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Lauren Celenza
Mar 5 · 2 min read

My bags are packed.

I zip up each corner of my scratched luggage. Everything is intact.

I am ready to go to the airport for a two-week business trip to Israel and Egypt. I am on my way to Tel Aviv, to give a presentation to the local tech community. Next, I am going to Cairo for research. I feel gratitude for these opportunities.

But something doesn’t feel right.

I check my email.

The Cairo part of the trip is canceled.

Then, I check the news.

Over twenty coronavirus outbreaks are officially confirmed in the state of Washington, where I live. Two deaths are reported.

My heart sinks. My mind spirals.

Should I still travel to Tel Aviv?

I have 20 minutes to make a decision.

Then, as if it is fate, my phone begins to buzz.

I see three simultaneous messages, across three cities–Seattle, London, and Bangalore. While each buzz comes from different cities around the world, the message is the same.

“Are you still planning to travel?”

I now have 10 minutes to make a decision.

As my mind oscillates back-and-forth, it feels as if I am swimming against a strong current.

My thoughts are trained to swim with the currents of short-term thinking. But this decision requires long-term thinking. This isn’t about what the virus outbreak looks like today, it’s about what the virus outbreak will look like five days from now.

My thoughts are also trained to swim with the currents of individualism. But this a collective decision, not an individual one. What if I am unknowingly carrying a strain of the virus? If I travel, what if it affects other countries?

Time is up. I must make a decision now.

I’m not traveling.

As of March 9, 2020, there are over 113,700 confirmed cases of coronavirus around the world. 4,004 people have died, with 162 confirmed cases and 23 deaths in the state of Washington, where I live. Two deaths occurred before it was even known that the virus had spread in this state.

It’s a sober reminder, perhaps a recalibration, to take more thoughtful care of our everyday, collective health.

Thank you to the Tel Aviv tech community. They graciously allowed me to video chat into the event, where I told a story about listening, feeling, and uniting together when creating technology.

And in the end, sometimes the act of uniting together manifests as a personal sacrifice for the collective good.

Tel Aviv & Cairo, I hope we can meet again.

Lauren Celenza

Written by

Human being, being human. I write short stories about our complicated relationship with technology. I’m also a Design Lead for Google Maps. Views are my own.

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