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As Florida reopens, please don’t be a nitwit
Stephanie Hayes | In praise of some healthy fear.
Clearwater Beach is back in business, as of Monday.
Clearwater Beach is back in business, as of Monday. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]
Published May 5, 2020
Updated May 5, 2020

The screams came from the street at 10 p.m. Friday. Surely we were going to be on 48 Hours.

I peered out the curtain like Gladys Kravitz. Ripping down our street was a packed six-seater golf cart, rope tied to the back pulling a dude on a skateboard. The woos could be heard in New Zealand.

We were days away from Florida’s slow reopening of beaches, restaurants and stores. Folks were already like: “Do you hear the people sing? Singing the songs of angry men!” That day, 25 customers lounged outside a neighborhood brewery where I stopped for a to-go order. One large group curiously claimed they lived together. If “we reside in the Bachelor house” is the standard defense when restaurateurs try to break up groups, woof. Bless our business owners.

Clichés are simple and comforting. A favorite right now is “we’re all in this together,” a nice sentiment except it’s not true. We are thankfully not all together on that golf cart. And we all have different circumstances in this journey.

But it would be good if we could do one thing together: be responsible.

Compatriots, everyone tires of this. But we must exercise impulse control. This function is found just below the Amazon 1-Click checkout region of the prefrontal cortex.

Just because the state is reopening, you do not have to rage against the dying of the light. Chest bumps are not required. It is not time to resume shirts and skins street hockey.

No one wants to be ruled by fear. Gov. Ron DeSantis has said “the only thing we have to fear is letting fear overwhelm our sense of purpose and determination.” Indeed, greatness happens when we overcome worries, and unchecked fear can be debilitating.

But — I will whisper this — some fear is helpful.

Fear is a primitive, evolutionary tool. It keeps us from placing a bare hand on a burning stove. It has stopped men from walking into the caves of taloned beasts. It keeps us alive.

Florida reported a record 113 coronavirus deaths on Tuesday, including 11 in Tampa Bay. Don’t fight your survival instincts. If a beach hangout looks too busy, listen to the primal voice. Choose it over the live performance of Brown Eyed Girl. You have heard that cover before, and you will hear it again.

Our actions have consequences. Going through this again because we lie and deny our way into pleasure, because we choose a fleeting moment of invincibility over caution and care for our fellow man? Well, we should all be afraid of that.

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