In a few hours, I’ll be in my car.
It’s a nine-year-old Toyota Prius that bears nine years worth of scars. Rear-ended three times. Sideswiped by a crafty pole that jumped out of nowhere. One headlight is perpetually brighter than the other like it’s a nine-season NFL veteran. Still going strong. And one headlight is brighter than the other, did I mention that?
I’ve slept in that car, sometimes while parked. Gotten tickets. Sung countless songs. Done “other things” in that car which, if I someday become a world-renowned writer, will dramatically increase its Kelley Blue Book value when accompanied by this essay. I’ll sign a copy for you, just ask.
But today, I’ll be doing what I’ve been doing in the Prius for the last several months, ever since I closed my business. I’ll be delivering GrubHub orders to people’s homes.
I assumed—incorrectly—that I’d be doing something of more import at age 44. Don’t misunderstand; I’m grateful to have any work in These Unprecedented Times®, as I have grown accustomed to “eating food” and “sleeping under roofs.” I had simply been lulled into a peaceful, albeit flawed expectation that my slow, upward trajectory would continue.
And it likely still will, at least when zoomed out to a wider view. I just failed to account for how gullible and hateful so many American voters could be, and how their abject idiocy would lead so directly to my undoing.
Let me rephrase that, I want to be crystal clear:
With regard to my current status, I blame Donald Trump and everyone who follows him.
To be fair (something he would never be to me or you), he’s not totally at fault. Nor are his sycophants, his marks, or his enablers. I’ve made plenty of missteps in life without a single assist from anyone, most especially a bunch of people I’ve never met. I’m a noted fuck-up. People often see my fuckery and, without fail, they note it.
But pandemics are predictable in a stochastic sense. Just like hurricanes and herpes outbreaks. Did you know that was the original state motto of Louisiana? It’s true. You just read it on the Internet, that’s how you know.
We know pandemics are coming with 100% certainty, we just don’t know when. That’s why responsible governments with almost limitless resources plan for their arrival. Better to invest in preparedness while you have time and space than to, lets say, throw all of those plans in the trash because they were written by your brilliant predecessor whose universal admiration and large hands made you feel rightly insecure.
How Hard Can It Be If THIS Guy Is Doing It?
It’s hard to imagine anyone mismanaging a pandemic as criminally as Donald Trump. It’s difficult to believe anyone would prioritize his own ego over the lives, jobs, businesses, and health of millions of his countrymen. But here we are, aren’t we?
I often ask myself while delivering people’s Taco Bell orders in my beat-up Prius, could I be the President of the United States?
Not should I, or do I want to be. I shouldn’t, and I don’t. But could I? Do I have the intellectual bandwidth, gravitas, leadership, charisma, and spine to lead my country?
The short answer is no. The longer answer is oh, for fuck’s sake, of course not.
But let’s assume I accidentally rode down a golden escalator (literally, ignoring the fact that it sounds like a euphemism for bathroom stuff) with my third wife, blamed America’s ills on Mexicans, and grabbed just enough pussies to propel myself into the Oval Office.
First, I’d wipe the Big Mac Special Sauce from my chin, tuck my neckgina into my makeup-stained collar, and lock myself in the executive washroom to cry. A lot. I would immediately recognize I was 100% fuuuuuucked.
I’d compose myself and quickly start assembling a team of the smartest people in the world. I don’t know jack shit about much of anything, but I’m especially lacking on topics that will aid me in tasks such as “not getting everyone killed.”
I would commit myself to waking up at four in the morning, reading every bit of intelligence and analysis available, and working through every meal. I’d probably even cut back on golf, especially given how much grief I gave the last guy about it.
I’m likely going to zone out as some doofus shows me around the White House. My Adderall-addled (Adderaddled?) brain would skip franticly from topic to topic. How many branches of government are there? What was the Smoot-Hawley Tariff? What’s the capital of Moldova? Fuck, I have no idea. Who is the world’s foremost expert on all things Moldovan? Get her in here to brief me ASAP. It seems wrong to have this random gap in my knowledge. I’m the
presodent prezadent president, after all.
And—crucially—I’d have assistants who’d know that my 85th greatest weakness is quasi-hot Eastern European chicks, so they’d cleverly send me the second most expertise-having expert. He’s a dude, so there’s a slightly lower chance of me popping a Tic-Tac mid-briefing and moving on him like a bitch.
I’d quickly realize that I have more than mere chaperones to keep me from accidentally shtupping elite randos. I also have a cadre of people whose collective job in life is to make me look and sound “presidential.”
They will each default to writing speeches for me that rival those of Lincoln and Kennedy. My only job is to read the speeches into the camera and avoid going on gaffe-filled ad-libs that’ll be the only parts anyone remembers. I’m not only speaking to the people of today, after all. I’m speaking to the generations of the furniture, and the future.
My team will brief me fully and in whatever form I explicitly, tacitly, or implicitly request—charts, narratives, coloring books—and my one task is to pay medication-assisted attention for one or two minutes. Surely I can do that, I mean how hard is it to HEY LOOK! A BIRD! Sorry, what was I talking about?
Somewhere in the first hour of my new gig, my team of nerds would tell me something infuriating, yet surprisingly reassuring: it turns out the guy I disparaged for years actually commissioned a thorough, gamed-out, multifaceted plan in the off-chance that a deadly virus landed on our shores in 2020.
