I’m not afraid of Lincoln Co. Sheriff Curtis Landers, who warned this week that his deputies are on the prowl for “groups” of people flouting Governor Kate Brown’s lockdown order.
As a member of the press, I am an “essential worker,” impervious to rules that apply to everyone else. I can lift the police tape and go anywhere I want, mix with defiant crowds of protesters and worshippers, or reserve a hotel room (an interesting exemption in the governor’s edict) if I get the urge. My skills are indispensable in this time of crisis, after all.
If I get smothered at the Post Office during a run on stamps or swept up by an unruly mob at the Safeway egg sale (99 cents doz.), I’ll simply raise my press credentials as the police arrive. Just doing my job, officer, now can I have my eggs back?
I’m not afraid of the Wuhan Bat Virus, either. I have a wife who loves disaster movies, and I’ve seen them all in the last few weeks: hair-raising films about earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes, tornadoes, climate catastrophe, the Manson Girls and plagues so terrible that you’ll never visit another salad bar. Covid-19? It couldn’t sell a box of popcorn at the Saturday matinee.
As my wife and I sheltered-in-place one evening behind locked doors and a single layer of concertina wire purchased at an “essential” Ace Hardware store, we saw a film that seemed to capture the moment.
In the 1944 Alfred Hitchcock movie, “Lifeboat,” tensions rise among survivors trapped on a crowded dinghy after being torpedoed by a German U-boat in the middle of the ocean. Overwrought by their isolation and likely doom, they launch into hysterical diatribes while undercutting the lifeboat’s skipper, who is trying to save their lives. In the end, as rescue looms, they are left to contemplate their own actions.
As the pandemic peaks and then slowly ebbs, how will you be judged? Did you rat on a neighbor or slice the tire on an out-of-state car? Did you yell profanities at people on the beach from the deck of your oceanfront home? Were you the one who cleared-out the Fritos at Chester’s Thriftway?
Did our local governments and institutions rise to the challenge with furloughs, tax breaks or financial assistance, or were they the useless salary mills that we’ve long suspected?
Only one thing is certain. As I drive the lonely streets with my camera, notebook and boogie board, I know who I am.
I am essential.