FOCO And The Vacationless Summer

Is my Fear Of Covid worse than everyone else’s?

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Living room window views. It ain’t the beach, but it ain’t contagious either.

Because Instagram hasn’t given birth to enough neurosis, meet FOCO: The Fear of Covid. It’s the deep, pervasive fear that if I go anywhere, I’m going to get a gnarly virus that kills some people but is probably just going to give me the worst flu of my life with symptoms that could last ’til Christmas. Oh and I’m single, so there’s no one to take care of me. There’s that. Some people have FOCO, and if my social media feeds are anything to go by, some people most certainly don’t. What my FOCO means for me is that I haven’t gone anywhere all summer, and somehow, despite a global goddamned pandemic, I’m the weird one.

Is everyone infecting each other without me? I am still very much afraid of getting COVID-19. I have no idea what the cure for it is, but I’m quite certain that being bored and “over it” isn’t one of them. I’m still disinfecting groceries, not wearing shoes past my threshold, wearing gloves if I have to take the subway and that’s only happened twice since March, this shit is still very serious around here. That’s because the virus hasn’t actually disappeared and we don’t know how to cure it. That hasn’t actually changed. Until there is a real change in how we prevent, care for, and cure this fucking thing, I’m going to stay scared, because it started in a market and consumed the whole world so forgive me if I doubt that my Brooklyn one-bedroom is somehow going to be effortlessly spared.

What’s so perplexing to me is how it doesn’t seem to be so scary for everyone else, especially this summer. I’ve seen kind of an alarming amount of people going about their regular summer vacation business like we’re operating in a normal year instead of the purgatorious span of time 2020’s turned out to be. It really is baffling to me that in this moment, there seems to be more fear of missing out on a summer than there is of contracting a deadly virus or spreading it to people you love. I know this to be true because I have social media, and some of y’all can’t shut up.

If you’re the sort of person who does not suffer from FOCO much at all, and has therefore been jaunting off to beachside towns and vacation homes and wherever the hell people who own boat shoes like to spend their time, I’m about to yell at you. I’m about to tell you that you’re wrong. Grab onto something, a railing, a chair, a stiff drink, whatever you need.

Nobody has any business going on vacations to places with people this summer. I said it and I meant it. I don’t care if they’re family, superclose friends, whoever, you’re still traveling from one place to another place with your germs and their germs and the germs of whoever sat in seat 18C before you. All the world has really asked of us to get rid of this thing was to stay in place, if we’re lucky enough to do so, and you’re on vacation right now? Your fucking ice cream cone photos are a slap to the face of the pandemic and you come across like a clueless asshole. Taking a vacation in 2020 is a gamble at best and detriment to societal health at worst. For the life of me I cannot understand why anyone is acting like anything is normal. You know who needs a vacation? The healthcare world. Not, and I can’t stress this enough, the rest of us.

Here’s the rub, here’s what really chafes the thighs: It’s not just that you’re going on vacations, it’s that you’re posting about them. All offense intended, it’s irresponsible and embarrassing that you can’t just take a vacation and quietly enjoy it, you also have to show the world that you couldn’t give less of a fuck. I am personally insulted by your beach picnics, your boardwalk lobster rolls, and your charming cruiser bikes. And I don’t even work in an essential industry that has required me to be up to my elbows in other people’s breathing all year long. I can’t fathom how insulted nurses and doctors must be by people on vacation right now, but I’m mildly content knowing they probably don’t have time to check the ‘gram.

Yes, I want to be on vacation too! I want to get on an airplane and go to a place that’s not my living room and eat something I didn’t cook and sit outside and drink a cocktail I can’t get delivered to my house. But I’m not doing that, because we have a problem. We’ve had a problem all year, and I’m not done being afraid of that problem because I’m sick of its shit. I’d rather be sick of doing nothing and going nowhere than literally struggling to breathe. Remember that, guys? It affects your lungs. But do enjoy your 12-person AirBnb, hope the fish tacos were delish.

Listen, “you’re probably not going to get it” solves nothing for me. My FOCO laughs in the face of your Twitter medical degree. Would you go into surgery if the last thing the doctor said to you before donning the mask she certainly has no problem wearing all day was, “you’re probably not going to die”? I mean would you?! We don’t need to snap out of this, we need to snap the fuck back in. Because I for one would like to spend 2021 not losing my goddamned mind again, but if we don’t get it together, next summer will look just like this one, because of you. Not me. I stay home. I’ve been staying home. Staying home is actually really easy. Apparently, it’s giving a damn about human beings other than yourself that’s really hard.

I don’t wear a mask because I think it’s some all-fortifying piece of magical cloth. I wear it because I respect my neighbors. I wear it because I want to set a good example. I stay home and keep my distance from other people because that I believe actually will keep me from getting sick. If you’re on vacation, be on vacation I guess. But would you mind demonstrating a little respect for humanity and…I don’t know, maybe the hundreds of thousands of people who have DIED by keeping that shit to yourself?

The more people see people on vacation, and resuming normal life, the more we’ll think that’s okay. We’re lemmings, participating in the behavior of the herd. And while your vacation might be perfectly socially distanced and safe (it’s not, but whatever), that doesn’t mean someone else who saw your vacation and thought it was cool to resume the game will be just as responsible.

We’re really, really bad at caring more about the collective than we do about ourselves. And it’s costing us. If the loss of life isn’t doing it for you, you ghoul, then how about the loss of prosperity? Are you as comfortable spending that vacay money this year? I wouldn’t be. I’m treating every Amazon box like it’s my last, that’s how scared I am of what COVID-19 is doing to our economy. Death and money are the best arguments I’ve got, and if they aren’t doing it for you, find a spiritual practice or higher power of some kind. I have a feeling you’re gonna need it.

Maybe my words won’t mean anything to you. It’s hard to compete with hot tubs and outdoor grills, I know because I love those things, if memory serves. But I have a feeling these words mean something to those of us with FOCO, those of us who aren’t with other people right now, and haven’t been since February. Those of us who haven’t “decided” that COVID-19 is over, but who instead respect the viral hustle. We haven’t had a vacation from this, because we shouldn’t have a vacation from this. Not until it’s over, and it ain’t.

If you haven’t gone anywhere in 2020, I (theoretically) see you. I know what it’s like to feel this isolated, stressed, and scared, for this long. And I will keep it up, with you, and for you, doing one small part as an individual for a greater collective good. It’s all I can do. I can’t cure this shit, but I can certainly make sure it doesn’t get worse by having a blast at the seaside. Because I want this to be over forever, so I’m not willing to settle for a stupid vacation.

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Shani Silver is a humor essayist and podcaster based in Brooklyn who writes on Medium, a lot.

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NPR once called me a humor essayist, let’s go with that. Host of A Single Serving Podcast. shanisilver[at]gmail

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