Flight of Irony

Humanity is such a seething mass of contradictions. Two stories on CBS this morning, 40 minutes apart, so far apart that apparently we all missed the sardonic irony.

In the second story, CBS’s travel correspondent detailed the re-roll-out of Boeing’s Air Max 737. This is the plane that if I recall correctly had three crashes in three countries due to some faulty stall mechanism. Roughly 1,500 people were killed in these crashes, and people started asking before they got on planes if theirs was going to be an Air Max.

Despite insisting that there was really nothing wrong and that pilot error was responsible, Boeing — which turned out to have been in cahoots with the Federal Aviation Administration and pretty much got a free pass on any serious pre-launch inspections — had to pull their new fleet out of service and go back to the drawing board.

Now with a redesign it’s supposed to be safer, but the travel correspondent noted that it’s ultimately up to the worldwide public’s willingness to fly on these Air Maxes that determines the success.

The lead story for today’s newscast was of course the screaming numbers of covid-19 cases in the United States. Many, many people have tried pointing out that the daily death toll in the United States these days is the equivalent of three or more 747s (bigger than a 737) crashing. Every single day.

And yet so many of us resist any attempts at basic safety precautions. There appears to be very little panic of the kind that overrode Boeing’s insistence that there was nothing wrong with their planes. Very little of the caution that still has Boeing and travel experts wondering if anyone is going to be willing to get back on these planes.

These planes that crashed three times over the course of several months and killed fewer people than are dying each day after going about their daily existence. Which one really ought to have us more concerned?

Probably as a truism for most people, Corona and her wicked ways have them far more concerned. But it’s much, much harder to alter daily routine than it is to just saying no to getting on a specific type of aircraft. Even if the pay-off — healthy life — is the same in both scenarios.

And there’s the misinformation component, the significance of which should not be discounted. Not being a follower of right-wing nuttery, I can only speculate here, but I’m guessing that if Fox News — never mind anything further out there — paid any attention at all to the Boeing debacle, it was painted on the same canvas as that of the mainstream media: flaws in design led to tragic consequences.

Maybe, since the right (in days of yore, I would have called this “the far right,” but now it appears to be basic Republican canon) loves its conspiracy theories so much, there’s one I am missing, either about Boeing’s malfeasance or, more likely, it’s all part of a sinister plot to bring down an American company.

Any misinformation about Boeing’s plane, however, is dwarfed by the breathtaking wrongness of the approach taken with a virus that some people in South Dakota are so convinced is a hoax that they go to their literal graves refusing to Facetime with relatives one last time and insist “This isn’t real,” as they die.

A bunch of governors are now reaping what they’ve sown, as they seek to pivot 180 from their disparagement of masks as they watch this “hoax” overrun their hospitals. Now that it’s their constituents, the ones who voted for them — now it might be real, no matter what Fox personalities say. Except in South Dakota, where I guess we’ll kill off the entire population before admitting that a devil-may-care attitude really is more injurious than helpful.

In fairness, it’s not just Republican states where caseloads are screaming upward, which probably goes back to the part where it’s easier to not get on an airplane than it is to alter your life for what seems to be going on its second millennium now.

At an incomprehensible business Zoom yesterday, I really only understood two things: in November, Gunnison County has logged 171 positives with about 70 tests still pending; and this is 35 percent of all cases reported since March. Over one-third of all of our cases have come in the last two weeks, more than before everything was shut down in March.

That was where the meeting got more than a little confusing. Gunnison County will go, tomorrow I think, to “yellow” on the state’s covid dial, modeled after Gunnison’s own Coronameter, where we currently remain at “blue.” It would only take one more metric to pull us to “yellow” on the meter as well as the dial, and we must be on the verge of that: friends going to the doctor in Montrose yesterday reported that several counties to the west of us are going on lockdown as of Friday, and the doctor was unable to admit a patient to the hospital because it was full.

Gunnison relies on the hospitals in Montrose and Grand Junction for intensive care, and if one or both of those hospitals are inaccessible, we trigger another metric. But what this means for any of us is where the confusion really kicks in. I knew less coming out of the meeting than I thought I did going in.

As an example, events — which turns out to mean something that happens in a public space, which may or may not include retail and restaurants — are now limited to 50 people outdoors and 25 indoors. Except that all events are frozen, even if previously approved, and you can can’t submit plans for a coming event. Personal gatherings, somehow different from events, are limited to no more than 10 people from no more than two households.

I think it all comes down to the plea the state epidemiologist issues in commercials that air every 15 minutes when I’m watching Denver channels: stay within your household bubble. Do not socialize in person with anyone else.

Which is much, much harder than deciding to skip a flight because it might be on the wrong kind of airplane. Even if the end result is the same: if I do this, or that, I could end up ill/injured or even dead.

Until we can all figure out that if we wore masks when around people not of our household, and all the time — not just when someone comes in the door — in offices and businesses, we’re just going to spin in circles waiting for a vaccine, or illness, telling ourselves it’s much safer to get to Grandma’s for Thanksgiving if only we don’t fly on an Air Max 737.

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