What To Do?

It is mid-day on March 20 as I write this. Why do I say that? Because the world is changing so fast right now that all this can possibly be is a snapshot in time. I might want it to be resonant… to have legs. But it doesn’t much matter that that is what I might want.

The Novel Coronavirus and its corresponding illness COVID-19 has upended the world as we know it. That statement is true… but what else is true is that this too shall pass. There is no telling what reality replaces the one we’ve just left – and we have left it, even if you haven’t acknowledged it yet – but I’m old enough to know that personal perception of what is right or expected or normal really doesn’t matter one bit. Reality rolls downhill whether it’s convenient for you or not.

I’ve done several home inspections this week. I’ve also turned down two inspections in just the past 3 hours. We have suspended inspections for at least the next two weeks and will reassess at that point. After spending years building a business and working towards generating inspection requests, it is hard to say no. Real hard.

One of our inspections this week was on a small house occupied by tenants. We as a company were already taking risk prevention seriously, but that all got stood on its head that day. Picture a 2-bedroom 1-bath 1-story home… with me, the realtor, the buyer, and 8 tenants… three adults and 5 children. And one small dog. Social distancing? Really?

At another of our inspections this week we were greeted by a sign on the door stating the need for gloves and shoe covers to help protect the health of the owner. Not unreasonable, but I couldn’t help but perceive it as a bit… I dunno… precious? Then I found who the owner was… we’ve been acquaintances for 30 years (that of course introduced a whole level of required disclosure, but that’s a different story). He’s 80 and appears healthy, but there was an oxygen concentrator in the home. An oxygen concentrator. I was ultimately unsuccessful at ignoring the smacks up-side my head. This is serious.

Now some of us may scoff at the issue. If you are not in a high risk category and have bills to pay, it appears obvious that taking some reasonable precautions but continuing unabated is the right thing to do. In fact it was only a couple days ago that I was thinking we might limit inspections to unoccupied homes. That seemed reasonable. But I can’t unsee that oxygen concentrator. And while it shouldn’t matter that I know the homeowner who needs that concentrator, we all know that it does matter. We really are on this ship together and our actions have consequences for those around us, not just on ourselves. If you want to rock climb without ropes… more power to you. We all get to make decisions about what risks we choose to take. But if you want to climb an office building in an urban setting without ropes, it is not responsible to ignore the health of those below you.

The thinking my wife and I bring to this has been shaped by our son. He has an uncanny ability to perceive patterns – he made a successful living for more than a decade playing professional poker – and he predicted over three weeks ago the situation we find ourselves in now. He has pushed us to be in front of the curve and remains very concerned regarding the virus, but even more so for the social breakdowns that could occur as a result. We have chosen to do what we can to try and mitigate the possible societal impacts… but of course change is not easy and we are being dragged kicking and screaming all the way. We did after all just drop off our new car for service at the dealership. The very polite young woman checking us in – and of course wearing nitrile gloves – handed us her computer pad to sign. I politely declined… and she was quite surprised. I didn’t ask what she thought those gloves were accomplishing. She’s probably had them on for three hours, touching multiple surfaces on multiple cars, dutifully handing her pad to a dozen different customers for signature. But hey… the dealer is taking this seriously. There was a whole box of gloves on the counter.

I cannot and will not tell other people how to react to this. It is not my role to judge; I have to assume that the person climbing that office building doesn’t intend to fall. I can only try and take a long-view on my own behavior.

So that’s what I’m doing. I’m gonna have lunch, go fertilize my grass, and then set up an online visit for us with our Kirkland-based grandkids. Gonna read them a book.

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