May 12, 2020 at 1:08 p.m.

Bud Herron: Social needs clash with health risks

Human beings are social creatures.

Even Crazy Uncle Rufus — who lives in that shack out in the desert, six miles from the nearest dirt road, 40 miles from Nowhere, Arizona, and 78 miles from the Dollar General in Kingman — needs to talk to a cactus now and then.

The great majority of people need more than that. I need more than that.

A lot of those things I “need” I didn’t even know were important until about eight weeks ago when the coronavirus locked me in my house. I am 75 — one of those people with a COVID-19 target on his back. And, my wife, Ann, has an even bigger target, since she not only is in the same age range but currently is being treated for an underlying health condition.

What we both miss is our freedom to go and do as we please. What we both struggle against is the boredom of confinement. We do get out for well-distanced walks. We even sit on our patio when the weather cooperates — six feet or more away from relatives and close friends who come by for planned and scheduled visits.

We wear face masks (created by a friend) when we venture out cautiously. (We know they are not “medical grade” and are only minimal protection, but they seem to scare people into walking widely around us. If that doesn’t work, a couple of fake coughs never fail to make the maskless hordes scatter.) We wear latex gloves on the rare occasions when we cannot avoid going into a public building. We wash our hands and use hand sanitizer as if we owned stock in Purell.

Most of our human contacts, however, are now electronic — phone, texts, emails, FaceTime and Zoom. We even do Marco Polo videos with our granddaughter.

We are careful. Some risk-embracing younger people might say we are as crazy as Uncle Rufus. However, none of this chosen confinement leaves us living in the hell of anxiety and fear. We work to keep safety risks — for ourselves and others — in the neighborhood of a $100 win bet on Secretariat in the Kentucky Derby.

After all, at our age, why do we want to gamble on an outing or a gathering or a group event? No amount of boredom, impatience or “cabin fever” will drive Ann and me to wager future years with our family and friends, our children and grandchild, on the coronavirus roulette wheel.

However, we also know how fortunate we are to be retired, with some savings and with both Social Security income and Medicare health coverage to allow us to avoid deciding between economic stability and health protection. Not everyone has the luxury of just staying home, staying in and trying to ride out the storm.

Yet, many people do have that luxury — not just older people, but those who can work or study from home. For us and for others who have that luxury, I hope the gamble will be on the side of caution.

The decision on when the world around us is safe to embrace physically is not one to be left to any government agency alone — national, state or local. The decision is in the hands of each family and each individual.

Please make the decision carefully and with the safety of yourself, those you love and those you don’t even know at the top of the criteria.

You can handle being a little less social and Uncle Rufus will be proud of you.