Episode 19: Quarantine Diaries

First Contact with Laurie Segall is a production of Dot Dot Dot Media and iHeart Radio.

Julie Samra: Hello…?

Laurie Segall: Hi.

Julie Samra: Hi! I’m Julie.

Laurie Segall: I’m Laurie. I love… this is my quarantine call.

Julie Samra: Where are you?

Laurie Segall: I’m- I’m in New York. I’ve been in self isolation so I signed up for this. Out of my own pure interest and then I was gonna do a whole podcast episode based on calling people in quarantine. And I was inspired by this app.

Julie Samra: Oh cool.

Julie Samra: Yeah so I think I just wanted like another adult to talk to really it’s why I signed up.

Hey, it’s Laurie, I’m recording this on Friday March 27 and I’ve been in quarantine.. I’m now self isolating …  And it’s been around 3 weeks. Wow. Time is pretty strange in self-isolation. The days, the minutes it all just kind of has new meaning. 

That whole sentence felt pretty weird to say. But let’s be honest, 2020 feels pretty weird.

So let me set the scene for you guys. I’m here in New York City… where I was exposed weeks ago to someone who has coronavirus. Now don’t worry about me, I’m doing Ok. I’m just fine.  But, I’m gonna be honest with you guys things are pretty intense here if you’ve read the new and I know that they’re intense a lot of places. So I’ve decided to dedicate this episode to your stories. I’m recording from my apartment with this thought – we need community now more than ever. 

Storytelling has always been my therapy and lord knows I could use it right now. That sense of community. So, I asked all of you to share your stories, I said send in your voice memos, text me, tell me how you’re feeling. I’m listening. I loved what you guys had to share. This episode of First Contact is devoted to you,  to your stories and what you’re going through. We’re going to start with my inspiration for the episode – it’s a little bit weird, it’s an app I heard about in my early quarantine days, which feels like a long time ago, it’s called Quarantine Chat. 

When you sign up you randomly get 2 calls a day from a stranger – anywhere around the world. Your phone rings  and you are just on the phone with someone else somewhere in quarantine. It’s strange and it’s human. So I’m going to start us there. I actually captured one of the calls and yes, she said we could record it. 

QuarantineChat Bot: Welcome to quarantine calls, we’re about to put you on hold and connect you with someone anywhere in the world. Your prompt today is to go look out the window and describe what you see to your partner. 

Laurie Segall: I’ve gotten two calls on Quarantine Chat from different people. One person was in DC, one person was in New Jersey. 

Julie Samra: I signed up maybe just like an hour or two, maybe two hours ago.

Laurie Segall: Oh my God. So I’m your first Quarantine call. I feel a lot of pressure.

Julie Samra: Yeah, yes. You better entertain me.

The App launched just a couple weeks ago. Which again… feels like a long time ago at this point. It was created by Max Hawkins and Danielle Baskin… both currently self isolating on the West Coast. 

Laurie Segall: Well, hi. Where are you guys?

Danielle Baskin: Um, I’m currently in San Francisco.

Laurie Segall: Oh, cool.

Max Hawkins: I’m in LA.

Laurie Segall: Oh, awesome. Well, thank you for doing this. I went into quarantine ’cause I was exposed, so I’ve, I’ve been hanging out solo, um, in quarantine for over 14 days now and discovered this little thing someone told me about called Quarantine Chat. I don’t know how to describe this to people but it is so amazing. You literally just get this random call and it’s like this cool music and then the next thing you know, you’re speaking with somebody who’s also in quarantine. 

Danielle Baskin: Yeah. It’s interesting because when we first started it, um, the whole world was not in quarantine. It was like, you know, people in China were in quarantine and Italy was just starting to be in quarantine. So, there were also some people that were self isolating. Like you decided to stay inside.

Laurie Segall: Yeah.

Danielle Baskin: So I thought, like, oh well, you know, someone who is self isolating could get a call from someone else and maybe if they’re not self isolating, it’ll cheer them up. Um, or they can talk about like, you know, things they’re doing with their day and recipes. Whatever. And just like, feel less alone. But since creating it, like, the whole world has kind of become locked down. So like-

Laurie Segall: Yeah.

