Please Stand By

Once upon a time, regular television programming would be interrupted unexpectedly and for mysterious technical reasons. The screen would not go blank, but would show “snow” — little black and white dots. The sound would be just static.

This was before cable — and certainly before Internet — television. So the normal reaction would be to think perhaps it was our television or antenna that had gone awry. Soon, though, the deep voice of the announcer would come up and a rainbow of colors would come on the screen. “Please stand by. We are experiencing technical difficulties. Do not adjust your television set.”

So we would settle in, staring at the rainbow (called “bars”), waiting for the regular programming to return once the technicians sorted it out. There was nothing we could do but wait.

We are in that state right now, aren’t we? We need to stand by, while other people — physicians, nurses, respiratory therapists, laboratory technicians and armies of other health care workers — try to sort out what’s going on. National leaders (the wise ones) are turning to scientists and epidemiologists for guidance on when we can return to our regularly scheduled programming.

We wait.

But what if we could change the channel? What if, while we’re waiting, we decided that the regularly scheduled program wasn’t that great?

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