Tuesday, March 17, 2020

An aging introvert calmly embraces social distancing

By Bill Prater

Authorities are warning everyone to avoid crowds, but anglers have never been fond of others getting too danged close while we're trying to fish.

The average crowd-loving American is going bonkers, faced with the spectre of closed signs on bars, unhappy people lined up for carryout at restaurants, and no department store clearance sales. Without question, extroverts make up the bulk of the hordes we see swarming into grocery stores; truth be told, not so much for the opportunity to buy more toilet paper as for the chance to crowd together in a fine, shared misery.

This is just a note to the extroverts of the world, advising you not to worry overmuch about introverts like me. 

Were it not for the likelihood of horrifying illness, and the pandemonium and financial ruin around us, “social distancing” would be something introverts have (quietly of course) longed for our entire lives. Others moan in collective misery as recommended maximum crowd sizes drop from 250 to 50 to 10 to the current one or two trusted soulmates. We who have always avoided big birthday parties and tiny workplace cubicles are feeling oddly liberated.

I know; I am generally viewed as one who staged mass meetings as a communications guy in Corporate America, and now organizes things like group trips for the Loveland Fishing Club. Again, truth be told, I did that kind of work for a living, but really didn’t like it. And I much prefer fishing in solitary, or at most with two or three close buddies. Extroverts, I find, will take a perfectly good loner sport like fishing and immediately start to organize tournaments. I prefer to catch my fish, admire his or her slimy good looks, and quietly ease her unharmed back into the water. No public weigh-ins necessary.

Extroverts, the folks who truly suffer in isolation, have us quiet people vastly outnumbered. We are beginning to see reports of shutdown-related overcrowding at national parks like Zion. With group activities closing down, people are said to be risking ruined health by packing into the visitor centers and squeezing onto shuttle buses. For God’s sakes, people, just park at a trailhead and walk away!

And it may get worse. Over the weekend, the New Mexico Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department closed all that state’s State Parks. Surely this is a time to throw the gates open wider and tell people to spread out in the open air. New Mexico’s Department of Game and Fish is also advising “those choosing to participate in fishing activities to practice social distancing and avoid interacting with large groups.” 

Well, yeah. The Loveland Fishing Club won’t meet as a group for quite awhile. And me personally,  I am selfishly beginning to worry. With all these business and school closings, I may soon find way too many new anglers venturing everywhere that remains open, angling for my fish.

Others now hoard toilet paper. Long before the pandemic, I cleverly tucked away enough jigheads, Z-man plastic fish baits and Gulp products to last me through the Apocalypse and beyond. I just need somewhere quiet to use them.
So, please don’t fret on my behalf over the sudden threat of mandatory peace and quiet; it is one of a limited number of positive things I see as my 401K falters but the water begins to slowly warmer. 

Here is the question we should be asking ourselves: with local ponds at about 42 or 43 degrees right now, can the bass spawn be far away?

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