Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Coincidences, COVID-19, and St. Patrick's Day

How do you feel about coincidences? In this current week of our lives, I’d guess that most people we know are either in a total zone of Zenlike calm, which is a good thing; or, they’re jumpy as heck, on the verge of panicked desperation because our world has been turned upside down without our permission. It’s a case of: “we shoulda seen this coming but didn’t.” Right after being wary of the Ides of March, one day before St. Patrick is remembered across this country (in gatherings of less than 50, or 10, people depending on who you listen to), yesterday I received a Facebook message from a friend. It had four image panels and looked like this:
Paragraphs of text were circled in red on two separate pages and there was a photo of a well-worn paperback cover and a panel of “Published 1981” on it. This is likely one many of you have received today to focus on the “coincidence” of a virus with ties to Wuhan, China, where the first case of COVID-19 was noted. Since this hardcover was released April 1, 1989, I’m not sure where the “Published 1981” came from. Statistical outlier no doubt. Here’s the synopsis of the Koontz book:

"A year had passed since little Danny's death - A year since his mother began the painful process of acceptance. But Tina Evans could have sworn she just saw her Danny in a stranger's car...Then she dreamed that Danny was alive. And when she awoke, she found a message waiting for her in Danny's bedroom - Two disturbing words scrawled on his chalkboard: NOT DEAD. Was this someone's grim joke? Her mind playing tricks on her? Or something ...more? For Tina Evans, it was a mystery she couldn't escape. An obsession that would lead her from the bright lights of Las Vegas to the cold shadows of the High Sierras. A terrible secret seen only by...The Eyes of Darkness." Aside from being amusing since I have a friend named Tina Evans, I stared again at the four panels…the other printed page had a page number on it at the bottom middle (p. 312) and looked to be printed in a font close to Century Schoolbook.

From the get-go, receiving anything in a mass-chain type of communication is 99% of the time going to be a hoax. But, I was between the Ides of March and the faithful Saint Paddy and I fell down the rabbit hole for a while. The sentence most intriguing of Koontz’ novel was “They call the stuff ‘Wuhan-400’ because it was developed at their RDNA labs outside of the city of Wuhan, and it was the four-hundredth viable strain of man-made microorganisms created at that research center.” The text continues to describe viability and how it dies, but that was not the point.

The other printed page had a header with the book title and page number in the upper right-hand corner, and a sort of Georgia kind of font (my font expert friends can correct me), I knew that meant two different books were being cited.

How a city that has one of the single worst public restroom systems hasn’t fostered something outside of a laboratory long before this is a mystery. They’re not big on communication in general as news reports have traced the identification of the first case there to November 17, 2019. From The Guardian on March 13:

“…report in the South China Morning Post said Chinese authorities had identified at least 266 people who contracted the virus last year and who came under medical surveillance, and the earliest case was…weeks before authorities announced the emergence of the new virus. The Chinese government was widely criticized over attempts to cover up the outbreak in the early weeks, including crackdowns on doctors who tried to warn colleagues about a new…virus which was emerging of Wuhan…”
If that’s not enough, there’s a new headline in an Australian publication: "Social media star missing after calling Chinese president a ‘clown.’" Uh oh. Shades of Jamal Khashoggi, or just a coincidence? I don't want to ask that question. Moving on...

Now, Dean Koontz had no way of knowing and none of his other books have any psychic forecasts that have struck a chord, so let’s just call that one a coincidence and be done with it. But the other page was definitely from a second book. Back to Snopes.

The post of February 18, 2020, goes to show you that this is an “old” rumor if it’s already been snoped for a month. However the post by Dan Evon merely dismisses Koontz as a prognosticator for Coronavirus and yet subtly reveals a very interesting fact. When the book was first published in 1981, the virus was originally called “Gorki-400” and the city of creation was Gorki, Russia. By 2008 another printing of the book had the virus renamed “Wuhan-400” and the city of manufacture as China. Hmm. Coincidence? Maybe.

Then on Snopes, I discovered a related story by Bethania Palma (March 4) with the “other” printed page as the image. Aha! That page was from psychic medium Sylvia Browne’s 2008 book “End of Days,” and her text indicated that “It will suddenly vanish as quickly as it arrived, attack again ten years later, and then disappear completely.” Well, good guesser or not, Browne’s prognostication arrived 12 years early. Coincidence? Sylvia Browne’s predictions occasionally found home plate until she died in 2013, so who knows?

On Amazon, there’s only one copy of Browne’s “End of Days” and it’s an audio CD; you’ll have to have deep pockets to afford the $500.02 for the one used copy now available. Oh, by the way, shipping is $3.99 as it’s not a Prime purchase. Heck, if you can afford $500 for the used CD, the extra $4 won’t sink you. There is one new paperback for a bargain price of $327.27. Hey, if they’d just throw in a few 12-packs of toilet paper, I might think about it but…well, never mind. Darned hoarders.

If you want a hardcopy book of Dean Koontz’s “The Eyes of Darkness,” there are five collectibles from $599 up. We can get a bargain on the mass market paperback from $295.28, but the audiobook is free if you just want to listen and are willing to join Amazon Audible for a trial run. What have you got to lose? Other than $599. We’re living in strange times right now. I’m not here to make fun of a serious disease. Coronavirus. It threatens the very lives of our senior communities and those with impaired immune systems. State and federal responses to this pandemic remain, with few welcome exceptions, political. Our city and municipal responses of first responders and emergency personnel as well as all our health care providers across the Brazos Valley are the most dedicated, reliable, and caring groups of individuals we are lucky enough to have. I pay close attention to what they say.

In days and times of serious consequences, it’s easy to get caught up in panic, fear, and what-if’s that drive you to distraction. It’s unnecessary when you use common sense, pay attention in your hometown, and keep the faith that together we can all get through this. The state of faith and hope and confidence is the best state you can live in. Even if you don’t believe in coincidences, you can still take a chance on the luck of the Irish and try to enjoy the day, even if there’s no bar you can go to for green beer unless it's one with less than 50 people. This celebration day will be around again next year at this time and, with all of God’s grace and good fortune, we will all be here, too. Stay safe out there, save your money by avoiding scam prices on goods that will be back in stock in a week or two, and have faith in things unseen to combat things unseen. Don't pass on or forward on Facebook any viral messages that even look fake, because they generally are. In the end, we have an abundance of hope and faith in great people doing their best to keep us safe here in Bryan-College Station, and for that reason we can smile. We're all in this together. My the luck of the Irish be with ya!

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