Hard Choices

When my kids were little, several of them were susceptible to croup. This is a particular barking cough which is usually triggered by a cold. It always struck at night after the doctor’s offices were closed for the day. I got good at the home remedies, steaming bathrooms, cool outdoor air, etc. Yet even though I became practiced at managing it, each incident was alarming. Most of the time croup is a passing reaction, but if it gets bad enough the baby stops being able to breathe and then there are only minutes to intubate before damage is done. We never got to that point, but we did make several night time trips to the ER for breathing treatments of nebulized albuterol. Later we acquired a home nebulizer and a prescription so we could do these treatments at home, but I didn’t even know that was an option for years. I still remember vividly sitting in a steamy bathroom with a barking, coughing baby in my lap, trying to decide whether to go to the ER. There was a financial calculation, because even with the good insurance we had back then the ER still was a financial hit. There was also the knowledge that half the time the croup would mostly clear up just from taking the baby in the car to the ER. It was all probably nothing, everything was probably going to be fine, but if it was NOT fine and I stayed home the consequences were so very devastating that most of the time I took the financial hit and went to the emergency room. Then I entered a strange emotional place where I hoped that my baby’s symptoms stayed bad enough that the hospital personnel would not think me a high-strung over-reactive mother.

Right now, at every level of government, my elected leaders are like me in that steamy bathroom weighing the consequences, because if they do nothing everything might be fine. Bit by bit, I’ve watched most of them come down on the side of caution, preferring to be seen as overreacting rather than to live with the regret of not having done enough. At this moment there really isn’t much more to do. We all have to wait and see how bad it does or doesn’t get. I imagine that many leaders are in that strange place of wanting things to get bad enough that their choices are vindicated while simultaneously feeling guilty for wanting things to be bad. If things do not get bad, then they have to deal with the financial fallout of the prior decisions. No matter how they decide and no matter what the result, people will be angry with them for the choices they made. I do not envy elected officials.

I don’t know yet what the financial fallout will be for my small business. We’re not taking an immediate hit, but that doesn’t mean we are safe. Far from it. I’m watching entire industries grind to a halt, millions of people out of work, and I know that the ripple effects from these events are going to be much bigger than a single stimulus bill can adjust for. Some of those ripples are going to hit my business and my family. Yet, as my elected leaders decided, I’d prefer to err on the side of caution and take the financial hit later. Losses are inevitable, but I’d rather lose money than lose lives.