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No place like home

Matt Anderson
Kyon Cheng/Flickr

One of the many social divisions created by the COVID-19 pandemic is between those who have continued to travel for pleasure and those who have chosen to stay at home. Some of our friends have been as isolated as hermits, while others are perpetually heading for the airport, determined to go on vacation regardless of health warnings, airline chaos and political instability.

We all feel the pull of that summer migrating instinct, which is one of the fundamental characteristics of our species. Wherever we are we want to be somewhere else, especially in August. But where should we go?

Stick a pin in the map of the world and you hit either a polluted ocean or a country with serious troubles of a political, social, medical or gastronomic nature, and probably all four. Coups and revolutions, fundamentalists fighting battles left over from the Middle Ages, kidnappings, horrible diseases, incomprehensible languages and disgusting food are par for the course. COVID is everywhere and is now joined by monkeypox. The world is not a friendly place.

The obvious solution is to vacation right here in the United States, surely the safest place on the planet. But no: it's a war zone out there, with angry and distracted drivers, conspiracy theorists, armed militias, insane cults and brutal criminal gangs to say nothing of heatwaves, tornadoes, floods, and the brand-new diseases that the CDC discovers almost every day. Half an hour watching the six o’clock news is enough to convince me that it's not even safe to go to the post office.

So for the sake of survival, we decided to vacation at home this summer. But then I read a report issued by the Home Safety Council. My sense of security vanished. Staying home is the most dangerous choice of all.

We can afford to ignore some of the top ten home hazards. Drowning is unlikely because we don’t have a pool and usually take showers. We can avoid suffocation by following the Safety Council’s excellent advice never to put plastic bags over our heads. We are not at risk from firearms or cigarettes because we don't do tobacco smoke or gun smoke.

On the other hand death by fire, poisoning or knife wounds are real possibilities, as long as we continue to use the kitchen. Kitchens are lethally dangerous places. We could always eat out, but “out” is the worst possible place to be. And there’s always the silent threat of radioactive radon gas that lurks in 30% New York homes. How safe can we be, trapped in the house with all these potential killers?

The backyard is almost safe. Nothing much to worry about there, except a few deer ticks carrying Lyme disease, M=mosquitoes carrying Zika virus, West Nile virus, Chikungunya virus, dengue fever, and malaria, ultraviolet rays, unknown chemicals drifting in the air from nearby tree-spraying operations, lots of poison ivy, some dangerous overhanging tree branches, and a shed full of homicidal machines plastered with warning signs.

The fact is that it's dangerous to stay indoors and positively suicidal to go outdoors.

As soon as commercial space flights become available we’re going to book our vacation on some nice, uncrowded planet, where none of this dangerous stuff is happening. Mars is said to be very agreeable, with no known cases of Coronavirus and a beach temperature of around eighty degrees in August. But first we’ll have to make it safely to the airport.

David began as a print journalist in London and taught at a British university for almost 20 years. He joined WSHU as a weekly commentator in 1992, becoming host of Sunday Matinee in 1996.