Better laugh now, before tragedy sets in

We may have to give up pro sports, going to bars and restaurants, and working in an office. Let’s not give up our sense of humor too.

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Empty shelves at the Target store in Oak Park.

Empty shelves were common around the Chicago area as some people stocked up on toilet paper, disinfectant wipes and other items during the coronavirus crisis.

Sun-Times file

You want to hear something strange and a little scary? I felt great Saturday morning. Walking the dog, breathing the frosty air, taking big strides — well, what constitutes big strides for me. An unexpected surge of energy.

I had no idea why. I hope it wasn’t the snow day, society’s canceled, End of Times drama of the United States collectively ducking into a crouch, readying itself to start receiving full body punches from the coronavirus. But with journalists, you never know. We can’t help but ooo and ahh at the big fire for a moment or two before catching ourselves and remembering the people leaping out the windows.

Opinion bug


Maybe I was just well-rested. 

Social media fixated for some ungodly reason on people buying lots of toilet paper and others condemning them for buying lots of toilet paper. I took to Twitter to try to offer up a silver lining in all this before, you know, thousands of Americans start to die and nothing seems funny anymore, which I distinctly remember as being the bitter icing on the tragedy cake of 9/11.

I tweeted out a series, beginning with “Look on the Bright Side #1: No sign of Rudy Giuliani.”

Because this was Twitter, people reacted instantly, pointing out this was wrong: Trump’s unhinged consigliere was on Fox News, flapping his gums about the crisis. That’s what I get for never watching Fox, and for being an optimist. I keep thinking, with life or death hanging in the balance, the presidential clown show must come to an end.

But of course it doesn’t. It just gets worse.

I tried again.

“Look on the Bright Side #2: Trump not crowing about the stock market.”

Wrong again. Of course he was. Ignoring Thursday’s historic 10% plunge, he fixed his attention on Friday’s rebound and howled with joy: “BIGGEST STOCK MARKET RISE IN HISTORY YESTERDAY!” So if a million Americans die from this, we can expect the president to exude, “326 MILLION AMERICANS NOT DEAD!”

OK, I thought, let’s try something that isn’t demonstrably wrong:

“Look on the Bright Side #3: President probably doesn’t know enough about mechanics of governance to consider invoking martial law.”

No one can argue that. I was on a roll.

“#4: Everybody’s March Madness brackets are blown.”

“#5: Trump rallies might continue unabated.”

A little mean, yes. But turnabout is fair play.

“#6: Chronic pessimists suddenly indistinguishable from regular people.” 

“#7: Bulls suddenly have as good a shot at making the playoffs as any other NBA team.”

“#8: A chance to really get a jump on spring cleaning.”

This was before my wife mobilized and began issuing orders. Soon I was Windexing mirrors, dusting corners, going over doorknobs with Lysol wipes. “But we’re the only ones here,” I protested. “The only germs we’re killing are our own.” That didn’t work.

“#9: A chance to pare down your Facebook friends by silently dumping those who make a spectacle of their not understanding why calling it ‘Wuhan Virus’ is racist.”

I’ve pitched at least a dozen people over the weekend. Most for posting untrue memes about keeping the virus at bay by gargling with salt water. I’d try to correct them, but they don’t seem to care. True, untrue — that’s such a 2010 concern.

“#10: Americans who can happily ignore Trump caging children, slashing taxes for the rich along with environmental standards and the Constitution might conceivably snap to the fact he’s bungling a pandemic in a way that might kill them.”

Another blunder. A poll shows Republicans are far less concerned about the coronavirus, far less apt to take steps to keep themselves and their families safe. I could say something unkind here, but it would only reflect poorly on me. So let’s hope that works out for them.

“#11: Get to smirk at puffed up pooh-bah David Brooks claiming in the NYT that Daniel Defoe ‘reports’ something in ‘A Journal of London in the Plague Year.’ It’s a novel. Defoe was 5 in 1665. He isn’t reporting anything. Nor is Brooks, except his ignorance.”

I wish I could fit in more — go on Twitter if you’re curious — but space dwindles. My point, to the degree I have a point, is this: Strap in, this is going to take a while. Let’s try to keep our spirits up.

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