I mark the day the coronavirus descended upon Greensboro as Day 3 of the ACC Men’s Basketball Tournament, when Commissioner John Swofford pulled the Florida State team off the floor, gathered the sports press around him and called the whole thing off. That was on March 12, four weeks ago.
Oh, I was there.
I had a whole deal going on: sponsors, a contest, daily write-ups from the coliseum floor. And mine were likely the smallest potatoes in the Greensboro Coliseum, where ESPN, CBS Sports, the Washington Post and other big-time players had expended their resources that weekend, with big hopes for a return on investment.
It was going to be, as they say, yooge.
Now, state unemployment dollars are trickling down — I have not heard of anyone in the Triad getting the $600 in additional federal funds, but I’m asking around. My friends in business are waiting it out, or they’ve reinvented their business model and are giving it a go. A few of them, have never been busier.
I’m somewhere in the middle. We’ve made a few changes at Triad City Beat — breaking news online, new regular features, a nightly coronavirus roundup and a few other tweaks. Ironically, while the supply of our traditional advertisers is drying up, demand for our product — reliable, timely and accurate news — is as high as it’s ever been.
Still, like a lot of my fellow small-business owners, I’m doing my share of freaking out.
But then I remind myself of a few things.
For one: Money is not actually real, in a sense. It’s a construct. We invented it to keep track of how much grain everybody used over the winter. Oh sure, money is real enough when they come for your house, but it is not recognized by the tides or the seasons, not connected to the rise of each day’s new sun.
So, as devastating as this economic disaster will be — and it will be devastating — it is something we imposed upon ourselves with our little bean-counting games and centuries of indoctrination.
Also, no great respecter of wealth is the coronavirus, which in its first wave affected people who frequent airports, cruise ships and resorts. Germany can trace its entire tree of cases to a caste of jet-setters who brought it back from ski trips in the Italian Alps.
It’s different now, of course. As COVID-19 spreads through our communities, we learn that African-Americans are disproportionately dying of the disease, and that, as in everything else, our poorest and sickest citizens are our most vulnerable.
But the coronavirus — unlike international boundaries, Greenwich Mean Time and those ethereal digits in our bank accounts — is most definitely real. So that’s probably what we should be worried about.