone here has been worried about them. At this point, this intrepid couple is more worried about us. They know that our freedom loving lifestyle won’t permit the kind of measures that have flattened the curve of infections in Asia. They feel returning here would not be as safe as returning to Beijing. 

Can we be responsible enough with our freedom to prove them wrong?

Be well!

Ms. Lab Rat says, wash yer paws.

3 thoughts on “Stories from the Future

  1. Oop! Okay, please ignore that last — I was trying to like this post and WordPress wouldn’t let me. Note: I like it.

    It’s being quite difficult here. People, I think, have trouble imagining large systems, especially large systems into the future, and so there’s still a pretty firm notion that this will all blow over in a few weeks, like the flu. Except that’s not in the cards, and there’s an enormous amount of thinking and planning that just isn’t happening. In particular, there’s non-thinking about people whose income is about to end.

    Flexibility on everyone’s part is going to be crucial. I just gave a virtual apartment tour to a lovely young couple hundreds of miles away. They’re going to be pipped, I think, by another lovely young couple with a much less solid-looking future, people who’re just arriving in town with hopes and dreams, rather than academic acceptance letters. This town is difficult for such people at the best of times. And I know, in renting to them now, that there’s a fair chance that by summer, they’ll have to change their plans. Because something or multiple things will have fallen apart because of coronavirus. I can afford to be flexible because I no longer have a mortgage on this property; if I did, the bank would not be flexible. And that’s going to be the problem. Flexibility and generosity will be necessary. Of course, who knows whether the other couple will be moving here, either. August…who knows what’ll be in August?

    My daughter’s choir director has finally let go of the idea that they’re going to Italy in June, but still thinks they’re going to St Louis in late April. They are not going to St. Louis in late April. The econ teacher thinks he’s sending teams of kids to compete at an econ fest in Des Moines in late March. This isn’t going to happen either.

    Everything is going to shut down and we are going to have a holiday, is what. Except for the people who are sick. It won’t be a holiday at all for them. And the wealthy will lose their minds because everyone is going to stop, and will refuse to come make the economy go in order to preserve their wealth. Social gatherings will be a confusing thing for a while until people learn to have a quieter existence again. Note cards will come back into vogue, people sending little notes to say hello. Open-air gatherings and picnics will be popular, but city festivals will skip a year. We will drink more and spend less, much less. The children will remember this as a time of immense boredom and waiting for school to start again. Reading actual books will be encouraged because we won’t be able to spare the bandwidth for children’s games. The children will be the first in many generations to grow up with death as a usual thing. They’ll also have memories of soldiers in masks.

    It will also be the only quiet summer many of them have ever known, the first amuse-yourselves summer. All the pools will be closed. We will remember sprinklers. Except the kids who have to stay inside. At least this time around they’ll have air-conditioning, most of them. The gardens will get bigger. City buses will run only very limited routes and you’ll need a special pass saying you have reason to use transit. The bookmobile will come around because libraries will close. The backyards will drive me insane; they’ll be full of people laughing, talking, sitting in chairs all evening, and it’ll be impossible for me to get any work done, all the noise will come right through the window. I should buy the noise-cancelling headphones now.

    By the beginning of July the mothers will begin to be very worried about what will happen if school doesn’t begin on time. Grandmas will have been warned not to offer so much time as babysitters; the children might not get very sick from the virus, but they likely will.

    New babies. Oh boy. Only so many people’s families have cabins.

    Many things will be postponed and people will have to reckon with that in their lives.

    It won’t really last that long; there will be a vaccine that at least attenuates the disease, I would guess, within a year. Another year will see it well rolled out. But for the children it will be a defining thing in their lives, and for the young people who were about to start their lives, just coming out of school. Also for old married people who had expected a different sort of retirement. Many remarriages afterwards.

    What else will happen? What do you imagine?

    As for me, I went shopping today, just as I did one evening in 2008, only this time I have more money and I bought much nicer things. The house is well-stocked with a lot of imported things, and staples, and cleaning supplies. I don’t know yet whether or not the solar panels will go up on the roof this spring; the company is running hard. I’m glad my will and trust and POA and HPOA is finally written, signed, tucked away. Next week I go to the bank with gloves on and my own pen, and sign for a refinance, assuming the bank is actually physically open, which it probably should not be.

    Anyway, MC is right: cancel everything. It’s a bad virus for those who can’t fight it off easily.

    1. Until a few days ago, I was trapped in a gerbil wheel of relentless self-improvement, pushing myself with tai chi and yoga classes, filling the moments of physical exhaustion with Mandarin lessons; I have a 180 day streak on DuoLingo. I poured all my creative energy into crafting editorial suggestions for my students, giving little to no attention to crafting my own stories. I was fiercely attached to the small communities I was forming with each workshop.
      Now that I’ve stepped away, I see that social connection hasn’t dropped off; it’s merely changed. My phone rings more often since I’ve begun practicing social distancing. I’m having more good old fashioned phone conversations.
      Again and again, I am amazed by how uniquely life unfolds.

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