Danielle Baskin: … this app has reached, I mean, what? It’s in eight, how many different time zones? It’s, it’s all over the world. I mean, I’ve matched with, you know, someone in, in Berlin and in Spain, and in France. 

Max Hawkins: I matched with Hong Kong two days ago.

Danielle Baskin: Yeah.

Laurie Segall: Wow.

Max Hawkins: Uh, Paris, eh, all over the world.

Danielle Baskin: Hir-, Hiroshima.

Laurie Segall: Wow.

Danielle Baskin: Also just like, I mean, um, within this country someone was saying like, “Oh, I matched with someone in Tennessee and I actually have never like, talked on the phone with someone in Tennessee.” They were in LA. Yeah. 

Laurie Segall: And so how exactly does the app work? 

Max Hawkins: Yeah. So you go to QuarantineChat.com and sign up. And then you get the app. And once you have the app installed, you start receiving phone calls, roughly once or twice a day. And, if you get the call, you pick up, it says Quarantine Chat on the caller ID, and when you pick up, you’re connected with a random person who’s also called at the same time, somewhere else in the globe. And, you get a short prompt that gives you a topic of conversation. You can follow that topic or ignore it. And then you can talk for as long as you like. And it’s totally free. If you don’t have time, you can ignore the call and your match will be sent to someone else. So you don’t have to worry about if you’re busy, uh, missing the call.

Laurie Segall: Wow. There’s just something really special. I remember I was having a morning, probably like day four of like, self isolation and in New York, like, it’s not like we’re in these large, large apartments unless you’re, you know, doing incredibly, incredibly well. And I was having a moment and I got a call, and it was my first Quarantine Call and it was like, all of a sudden I look at my phone and when it rings it says, … Quarantine Chat. And, and I picked it up and I remember I was like sitting in my bed, and this woman answered. Her name was Cathy, and we had a really good conversation. Of course she was like, “Tell me a little bit about yourself.” And I was like, “Well, I’m self isolating alone. I’m not very domestic. So like, you know, if, if I’m cooking, send help.” And I said all these very self deprecating things. And then she was like, I was like, how ’bout you? She’s like, “Well, I heard about this app because this girl I, I follow in the media tweeted it. Her name is Laurie.” I was like

Danielle Baskin: That’s so funny.

Laurie Segall: …She was like, “What’s your name?” I was like, “Well, Mary.” I was like, “Well, um …”

Danielle Baskin: Yeah.

Laurie Segall: But, but, I, I told her it was me. But, but we ended up, um, having this incredibly human conversation about mental health. And she was struggling a lot, I think, mentally, with this, uh, and what it meant. And, you know, and it was just, I just could tell, she just wanted someone to talk to. and so- So I think there’s, there’s something really interesting about hearing each other’s voices again. Um, at a time when I think we had, we had almost like stopped calling each other before this.

Danielle Baskin: Totally. Yeah. I think people I’ve talked to have described the experience as very freeing because they have no knowledge of, like, who the other person is. And they can talk about whatever they feel like in that moment and it’s different than connecting with someone through some channel where like, you know the whole bio.

Laurie Segall: Mm-hmm.

Danielle Baskin: You know about that person. There’s context and your conversation is, like, aimed about a particular thing. Like the idea that, in the moment, if you want to talk about a specific thing, you can, is kind of nice. Yeah.

Laurie Segall: Yeah. Um, and I, and I also think it’s, it’s interesting ’cause there’s, this is a moment where there’s a lot of fear. And, and who knew that, um, just hearing a stranger’s voice every once in a while could make you feel a little bit better? You know?

Danielle Baskin: Totally. If, you feel totally less alone if you’re, um, you know you’re worried about things and you find out someone else is worried about the same stuff, it sort of feels comforting.

Laurie Segall: Yeah. How many people across the world, like, do you know how many different countries you guys are in or how many-

Danielle Baskin: Uh, what’s the current count, Max? Do you have it?

Max Hawkins: We haven’t looked in a while-

Danielle Baskin: Yeah.

Max Hawkins: We could find out.

Laurie Segall: We can look in real time?

Max Hawkins: Yeah. We’ve got like, a, a lot of people talking on the phone right now, actually.

