day four

san francisco

Wake up around 7:30 a.m. after going to bed late last night around 3. Stayed up watching “World War Z” and “28 Days Later” because i’m a masochist. I lost count of how many times I heard the word “virus” and “infected” in both films. (I don’t recommend watching either right now.)

I immediately grab my phone and see a bunch of notification for Facebook. Some guy I haven’t seen or spoken to in 11 years decided to play “devil’s advocate” in the comments of a post I wrote last night. I expressed frustration around the photos of people crowding into bars and parties in the wake of the outbreak. He decided to give the flipside of that argument, and insult my “faux outrage.” I vaguely recalled him liking to pick Facebook fights years ago. Some people don’t change much. Time to de-friend his ass.

I take the dog outside and head to get a coffee. Hypocritical, I know. But I justify the coffee by thinking I want to support one of the local businesses I visit every day. It is the one pleasures I give myself right now. (I imagine they’ll be shuttering stores throughout the city soon, anyway.) I have a routine for every time i leave the house — which is primarily to take the dog for a walk — to minimize contact with others:

Next to my front door is a travel bottle of hand sanitizer. I take that with me along with a fistful of paper towels if I need to open any doors or touch anything. I keep track of when I have to touch something and use the hand sanitizer in between those moments. Soon, I’ll buy a pair of gardening gloves so I can ditch the towels. I haven’t used an N-95 mask yet, but we’ll probably get there soon.

Two weeks ago when the news started getting more traction, walking outside didn’t feel much different than a normal day in San Francisco. BART and MUNI might have been a bit more empty. But people were still going to bars, restaurants, shops.

This morning was different. The gravity of the situation is sinking in. Stores are mostly empty, save for lines out the door at Safeway, Whole Foods, Walgreens. My favorite coffee shop is a fraction as full as usual. Half the people I pass on the street are wearing masks.

Went to the pet store to get dog food on the way home. Woman came in, full mask, leather gloves, rubber boots — like she was heading to clean up a biohazard. She practically jumped back away from me and Bruna when I finished paying. My instinct was to be offended and mutter “GFY”, but I know I shouldn’t think that way anymore. I’ll shift my thinking from “Go Fuck Yourself” to, like, “Good For You,” I guess.

I’ve mostly been working for the past 16 days straight, which feels good. Keeps the brain occupied, and frankly I feel like I can actually do something beyond sitting and watching CNN all day. I’m collecting stories from peoples lives about how things are going down. Will start helping the National desk, heading out and around San Francisco to collect stories from the community. I’ll be looking like the Pet Store biohazard lady at that point, I’m sure.

To that end, if you have examples of things that could be stories around the coronavirus — whether they’re tech related or just interesting in their own right — I’m all ears. Don’t respond to this substack email, send me a note at my work email: mike dot isaac at nytimes dot com.

Talk soon, i’m sure.