An odd confluence of TV weather forecasts this week warned that eight days of rain was due to begin on Friday and, right on schedule, an appreciable amount of precipitation started falling from the sky just past midnight with only occasional breaks throughout the day. The announcement of precipitation was not at all unexpected given the time of year. What I found peculiar was the number of evening news meteorologists who were in complete agreement with each other for the first time in months regarding longer-than-average rainfalls.
Springtime rains in this part of the country tend to operate in a 2-1-2-1-2 fashion. That is we'll have rain for two days, followed by a day of sun, then two more days of rain, then sun, and finally another two days of rain before a week of reasonably mild weather. This pattern is so consistent in the spring that locals tend to look at the sky and say ”おかしいなあ〜”1 when the weather does anything else. So for multiple stations to agree that we'll have 8 solid days of rain without a typhoon anywhere in the Pacific is noticeably uncommon.
Perhaps this is nature's way of encouraging people to stay home.
This past month has been quite a trial for a large percentage of the human race as people contend with virus concerns, food shortages, work stoppages, price gouging, and generally stress-inducing restrictions on the freedoms that many of us take for granted. As someone who has worked from home for the better part of two years, I've not been seriously impacted by the measures instituted by the federal and local governments regarding COVID-19. Sure, there are inconveniences and nuisances to deal with, but nothing that can't be overcome with a little patience or a phone call. From what the TV and print news has to say, there are likely a billion people who would gladly switch places with me2. That said, if we're able to ride this out with a little isolation and stricter hygiene practices, there are worse places to be stuck than at home.
Questions do abound, though. Not a day goes by where there isn't an article in the paper or a segment on the 7 o'clock news talking about a specific business shutting down for the last time. These are usually smaller companies that employ fewer than 20 people; the businesses that quietly add value to a community. With revenues wiped out and bills that demand to be paid, there are very few options when an organisation does not have six months or more of operational cash in the bank at all times. Companies started to feel the pinch at the end of January. Here we are two months later, and half the restaurants in the area have decided to shut down until the end of the pandemic. Two have closed forever. Manufacturing businesses have also been hit pretty hard with some slashing output by as much as 80% due to a lack of orders. People are being sent home. How will they pay their bills?
A lot of my immediate neighbours have long since retired and have the benefit of decades of savings plus a mostly-functional federal pension system that will continue to provide the financial resources required to weather this invisible storm. Reiko and I have also been setting aside money every month for our retirement, the boy's education, future trips, and general savings. Even if I were to be let go from the day job, the family will be good for quite some time so long as we're careful. The neighbourhood seems to be an anomaly, though. Not everyone has the same good fortune.
This, of course, leads to the ultimate question: what can I do to help?
Donating to food banks can help. Donating to the local community centre's recently started relief fund to assist people with covering important expenses such as rent will help. Is this enough, though? There's a very persistent "No" echoing around inside my head but I've yet to work out a better way to help people get through this difficult time.
When Nozomi and I are out for our walks and we see other people with their pets in the park, I will sometimes strike up a conversation and ask how they're doing. This little bit of community building can be quite helpful for people who live alone and are unable to congregate like before. A number of the neighbours, because they're well into retirement age, have been widowed for quite some time and have seen their regular club activities or get-togethers with friends get cancelled. The single most serious problem that people talk about is the isolation. More than one senior has said to me "You're the first person I've had a conversation with all week", which is terrible given just how often I've actively avoided social interactions throughout my entire adult life.
But now we have eight days of rain forecasted for the region and we're not yet done the first. If people were feeling cut-off before, this damp weather is going to exacerbate the problem. This issue cannot be realistically solved by volunteer or non-profit groups. It's going to take a community. But how can we do this if we are not supposed to be in the same room as others? How can we do this if we are not given the opportunity to get outside and maintain some semblance of normalcy?
After this week of rain there are going to be a lot of very lonely people desperate for some kind of interaction, and I can't shake the feeling that I'm not doing something worthwhile that might help reduce the feeling of intense isolation.
Okashī nā ⇢ This would be translated as "It's strange" or, depending on nuance, "Isn't it strange?"
My wife would not be happy with this. She's very paranoid about germs, so this Coronavirus scare has her on edge. She's implemented a strict "No Non-family members in the house" rule.