Danielle Baskin: Yeah. ‘Cause we triggered a c-, the, the call happened, the last Quarantine Chat call happened at around 1:30, so 45 minutes ago. 

Laurie Segall: Oh, I just had one. I just had one-

Danielle Baskin: Oh, you did have one!

Laurie Segall: … with a woman in North Carolina-

Danielle Baskin: Nice.

Laurie Segall: Yeah.

Danielle Baskin: Nice.

Laurie Segall: Yeah. That’s really cool. So you guys just like sit in your, you can like, you’re sitting in your own self isolation, you can like, trigger the call-

Danielle Baskin: We have, um, yeah, I mean. I’m sort of a switchboard operator because I handle-

Laurie Segall: That’s kinda cool.

Danielle Baskin: … if some-, we get, we know, um, if a call got disconnected for some reason. Like someone loses their internet.

Laurie Segall: Yeah.

Danielle Baskin: I reconnect them. It, uh, manu-, I reconnect them right now. Um, so, I’m a, I am a, a human switchboard operator. But yeah. We can, um, yeah. It’s, it’s, uh, when a call happens, we like can see our bandwidth being used.

Laurie Segall: So how do you guys make sure that this doesn’t turn into like, phonesex.com. You know?

Danielle Baskin: Yeah. Uh, uh, there’s a b-, there are so many ways we prevent that from happening. I mean, right-

Laurie Segall: Uh-huh.

Danielle Baskin: … you can’t, you can’t call anyone. The app calls you. So if you’re desiring a specific type of interaction, you can’t just hit next. Like, hang up on someone, I want a new call. You can’t just do next, next, next-

Laurie Segall: Yeah.

Danielle Baskin: … next, next, until I get someone who wants to respond to, like, this particular kind of interaction I have. And I think having those, you know, those, these conversations are like, you know, they’re precious. You only get the call one to two times a day.

Laurie Segall: Yeah.

Danielle Baskin: And so that is your only opportunity. And so would you wait to … How do you want to spend that one call? 

Laurie Segall: Yeah.

Max Hawkins: I think there’s also, um, one of the, the, like the values that we try to maintain is, um, having a diversity of different sorts of people that you get matched with. And so, like, we, if you get matched with someone from Ghana one day, oh we want it to be someone in Missouri the next day and-

Danielle Baskin: Yeah.

Max Hawkins: … um, or like different kinds of people to get different perspectives. And, I hope that that sort of mixing, um, you know-, exposes you to different sorts of, people and ideas.

Laurie Segall: Yeah. Do you guys have any stories that you’ll remember of people you’ve spoken to?

Danielle Baskin: Oh.

Laurie Segall: Anything that kind of surprised you?

Danielle Baskin: Yeah. I mean, every call feels so different. Like I’m transported into another world. But yeah. I’ve talked, I talked to a make-up blogger in Dubai who was very-

Laurie Segall: Really?

Danielle Baskin: … she was an intern at a company and she was about, when she, she’s planning on graduating in April and she was hoping to get hired, but because-… she works in advertising for restaurant chains, uh-

Laurie Segall: Hm.

Danielle Baskin: … like, um, like Dubai California Pizza Kitchen, uh, they’re not, you know, restaurants are kind of losing money so they can’t do advertising. So she’s really afraid of like, not getting her job. But, yeah. I talked to someone in Hiroshima whose friend has a hostel and the hostel is closing and her friend is trying to be really positive by only posting happy things on Instagram but inside feels very afraid. Um-

Laurie Segall: Hm.

Danielle Baskin: … but yeah. I get these glimpses into how this virus is affecting people’s lives, in, all over the world. And it’s kinda similar stories but in, you know, all these different countries, which is fascinating.

Max Hawkins: Pretty early on I connected with someone who was, uh, like a student studying in Paris. And she told me that like the night before, she had found out that her roommate had the virus. And they, they had a party like a couple nights prior. And everyone that was there had to be quarantined. And were like waiting to find out if they had been infected. And she was just talking about how scary it is to know that like, her roommate is next door and, is infected. It’s dangerous. And, uh, what it’s like to not know, um-

Laurie Segall: Yeah.

Danielle Baskin: Mm-hmm.

