I was down at the docks Sunday, trying to score.

I had called my connection and he gave me the code, but until the door opened and a hand pushed out the package, I had no idea if the deal would go down.

I started walking without looking in the bag. But when I got home it was all there – 2 pounds of cod filet.

Coronavirus, life on the street.

I’m in my second week of working from home.

I get ready for work the way I always have. I shave and get dressed in my usual uniform – white shirt, khaki pants – and head to the office. Only now my commute is eight steps from my bedroom to the work station, so I don’t need a coat.


But I still put my wallet in my pocket, even though there is zero chance that I will need any money or that my wife will ask to see my ID. I also carry the little recorder I use to tape meetings, even though there are not going to be any meetings. And I have my phone in case anyone wants to get in touch with me when I’m in the hallway.

I don’t wear a tie, though. That would be stupid.

Every day I try to tune in the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention briefing with Dr. Nirav Shah. I’m not necessarily looking for information as much as to take a bearing on what I should be feeling.

It’s a relief to hear Shah, who sounds so smart and so competent, calmly describe how simple things like washing your hands and avoiding unnecessary contact will slow the spread of a virus, which has gone from a single case in Maine to more than 150 in less than two weeks.

But when he talks, I can’t take my eyes off Dr. Regan Thibodeau, the sign interpreter, whose facial expressions reflect the alarm that’s hidden in Shah’s measured tones. There is a range of emotion between the two of them, and I’m never sure exactly where I’m supposed to land.

I don’t know anyone who is sick or anyone who has died from coronavirus, but I almost surely will when this is over. If 50 percent of the population becomes infected (a conservative estimate, if no steps are taken to avoid the virus’ spread) and 1 percent of them die (also conservative), that would mean 6,500 deaths in Maine.


If you wait until the bodies stack up, it’s too late. The only way we can lower the rate of infection, is by acting as if the virus is spreading even if we can’t see it. Everyone has to do their part.

So, I like when Shah promises that we will get through this “because our approach is not informed just by science but by kindness, humanity and compassion.”

A couple of times I have been able to go for a walk, and I wonder if my neighbors are getting the message. Six feet is 6 feet. When you meet someone on the sidewalk, you do not create a safe distance by looking in another direction. This thing isn’t spread by eye contact.

I haven’t started screaming at them, like the Italian mayors I’ve seen in a hysterical compilation of videos that has been circulating on the internet.

“Where are you going with these incontinent dogs?” demands one exasperated mayor. “You need to stay at home. People are dying, don’t you get it?”

“Stop writing me letters! It’s useless,” says another mayor, while gesturing wildly with his hands in bright blue gloves.  Don’t have a hairdresser come to your house, he pleads. “Who the hell is going to see you?”


Portland Mayor Kate Snyder is not yelling at us. Yet. But she had a news conference with City Manager Jon Jennings last Tuesday, announcing restrictions on all public-facing businesses, and Jennings made clear that there would be some long-term impacts from this crisis.

The city budget, which was supposed to be rolled out next month, basically belongs in a wastebasket. So does a property revaluation that was supposed to go into effect this summer. How can anyone put a value on a storefront or apartment building now? Who knows what any building will be worth in the months ahead?

We are all going to have our challenges.

I can’t complain. Mine haven’t been too difficult. I’ve figured out how to buy a piece of fish.

Toilet paper is next.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.