Holy shit, I have a pandemic plan?! Wow, I’m better at this than I thought! You know, as much as I don’t want to admit it—so I clearly will do no such thing—that Kenyan Muslim did me a huge solid!
Still, we would have to act fast. Right away, I’d have my team take the obvious initial step in pandemic preparation and response: replace the binders with new ones that have my name on them. Gold letters. BIG. No, bigger than that. Fantastic.
Man, I am glad I came up with this brilliant pandemic plan. Hopefully, we’ll never need it. But if we do, this will ensure we’ll kick the virus’s ass, save humanity, and grow the economy. And we’ll be a shoe-in for a second term. To think I had no idea what I was doing just a few paragraphs ago! Just tremendous.
That’s what I would have done.
What, You Think You Could Do Better?
I am inept, incompetent, shallow, kind of stupid, but just smart enough to know all of that. I’d compensate for those shortcomings by relying on hundreds of smarter people, all paid to help me succeed at making tough decisions while looking good doing it. I’d recognize that with the geniuses working for me, a fucking dolphin could be a successful president if he’d just play along and let them do their jobs.
But instead of a fucking dolphin, we had the Syphilitic-Walnut-In-Chief leading us.
Instead of listening to every expert, locking down temporarily, and compensating us to stay physically separated, we took an alternative path and did almost nothing. Individual cities and states were left to make excruciating decisions on the matter, and then derided by the President for whatever decision they made.
Masks? Weak. They make me look like a pussy when I’m talking to
my fellow dictators. Besides, they smear my makeup. And sure, the “scientists” say they’ll help us flatten the curve, but have you watched this YouTube video about how masks deprive our bodies of oxygen? The MyPillow guy sent it to me. I watched it, and I am now baffled as to how surgeons operate for hours on end without dying. Also, the masks make them look like little bitches. TAKE OFF YOUR MASKS, YOU SURGERY-PERFORMING SHEEP!
Our number of cases and deaths has been going up, after all, because we’re testing too much. If we’d stop testing people to see if they’re sick and/or dead, our numbers would go down. Everyone knows that. “Everyone,” in this sense, is the Trumpian version of Queen Elizabeth II’s “The Royal ‘We’.” Just look at North Korea and Turkmenistan: they don’t test at all, and they both have zero cases. We could learn a thing or two from those vanguards of scientific advancement and transparency.
“It’ll all go away in a month or two when the weather gets warmer,” after all.
Small businesses shuttered by the hundreds of thousands. Many simply closed due to inability to afford the requisite shutters. Layoffs surged as businesses that somehow survived nonetheless cut jobs to stay afloat.
Americans looked to Congress for help, but the President gave the politicians cover at every turn by pointing to the health of the stock market. Except, of course, on days when the stock market tumbled, in which case the President tweeted mostly about TV ratings. Honestly, I think many of us got distracted as to the importance of Fox and Friends versus Morning Joe ratings in the midst of getting intubated. It’s an all-too-common misstep among the intubation-needing class. Sad!
And what about PPE? Never heard of it? Wait, isn’t that where the Penguins play? What the hell does that have to do with coronavirus? And why is my doctor wearing a Hefty bag? What a loser. Put on scrubs and look the part, okay? I love Scrubs. Such a good show. Ratings up there with Fox and Friends. Just phenomenal.
As our infection and death rates skyrocketed, those of other industrialized countries stabilized and fell. To date, we represent around 20% of the total COVID-19 deaths in the world, but only 4% of the world’s population. That, my friends, is what we in the snark business call “American Exceptionalism.”
So far, we’ve lost 400,000 American lives due to COVID-19. That would be like losing the entire population of New Orleans in a hurricane. An extremely-slow-moving hurricane. That every expert warned us was coming. That could’ve been greatly mitigated if we’d done literally anything at all.
We’ve seen around 22 million people lose their jobs. That number leaves out people who retired early against their will, parents who opted to drop out of the workforce to be full-time-yet-wholly-unqualified home educators, the “underemployed” who simply lost half their shifts, and those who went on sick leave and never returned.
And it leaves out people like me, who lost their business and started delivering food in the gig economy instead.
Death And Destruction, Delivered
Beyond the overwhelming death and sickness of 2020, I contemplate the collateral damage of this colossal shitting of our collective bed.
How many years of crucial socialization are being missed by four- and five-year-olds whose schools are closed?
How many final goodbyes have been reduced to a facetime call? How many funerals have been hosted by Zoom?
How many people have lifelong lung damage? How many have lifelong mental damage? Or lifelong economic harm from which they’ll never fully rebound?
How many of each of those lost lives, jobs, school years, and final sendoffs were avoidable but for the all-consuming ego of one man?
Could someone with a rudimentary understanding of science done five percent better? Could a different president have saved ten percent of our lost lives and jobs by simply not actively undermining public health guidance? Could a man who didn’t view every other person’s expertise as a challenge to his machismo have acted a little faster, a little smarter, and kept a few more of us safe?
I’m just your GrubHub driver, arriving now in a 2012 silver Toyota Prius, but I have to believe the answer to all of those questions is a resounding and obvious yes.
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Need some more Hitting The Trifecta right now? Try this one: Blink And You’ll Miss Yaupon Season. Or how about this one? If You’ll Excuse Me, I’ve Gotta See A Man About A Dog. You’ll like this one, too: Be Kind, Rewind.