Laurie Segall: Yeah. I went through that. I mean, I think, for me, because I, um, I was exposed and then it was just like, you just wait, right? Like you just sit and you wait and you wonder, um, like am I gonna be okay? And-

Danielle Baskin: Mm-hmm.

Laurie Segall: … man, like does that do things to your head. So, that’s when I had my first Quarantine Chat call but, um, but yeah. That’s just like extraordinarily scary and of course it’s coupled with this idea like I’m also really worried about my friend who had it. And I also wanna show them so much love and support. And then it’s also, I’m worried about my parents. And now I can’t go be near my parents because I could harm them. I mean, and it’s extraordinarily human questions that, um, what’s interesting about what you guys are doing is, um, like we’re all facing them, in some capacity, no matter where we are. And, and I think, um, I think it’s devastating and also it’s really extraordinary and human too. So-

Danielle Baskin: Mm-hmm.

Laurie Segall: Who knows how long we’re all gonna be in this? Where do you, where do you-

Danielle Baskin: Yeah.

Laurie Segall: … want this to go?

Danielle Baskin: It’s interesting. Yeah. I’m kind of curious how spending, how, what sort of pur-, what sort of effects after … Say we’re all out of quarantine at some point.

Laurie Segall: Yeah.

Danielle Baskin: Like will we continue these sorts of interesting digital communication habits that we’ve all developed during quarantine? I don’t know. I mean, I think like, I would, after, you know, if I can still go out in the world, of course, I enjoy talking to people on the phone, will I continue to have these relationships with people all over the world and just, just discuss, like, what we’re doing in our lives even after we’re all out?

Laurie Segall: Yeah.

Max Hawkins: I’m excited to see if people meet in person.

Danielle Baskin: Yeah.

Laurie Segall: And I hope that when this is over, we all hold that, um, in some capacity and, and hold that-

Danielle Baskin: Mm-hmm.

Laurie Segall: … sense of humanity and, and love and care for each other. Because I, I definitely, um, I definitely think that’s pretty important. So … You know, I’ll be, I’ll be, um, I’m on. Maybe I’ll get connected with you guys again. Maybe we’ll do this all over Quarantine Chat. But, um, it’s a- By the way, this whole Podcast episode I’m just gonna call people in quarantine because I’m totally copying you guys. I think it’s great. So anything left to be said?

Danielle Baskin: Oh-

Max Hawkins: Hm …

Danielle Baskin: Mm. Yeah. I mean, I, I feel like, uh, if anyone is afraid to talk on the phone or like feels hesitant to pick it up, like, it’s surprisingly easy to talk to people, which people might not-

Max Hawkins: Yeah. We’re introverts.

Danielle Baskin: They might be like, hesitant. I mean, we-, we’ve designed it, we designed it for introverts in mind. And there’s a question at the beginning of the call. And you know, the person on the other end wants to listen to you, typically. You both want to have a conversation, so I encourage anyone who’s phone rings and they’re like, “I don’t know.” Just like, try it. 

OK we’ve got to take a quick break to hear from our sponsors. More with my guest after the break.

My first week in quarantine people sent voice memos describing their experiences in self isolation. We had a bunch of folks send them in and there was one that really struck me. I want to play it for you guys. It called to question the ethics of this moment and our own moral compass.. 

Joe: This past weekend when I had to work … so I should probably have said that it’s a gym that I work at. it’s tested my ethics quite a bit.. I did everything in my power that I could to make it as sanitary as possible. Especially considering that the population that goes there’s a little bit on the older side. So that’s also another conundrum I guess you could say. I can’t pay my bills unless I work. I have a significant … I mean most of my income goes toward paying those bills. And I, can’t pay them if I don’t work. But there’s that then … I mean there’s another voice in my head that says that’s extremely selfish and unethical of you, because you’re directly endangering people’s lives by you working. Um, as you can see that job put me in quite a conundrum. 

Laurie: Hi! 

Joe: Hi! How are you doing?

Laurie Segall: I so appreciate you sending in that voice memo. I listened to it immediately, and I was really moved by it. So thank you.

Joe: Yeah. No, of course. Uh, I wasn’t, to be honest, I wasn’t really expecting to hear back. I just kind of wanted to let you guys know. And it, it was cool. Thank you for offering that, it’s kind of cool to be known, or know that you’re being heard. So thank you.

