2020 was a hell of a year, wasn’t it? I am sure everyone reading this had about as good a time as I had. We can look at this in a positive light – for the most part (yes, you can think of some exceptions. I know that I can) it was a very equalizing year that dished out much of the same shit to everyone playing the game. I like the looking at it like that.
But I am interested in trying to see things in a slightly different, and more interesting point of view. Specifically, we all try to reframe our experiences to make sense of them in light of our other experiences. I think we all do this.
China made me think about fluid dynamics1.
Ok, maybe it goes back further than that. When I was a kid I lived out in the middle of nowhere, and when I wanted to walk somewhere I would often have to walk alongside a small highway. People would ask me if I was concerned about breathing in the fumes of the passing cars.
I am convinced that if I had had different parents I would have become a scientist of some stripe. The sciences just fascinate me. Despite not really doing all that well in high school science classes, I know enough that if you pour a fluid into another fluid, the smaller dilutes into the larger. That’s a good base understanding that wonderfully confuses you when you think about the larger topic. Not convinced?
An old diesel truck passes you by and it dumps thick black smoke into the air. It quickly disappears into the surrounding air, but you can smell it long after you can no longer see it. But how long does it linger? How quickly does it dilute into the surrounding atmosphere before it becomes safe(ish) breathable air? This is what I would be thinking about on the 45 minute walk from my house to Borders Books where I would promptly forget about it and buy something by Robert Heinlein.
Ah, wasted youth.
China made me think about fluid dynamics. The city I lived in was horrifically polluted, and despite knowing this perfectly well the big-brained smart man that I was still decided that this was the place where I would become a commuter cyclist. I wore a mask (at least there was that!) when I was out biking, but when I got to whatever mall was my destination2 I would immediately take my mask off the second I would get through the large sliding doors.
Fluid dynamics once again. Was the air inside the mall any better than the air outside? If so, why? If all the air surrounding the shopping mall was polluted, wouldn’t the air inside be just as polluted? It’s not like they were piping air in from the fucking Himalayas. But even if the air were somehow better inside the mall, wouldn’t it be drop by drop diluted with the external polluted atmosphere at every opening of the doors? Did it make much since at all that me and some friends preferred to smoke indoors?
Ah, stupid early adulthood!
The mere mention of masks brings us screaming back into 2020. I have no problem politicizing the issues, so I will start by saying that the ‘maskholes’ and mask-skeptics can fuck right off. Fuck off right to the Wikipedia article on ‘fluid dynamics‘ – there is your courtesy links. But I get it. Really I do. There are enough people in my life that strive to simplify the world around us that I am familiar with looking at what are in reality very complicated topics in an oversimplified way. People don’t think of the air around them as being a fluid, despite the fact that it is.
I instead, spent far too much time thinking about fluid dynamics. While in China I would hastily rip my mask off the very moment I would enter into a building. In 2020, I would do the inverse – hastily ripping my mask off the moment I left a building. This is what my adopted government (Greece) recommended I do. Where a mask indoors and when you are near other people. But was that a decision that made any sense? Likely not. If the supermarket I went to on Saturday mornings, filled to the brim with potentially sick citizenry, was a potential cesspool of κορονοϊός, would not the terrible infected air be diluting into the outside world? Should I not walk a few feet away before ripping off my mask? But if that were the case, why take the mask off at all? After all, the terrible outside was full of possibly diseased people, with a two meter bubble of infected. Perhaps a better question would be to find out how long the diseased air around us took to dilute into the surrounding environment. That’s fluid dynamics again, but now I need a virologist as well, because the question now becomes whether or not the virus is truly airborne, or merely staying alive in the droplets of air that we constantly exhale. Do those droplets truly float, or do they sink to the ground? I once had a similar question about the PM2.5 that infested the air in China. How long does that shit hang around the air? Fluid dynamics again! Does this shit linger on clothes only to become airborne again when you go home, take your street clothes off and put your house clothes on. What if someone coughs outside your bedroom window, and the distance between you and them is just a few feet and your window is open because you live in Greece and it is hot as fuck-
Jesus Christ. This is how ordinary people turn into a late Howard Hughes.
I am writing this in Early November in 2020, and Greece has experience a terrifying explosion in Covid 19 cases.
Thus, the government has put in new restrictions. Where I am, restaurants are still open for now. But now masks are mandatory everywhere you go that is not your house. If you are walking around outside, you need to be wearing a mark. And while the government says that you must wear masks in all public places, I have no idea how this will effect restaurants. I so far have not seen all that much compliance, but I am sure this will likely change soon. The Greeks are famously pretty damn draconian with their fines, and the 150euro fine is about a quarter of the average national monthly wage.
Yup. I won’t be risking that.