Super Hero V: Epidemic of Cooperation—The Three Cs of Isolation

By Robert Kroll

We’re sheltering-in-place, aka SIPing, in Northern California. We were there on a business trip in early March, and two days later Governor Newsom shut down the nine Bay Area counties. Governor Cuomo announced that in “two weeks things are going to get bad…and two weeks after that they are going to get terrible,” or words to that effect. So here we hunker.

Could a co-op super maintain a building 2590 miles away (as the Kroll flies)? We were about to find out. If universities and public schools could operate remotely, why couldn’t a brownstone be up and functioning as “virtually” normal?
Once everyone in our building knew where I was, still alive and digitally available, things seemed to calm down. There was no hysteria; though, as a former lawyer and, thus, a therapist, I sensed the anxiety. I began delegating tasks to the occupants of our Brooklyn building. One couple was taking in the mail and scouring it for co-op business. Rent deposits were, for the most part, being made electronically by the shareholders. The few old schoolers were dropping off their checks or having their banks do so.

Our faithful janitor never missed a beat and continued to keep the building neat and clean. Trash was picked up, but in smaller quantities as several of our occupants have second homes in safe zones and there they went.

But we are left with the “three C’s” of this outbreak-battling period: crankiness, contagion, and crappy television. I’ll deal with each in turn.

Everyone is understandably crankier than usual, for New Yorkers. Even yours truly is so. But everyone—the porter, the doorman, the super, the residents—is annoyed, and understandably so. With our businesses closed, our restaurants and bars not operating (or at least requiring that we take away our food to our own contaminated haunts), our jobs in jeopardy, and the world topsy-turvy, we can and should be excused for letting out the inner grouch. The job of the super is to foster good will, order, coordination, and cooperation. This is not a time for rigid thinking. We must get creative, energetic, and organized—to solve problems, not create them. There’s nothing better for the soul or the heart than solving someone else’s problems whilst you forget your own. That’s New York.

With everyone at home day and night, and untold millions exposed to novel coronavirus, whether in the inaptly named Corona, Queens or the West Village, there’s ever so many opportunities to contaminate and spread contagious disease in a collective living situation. The janitor and super can only do so much to control this, so it might be a good idea in “war time” to delegate to desperately bored isolates the job of wiping things that are getting touched by cooties day in and day out. Get a few spray bottles, a funnel, some bleach, some isopropyl alcohol, or whatever floats your tote. My theme is: corona is a louse. A parasite. It is the one organism worthy of a death sentence from the day it emerges from its coronal womb. Kill the suckers anyway you can, and as many as possible. The odd genocide worthy of a Nobel Peace Prize.

The most insidious of the three Cs is what passes for entertainment, content, drama, dramedy, rom-com, docudrama, documentary, and TED talks. One person’s crap is another person’s captivator. I don’t discourage binge watching of any kind; I could watch a woodworker sharpen his chisel for hours. But don’t try to convince me or anyone else that such and such a show must be watched. It mustn’t. It needn’t. It shouldn’t. Celebrate subjectivity.

That’s it from the super. Now get back to reading the soup can labels and sourdough recipes.

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