The Biscayne Times

Aug 03rd
A Shout Out to You Shut-Ins PDF Print E-mail
Written by Jay Beskin, BT Contributor   
April 2020

Enjoy a book, the balcony, and your family (if you can)

Tbigstock-Pandemic-Coronavirus-Quarantin-355841369he term shut-in has always been one of those words you have to listen to very carefully when it’s introduced in conversation. It could be used compassionately, as in, “Poor Henry’s Mom, she has so many ailments that at this point she’s become a shut-in.”

Or it could come with a pejorative connotation, as in, “Those radio ads are all about selling burglar alarms or pizza deliveries for shut-ins.”

Now that we’ve all become shut-ins, we are left trying to decide if we should wear our newfound appellation with pride, like it’s some “red badge of courage” or with shame, like a “scarlet letter.”

Of course, we’re being assured that we are only being shut in, and not shut out. After all, we aren’t missing any major sporting events, are we? No, because there are none. Nor are there any concerts, gallery showings, museum installations, county fairs, garden tours, amusement parks, boat shows, or even movies playing. You can’t really have FOMO (fear of missing out, for you fogeys) when there’s nothing out there to miss -- and in any case, you have FOGO (fear of going out).

So you console yourself that you are shut in, but not shut out. But then it hits you that unless you’re a TV and Internet addict -- or that most anachronistic creature of all, a reader of books -- you really are shut down.

Is it called “cabin fever” or “going stir crazy” when family members start yelling “Shut up!” at each other? I would say that it is an open and shut case.

I shudder to think how much longer we will stay shuttered like this, and as I do a dry chuckle (not a cough, thankfully), I say to myself that this is not funny. Not even a little bit!

Still, gallows humor is the only kind available to us at this time, and I refuse to relinquish that last teeny semblance of normalcy. In a deeper sense, I think that all gallows humor is a declaration that what we are experiencing is not normal -- and also a kind of silent prayer for normalcy to be ours once again after the Deluge.

If we succumb to paranoia or even to fatalism, we’re in danger of losing the ability to fight back. As wacky as this may sound to a bunch of couch potatoes, we’re an army arrayed fearlessly against the forces of contagion. And the way to fight is to be fearful of all potentially infectious contact. Fearlessly fearful, that’s us. We have nothing to fear but fear itself, and nothing to fight back with but fear itself.

So please forgive me for introducing a fear factor endemic (no; that sounds too much like epidemic) to Aventura more so than most other Floridian municipalities. Right now, the hardest hit place in the country is New York City, and we have something in common with it: population density.

In reading about the awful circumstances in New York City, one encounters several theories to account for the intensity of the outbreak in the Big Apple. As of March 26, the State of New York has identified 37,258 cases of coronavirus, including 385 deaths. The lion’s share are from New York City.

By contrast, the other 49 states combined have 38,407. To give even more perspective, we should note that the only countries in the world other than the United States with more cases than New York State are China (81,285), Italy (80,539), Spain (56,197), and Germany (43,646). All have since increased.

One theory for New York being hardest hit is the “melting pot” status of the city as the port of entry for most of the country’s immigrants from all over the world. (Ironically, perhaps, one of the three New York City neighborhoods to have a minority of English speakers is named Corona.) In any case, the traffic from trouble spots in the world into New York City is so voluminous that even the early closure of entry from China and the subsequent embargo on Europeans has been too little too late.

But the theory coming up right behind that one is population density. New York City is the most densely packed of any U.S. city with a population above 100,000. New York has 8.5 million citizens spread out at an average of 26,400 people per square mile. And in the borough of Manhattan, there are 66,940 sardines per can -- I mean, people per square mile.

Seeing such numbers on a page is enough to give anyone vertigo. Imagine having to live that way every day! Now try to imagine living that way during a plague.

The scary thing is that Aventura has the same problem, although our numbers aren’t in their league. Our official population is in the area of 36,000, spread over 3.5 square miles. Those are not Manhattan stats, but they still represent a lot of people taking up very little space.

We accomplish this in the same way Manhattan does, by building upward. The taller the building, the more layers we are essentially adding to the planet Earth. In good times, this makes Aventura an exciting place to live, with a lot of human energy and a lot of social activity. In the era of social distancing, we need more space between people. That is something we really cannot accomplish if folks are out and about, because then all those people living on the second floor and on up will now all be sharing the ground floor at close quarters.

And so we are much more confined by this phenomenon than someone who is sitting on the back porch of his ranch house over in Clearwater, which has the same 36 in its statistics. It comprises 36 square miles and has a total population of about 115,000. The difference in density is stark. And although I don’t have a statistic for it available, I am betting that the average age is much lower as well.

So that’s the bad news. What’s the good news, you ask? Well, for one thing, we have almost 20,000 women out of that 36,000 population total, and women have been faring somewhat better with this disease than us men.

For another thing, we have attained high levels of education, which presumably prepares people to accept sitting home and reading as a fate not worse than death.

We also have much nicer views from our porches. Many of us can “go to the beach” by just staring out to the horizon. Now, if only the other members of our families would just shut up.


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