Coloradans like giving grades to officials. For example, in 1982, a massive blizzard closed down Denver for days. When asked how he’d grade the city’s snow removal effort, then-Mayor Bill McNichols ranked it an “A.” Others, including newspapers, preferred “F.” I’ve always been sympathetic to the Mayor, since this was one of the worst blizzards to hit the city ever. Be that as it may, the Mayor went down in defeat at the spring election.

You’d think we’d learn not to attempt this sort of challenge, but here I am ranking our country’s response to COVID. Why? Because thinking about the pandemic, certain elements stand out as especially good or bad.

Leading the pack is the medical research and development community whose reputation SOARED when they came up with vaccines in less than two years! And not just one, four or five or whatever. Do we realize how miraculous this is? The Black Death lingered for centuries, from about mid-1300s until mid-1700s, although it actually still exists but now can be cured. Small pox has been around since 350 BC and finally was thought eradicated in the1970s. Major polio epidemics were unknown before the 20th century, but were a terror throughout that century. I remember my parents prohibiting public pools because of polio’s threat. In addition, the medical people worked themselves to the bone for us and ours. Grade A++++

Amazing to me, some people, especially anti-vaxxers, seem to lack the most basic information about vaccinations and ignore the dangers to which they’re opening their children and themselves. So be it. No skin off my personal nose.

Next, businesses in general. While struggling to stay afloat, and sometimes sinking with their ships, the majority retained a nonjudgmental, supportive attitude toward the public. A number went the whole nine yards (alternately, the whole ball of wax) to support their employees and people in financial trouble with special services and goods. Chasing constantly changing government regulations, they performed well to continue their services. Grade: B

Then there are the government and nonprofit agencies large and small that struggled to do their best in the face of unknowns. While trying to evaluate the advice from “experts” of every type. Then interpret those for their staffs and the public, in the face of unknown financials, they kept their offices and agencies functioning. Grade: B-

What comes in at level of “C?” Probably the media, keeping in mind that their charge is to deliver whatever passes for news 24 hours a day. This leaves them in the unenviable position of having to create a new angle on tired information each and every day. With the dearth of gossip about celebs, they’ve been forced to focus on less interesting fodder, mostly about the pandemic.

At rock bottom—human behavior: A flat out F, for the entire population of the USA. Selfish, rude, annoying, All of us indulging in our favorite activity: busily judging one another, condemning friends, family and neighbors because they did or did not comply with whatever standard existed in each person’s individual opinion. I’ve seen adults scream at teens for walking in the park, customers in grocery stores malign the next person for daring to infringe on some nebulous barrier they thought would protect them, neighbors steal limited goods like milk and toilet paper because they feared to be left without. Vaxxers mock others for not getting shots. Antivaxxers mock in return for being robot rule-followers. Yes, if the future of the human race depended on our actions, we deserve no breaks. I hope at the next pandemic, we do better.


Laughing on the Outside

smiile            I learn a great deal about human behavior from television news. The actual facts and events are almost irrelevant. Instead I observe the talent. I’ve noticed over the past five years or so that, like the plummeting content of print publications, newscasters convey less and less news. Grins spread over their faces constantly. I recently saw three anchors spend five minutes of prime time on attractive cats and jokes. The weather reporter had local kids doing guest spots, and each of them ended with a variation on “It will be an awesome day.” Even when the broadcast is tragic—a massive fire, a shooting at a school—the cast’s expressions are neutral but still congenial.

Does this mean we have fewer tragedies in the world? That the number of wars, attacks, rapes, murders, falling stock markets, epidemics, droughts have plunged? No, it just means we’re trying our best to ignore them.

One refrain, not limited to TV, is “make a great day.” Commanded at the conclusion of emails, spouted when conversations are drawing to a close, this phrase assumes we have control over the pleasantness, good will, and productivity we’ll experience. As if a day’s atmosphere can be constructed like a brick wall—one brick for feeling healthy, another for a good meal, still another for a pleasantry from a companion. On the inside of that wall are the good, nice, successful, pleasant people like ourselves; on the other the failures, dying, poor, whatever. We can block them out of our consciousness.

Why do we have to be happy all the time? Why, if I’m not animated and grinning, do passersby chastise me, “Smile!”

While this situation feels and is artificial, I’ve read about studies that show people who head for the fantasy side of existence rather than reality actually are happier. Perhaps it’s not important to know which individual hates you or dwell on the work assignment you flubbed. I knew a man who was convinced he was a great public speaker even though others cowered when he approached a microphone. A woman beautiful in her youth and edging toward old age still believing she was a knock-out despite her sags, fat, and wrinkles.

As for expressions on the human face, other studies have shown if we smile, we feel better; and certainly those around us or seeing us do, too.

So if we’re wearing rose-colored glasses, it’s ok. And if television news reporters spend the greater part of the time telling jokes, grinning, laughing and spouting “Make a great day,” perhaps there’s nothing negative (pun intended).

If we’re in the mood for moans and cries, we’ll have to go to reality shows, like the Bachelor.  I saw more sadness and tears there than I’ve seen in the news in a year.