Forty Days and Forty Nights

For someone who is supposed to be in isolation, I have a rather active social life, at least I did today. I got one phone call from a friend, made a call to wish another friend happy birthday, got a few emails, and spoke to a few people out in the wilds of my neighborhood. Whew! That’s more socializing than I do when I’m not isolating myself!

It was such a nice afternoon, still and warm, that several people were out and about when I went for a short walk. When I stopped to talk, I made sure I was far away from them, at least twenty feet, so both parties were protected. Tomorrow will be a bit chillier, then the next two days will be warm again. After that, I’ll be out of isolation, but I’m sure it will feel more isolating than these past days because the temperature will drop, and we’ll all be isolating ourselves in the coziness of our homes.

It is interesting, though, that in the computer age, isolation feels a lot less like isolation than it did when quarantines were first created in the 14th century. I paused here to check the internet, and actually, I’m wrong about the isolating factor of quarantines. The practice of quarantine started during plague times. To keep the plague from spreading to Venice and other coastal cities, ships were required to sit at anchor for forty days before landing. So back then, people were quarantined en masse. No isolation for them. They certainly didn’t need computers and such to make them feel less alone.

Quarantine today is a matter of fourteen days, not forty, so I’m not sure the practice can still be called a quarantine since the word comes from the Italian phrase quaranta giorni, which means 40 days. I wonder if they knew that’s how long it would take the plaque to remove itself from the ships, or if it was a biblical thing since Noah endured 40 days and 40 nights of rain, and Jesus fasted in the wilderness for forty days and forty nights. (So why weren’t the ships kept at anchor for quaranta giorni e quaranta notti? Or maybe they were, and like everything else, over time the phrase was shortened to make it less unwieldy.)

Whatever the meaning of quarantine, and despite my rather social time of isolation, I’m glad I don’t have to be alone for forty days and forty nights. Not that the addition of “nights” matters — I’m always alone at night. And anyway, technically I’m self-isolating rather than quarantining since no one is keeping me at home but me, and I can go and do wherever I want as long I stay far away from people. Which tends to be my inclination anyway.

***

What if God decided S/He didn’t like how the world turned out, and turned it over to a development company from the planet Xerxes for re-creation? Would you survive? Could you survive?

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One Response to “Forty Days and Forty Nights”

  1. Estragon Says:

    The picture and reference to boat quarantines made me think of modern marine flag etiquette.

    I considered the notion of floating around somewhat aimlessly on a boat for a while after my wife died, but with a world gone even stranger with Bob, I’ve tabled that notion for the time being. Still, I wondered about the logistics.

    The history of the ‘Q’ flag is interesting, but the reality is it invites local authorities to satisfy themselves your vessel presents no threat. That process might take 40 minutes, or 40 years. It’s at the whim of the authority at the port of entry. The idea implicit in the etiquette seems to be that while waiting for pratique, the vessel flying the flag is warning of potential contagion. What happens though, when some vessels don’t adhere to etiquette?


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