Social distancing used to be what fishermen regularly practiced when they went fishing, often quite voluntarily. Now the term is repeated ad nauseam on virtually every broadcast and talk show, having morphed into a repetitive reminder that our inside and outside worlds have changed and may never be the same. It’s brought us one way grocery aisles, plastic barriers at beer counters, late night convenience stores where even clerks are wearing ski masks, and now, outright anger from out-of-state fishermen who can’t get to boats they keep in The Ocean State. To be fair, these are uncharted waters for everyone.
Fish talk forums have become whipping posts for anglers venting about their situation and Steve Medeiros, who leads the RI Saltwater Anglers Association and manages a private but very popular fishing email thread, recently shut down conversation about anglers’ anger towards the State’s new Marina, Yacht Club and Harbor Master Guidance, which includes the language, “Limit use of facilities to RI resident seasonal slip holders only. Use of facilities by transients and out of state boaters is prohibited.” He understands everyone is doing their level best.
One Massachusetts resident and Fish Wrap reader who has kept a boat here for nine plus years, contacted us to say he was upset he couldn’t get into a marina to start working on his center console, especially since his 2020 maintenance and slip fees are already paid. He’s disappointed he can’t be trusted to maintain six feet from yard workers while he puts up his canvas and chases down gremlins in his wiring while we cross the line to shop for Charmin in Seekonk. That’s a fair argument for sure.
The rub is that none of us put us here and let’s be frank, whether you love the great indoors or out, our situation is lousy but even those with short memories know it could be worse. As a woman on the TV news wailed from the passenger seat about desperately needing to get her hair colored, the idea of Covid perspective arose.
Local governments are trying to keep the ship right and be fair. Our governor surely didn’t anticipate this as she eyed her next political post. DEM didn’t expect to close beaches and parks. Meanwhile, Jordan is using wartime sirens to call people back to their homes as soldiers by the thousands patrol streets to enforce curfews punishable by a year in prison. Middle eastern shrines have been closed.
The annual hajj to Mecca in Saudi Arabia has been cancelled. Germany has cancelled Oktoberfest. Spain called off the Running of the Bulls. All major league sports are suspended or cancelled, except for the WWE which was determined to be an “essential business” in Florida. While you process that one, it’s clear sacrifices needed to be made.
The Dead cancelled their summer tour.
During the world wars, many who hadn’t been drafted, survived on canned rations they rationed because there was no defined end to war nor promise of more food. Europeans sheltered in their homes as bombs fell from the sky. At the height of the Spanish Influenza Pandemic of 1918, which likely originated in Kansas, it’s estimated that 675,000 Americans perished, roughly ten times more than were killed in World War One. T
he government was forced to impose restrictions, just like now.
In her pandemic review, Molly Billings wrote, “The public health departments distributed gauze masks to be worn in public. Stores could not hold sales, funerals were limited to 15 minutes. Some towns required a signed certificate to enter and railroads would not accept passengers without them. Those who ignored the flu ordinances had to pay steep fines enforced by extra officers (Deseret News). Besides the lack of health care workers and medical supplies, there was a shortage of coffins, morticians and gravediggers (Knox). The conditions in 1918 were not so far removed from the Black Death in the era of the bubonic plague of the Middle Ages.”
With respect to those suffering the effects of Covid-19, in the big picture, we’re still very lucky for all we have and we’re all going to sacrifice something to get through this.
Ironically, our new reality reflects Sir Isaac Newton’s Third Law of Physics: for every action there’s an equal and opposite reaction. Some parts of India’s Punjab state, in light of decreased air pollution, can now see the Himalayan mountains for the first time in 30 years. In South Africa‘s Kruger National Park, lions are laying on warm stretches of empty pavement without the harassment of tourism. Jellyfish are swimming freely in Venice canals. Local fishing clubs are learning to run internet tournaments as rush hour traffic reports have become almost comical for their sparsity.
Social distancing and padlocks have become the new normal but we’re all looking for the line.
What’s logical and what’s ridiculous? What makes sense and when do we stop making sense? That’s part of our Massachusetts readers’ concern; for now the only logical response is “caution”. The Governor, the DOH, the DEM and others are busting their collective backsides to balance our physical health with our mental health but everyone is nervous and let’s be honest, in this litigious society where we need to be warned that hot coffee might be hot and a jar of peanuts contains nuts, the first person to contract Covid-19 at a boat yard or trail head will get their fifteen minutes to accuse the State of not doing enough.
Remember the lady with the spindly grey hair waving a flag and showing of her roots?
From this desk, there is no easy answer yet but our state government gets a tip of the camo hat for working hard to protect us, as does Steve Medeiros for working to keep fishermen informed and rational. These are tricky times for sure and I don’t envy out-of-staters because their dismay is reasonable but we’re sure of one thing: when borders open again, there will be lots of fish to catch which have likely enjoyed their social distances from us.