Tag Archives: Panics disasters and emergencies bring out all kinds of reactions and behaviors in people.

“crisis managers”


Second Avenue 3-15-2020

Second Avenue, Sunday, March 15, 2020

I can’t speak for most people, but I assume that my behavior in response to the Coronavirus epidemic is not that uncommon.

My initial instincts a week or two ago — my thoughts then — were, I can’t eliminate all possibility of illness, control all circumstances. I will try to observe the recommend actions (such as washing my hands more frequently) and precautions, but I’m not going to shut down, or alter my daily routine.

Since then, the fears and warnings have been mounting steadily at an accelerating pace. I am taking the warnings and recommendations seriously and am planning to stay at home for the most part. And many activities such as concerts and classes have been canceled anyway.



On Thursday evening during the preceding week, before language classes were cancelled, I was seated on a bench in a hallway of the language school waiting for my class to begin. I was conversing with a fellow student.

I coughed once or twice.

Being very mindful of warnings regarding coughing in public places, I leaned over, turned away from my classmate, and covered my mouth.

“Are you ill?” an obnoxious woman seated across the hall with a friend said. When I didn’t answer right away, she repeated the question.

“I coughed,” I said. “That isn’t unusual. Are you trying to imply that I have an infection?”



I can’t stay indoors all the time, and I wouldn’t recommend it for healthy people, virus notwithstanding.

Yesterday I went for a walk in Manhattan. A beautiful, mild, sunny day. Sun drenched sidewalks.

I was walking downtown on Second Avenue in the 30’s.

I seem to have an allergic condition where, at any time, including times when I am well and don’t have a cold, the air can cause me to cough. It’s usually cold air, the effects of which I often experience the minute I go outside, or sometimes dust indoors.

It was approximately 1 p.m. There were very few pedestrians, and there was no one near me.

A gust of wind hit me, and I coughed once. It was barely noticeable.

I continued walking. I thought I heard someone say, angrily, “Cover your mouth!”

I walked a few more steps, then turned and looked backwards. Was the remark meant for me?

Apparently — in fact — it was. The only other people on the block were a woman and man standing together a half a block away. They were conversing, not walking.

It was the woman who had told me to cover my mouth.

The average city block in Manhattan is slightly over 260 feet long. The couple was more than 100 feet away from me when I coughed. I was in the open air when I coughed. Not near anyone. Not coughing on anyone or in their face.


Panics, disasters, and emergencies bring out all kinds of reactions and behaviors in people.

Good and bad. The best and the worst. Selfish and altruistic. Noble and petty.

Some persons exhibit increased concern and thoughtfulness for others and their welfare. Others use them as an occasion to exhibit traits of officiousness and pettiness which they feel a license to exhibit.

Such as taking out their anxieties and fears and obsessive tendencies on others who have nothing to do with them and no actual or conceivable relationship to any actual emergency.

They are taking their anxiety out on others and therefore increasing the level of everyone else’s anxiety.


The truth of the situation with these minders, these obnoxious persons, is that they see a crisis situation as an opportunity, almost an incentive, to pick on other people who didn’t create the situation and who have no more to do with it than they do.

There is no way to tell who one encounters in public might be infected. But let’s pick on anyone whom we don’t take to, or about whom something or other might give us the opportunity to show that we are on the lookout for infected persons. Got to keep our streets and classes disease free!

Shows we are on the watch.

We went for a walk in public despite the warnings. While we’re out, we’ll police the streets. Can’t have too few “hall monitors” watching the sidewalks for Coronavirus transmitters. We’re civic minded. No telling who might deserve a scolding.



A crisis brings out the magnanimous and the petty.

Some people are inherently mean.

A crisis gives them an incentive and what they regard as license to take out their mean impulses on the pretense that it’s for the common good. They view themselves as benefactors when it’s actually the opposite. Read, malefactor(s). They are doing harm.

Dissatisfaction with themselves and present conditions becomes disapproval of others.

— Roger W. Smith

   March 16, 2020




I recommend as reading at this time an unforgettable and totally engrossing book: A Journal of the Plague Year by Daniel Defoe.

cover - A Journal of the Plague Year