Managing the risks…like my plumber, talk amongst yourself

Graphic: Alpha Stock Images

COVID-19 cases are on the rise here. Each of us needs to decide how we are going to respond to the problem, and a recent interaction with my plumber pretty much sums it up.

The plumber came to fix a problem at a rental condo. I discovered the night before his appointment that the tenant in that unit had just returned from an out of state funeral of an elderly relative. That relative had died from the corona virus. Could the tenant living there have brought the virus back from the funeral?

I wanted to do the right thing, so, wearing a mask, I met the plumber outside the building and explained the situation to him.  I offered him an extra N-95 mask I had with me and told him I understood if he didn’t want to go inside and do the work. The plumber is a 60-something year old with a very common underlying medical condition. He is also politically a bit of a ‘live free or die’ type.

His first reaction was to immediately start to walk away saying he would have to pass, he didn’t want to take the risk. But after a few steps he stopped, turned back, and told me, well, maybe he would call his boss to see how to deal with the situation. 

But he didn’t pull out his phone. Instead he proceeded to have a conversation, mostly with himself. I was a party to the discussion simply because I was standing there, and he was vocalizing the dialog. My contribution was to mutter ‘I understand’ a couple of times.

First, he reiterated to himself that the virus was vastly overblown and was not as bad as the media was reporting. But then again, he didn’t want to unnecessarily expose himself. He couldn’t afford to get sick. He didn’t want to risk his wife’s health. Next came the reminder that he didn’t like the government telling him what he can and cannot do, and he was in pretty good health anyway. This wasn’t that big of a risk, and we all have to continue to live our lives. He had a job to do.

I could almost see the gears turning in his head.  After a short pause, he pulled a mask out of his pocket and put it on as he walked back, opened the door and headed into the apartment. No call to the boss. Decision made.

Having witnessed this deliberation, it occurred to me that we are all having similar conversations with ourselves over and over again as we assess the risks of our jobs, leaving our homes, visiting relatives and friends, shopping, and living our lives with this pandemic.

Due to the uptick in cases, state and local leaders and health officials grapple with implementation of a mask mandate.  90th Missile Wing Commander Col. Pete Bonetti and base health experts contemplate the possibility of going back to the restrictions of health condition C on base, among other options.

As with each of us as individuals, they are trying to strike the right balance. Just like with everything in life, the proper balance is key.  Their’s is a tough job, balancing the genuine health concerns with real impacts on local businesses and the area economy. None of these leaders want any kind of a shut down again.

We all need to keep this in mind as we experience our own internal discussions about our behaviors and actions. Whether mandated or not, following the protocols, including wearing a mask, is a small price to pay to try to keep the virus in check. We all want to stay healthy, and keep our families safe.

Yes, my plumber fixed the problem completely and quickly, perhaps motivated to get out as soon as possible.  And he only charged me for an hour of labor.