Prague is opening up, and with it the tango scene. I am staying home. Why? Nothing has changed, not really.
We've had a semi-lockdown since early March, with pubs and shops closed but most white-collar business open. The recorded COVID-19 infection number have rarely exceeded 300 and have stayed at ~ 50 cases per day for the last few weeks.
50 is not zero, however.
The government has to do a balancing act, and it chose (wisely, in my opinion) to gradually loosen the restrictions such that normal business can return and the upcoming economic downturn is not an outright devastation.
With it, the first official post-lockdown milonga was recently announced.
As I wrote in The Coming Tango Desert, tango is a terrible hobby in the event of a global pandemic. At a milonga, you break all the rules: you are indoor, with poor or non-existent ventilation, you hug dozens of people during the night.
A recipe for infection.
As far as I can tell, nothing essential about the disease has changed since March. There's no vaccine and no definite cure. People outside our lucky country are dying by the thousands, in the aggregate.
You can argue all you want about how the young(ish) and healthy(ish) are usually spared the worst outcomes. Believe it to your own peril. It's too early to tell about the longer-term morbidity of the survivors, and until that is clear, you'd be wise to weight the prospect of unknown and potentially debilitating chronic impairment against, what exactly, a short-term thrill?
Paraphrasing Nassim Taleb, when faced with the risk of ruin, it's prudent to panic. And be extremely conservative and cautious.
Admittedly, I did do a few secret tango encounters in a poorly lit park at night with a select friend, and might do some of these again. I traded a very small risk for a brief moment of pleasure. If I were consistent with what I'm saying here, I wouldn't have done it, but who is? I'm fine with being true to my words directionally.
It pains me to no end that I cannot tango. But tango I will not until the risks are better understood or can be managed reliably.
The worst case scenario is, I'll miss out on a few milongas and rejoin later. That's a pretty good deal compared sucking on a tube in an ICU.
Perhaps you can feel the negative vibes emanating from these words. I know I am pretty angry with my friends right now, the tango dancers and organizers in Prague. I think what they are doing is reckless and irresponsible.
At the same time I understand them. Some of them depend on tango for their income, for many others it's the only form of socialization they have. I get that. I, too, am starving for the tango embrace. And, I support their right to exercise the trade-off they are making. I am not making an argument to ban milongas but rather pitching the idea that it's stupid to organize them until it's safe.
Life is a series of trade-offs. I happen to favor staying COVID-negative and losing the tango embrace. And I wish that I'm being too cautious and all will be well with my friends. Hopefully I will see them in a near future.
Don't be surprised if I reverse my position in a few weeks or months. In fact, I surely hope to. At this time, I am staying home. And if you're from around here, I urge you to do the same.
UPDATE: I did reverse my position.
image credit goes to Michał Parzuchowski