Laurie Segall: Well, hi. You’re welcome. And hi from my isolation.

Joe: Yeah.

Laurie Segall: Um, let me, let me start with you’re not alone. We’re all, uh, unfortunately kind of in this together. But there’s, you know, there’s some humanity in that. And I’ve, I’m self isolating in my place here in New York. And you sent us a voice memo and you talked about starting with your work and you had a real conflict with your work and you talked about kind of this decision. And you said, “Do I stay?” because your gym wasn’t closing down and, “Do I put other people at risk?” “Or do I risk not being able to pay my bills and keep people safe, myself included?” So what did you decide to ultimately do?

Joe: Uh, well, it was not too long after that call, uh, being in California, um, or not call, but the memo, Gavin Newsom imposed the, uh, shelter-in-place order. I was conflicted because one of the workplaces is a small business. And they were very reluctant. And I, I understand where they’re coming from, I guess. It’s, it’s a lot of people. There’s a lot of uncertainty on the financial side of things for people. And I get that. So kind of a background that I work at, like, the one gym was kind of more that corporate-style gym and another, this other gym was a CrossFit gym, or functional fitness, and there’s an awesome community there. You develop deep personal relationships and … develop deep personal relationships, and it’s almost like you’re a family in a way. And if even one of them, something bad happened, something serious happened, how would I be able to live with that? It was conflicting in that, ’cause being a younger person, like one of the gyms I worked at the demographics were, did tend to be older, older individuals. And I know that the risk is lower for younger people. That doesn’t mean that bad things haven’t happened, for younger people. But it’s that, that question of what if I have it? Maybe I’m asymptomatic, right? And I pass it on to one of them. But the thought of that, I just thought it was immoral, I guess. And I started to push back and saying, “Hey, we, I’m not going to coach anymore.” Like, I laid it out there for them. I didn’t feel comfortable, but it kind of coincided, luckily, with Newson’s order too. So I guess the universe was kinda looking out for us in a way I guess.

Laurie Segall: Yeah. I think that voice memo and what you sent to us was a little bit of like a moment, and, and so kind of capturing the psychology around perhaps what makes you go in and do that when you don’t have a hundred percent all the facts, but you got the feeling and some pushback and some real questions, I think is really interesting, um, and, and, and perhaps says something about you.

Joe: Yeah. I don’t know. It’s kinda … when you said that, you know, looking at the moments, and it, it, it instantly reminded me of, uh, uh, to kind of get cliché again, the Steve Jobs connect the dots. It’s easy to connect the dots looking backwards.

Laurie Segall: Yeah.

Joe: But people forget that you can’t connect the dots looking forward, you may not even know what the dots are.

Laurie Segall: Yeah, I think about this moment as a lot of dots, right?

Joe: Yeah.

Laurie Segall: And I think for every human being, it’s like, we’re all living our own story in a way, and collectively, we have to do it with not a lot of answers. So I think, you know, this idea of- of understanding the question a little bit and sitting with this uncertainty, and being able to make some decisions around it, um, is- is really interesting. um-

Joe: Yeah.

Laurie Segall: Um, do you have like family? Are you married?

Joe: Uh, I’m single. I have family. Luckily they’re all local, about a 10-minute drive away.

Laurie Segall: So is it hard, I know a lot of people are self-isolating with family for people who have significant others, is it hard for you to do it without somebody? Do you ask yourself those questions? Or are you okay with the solo nature of it?

Joe: I guess it kind of, there’s a stark difference now from the loneliness here to when you go… Like before, you know, I’d- I’d interact with people at the gym and get out and about, but now it’s like the only time that there’s any interaction is at like the grocery store. And I even noted for me, it was kind of like I had to take a double-take because I was walking down the aisle and somebody like turned the corner, and it was kind of like whoa. And I had like took the biggest side-step I’ve ever taken in my life. And I just like, after I did that, I just stood there for a second. I was like did I really just do that? But it was- it was kind of like that subconscious reaction. 

Laurie Segall: Are you afraid?

Joe: Yeah. I’m not afraid to admit that. I’m very uncertain, I guess you could say. But there’s nothing wrong with that, I guess. I feel like people tend to wanna put on a front, like they know what’s going on, but sometimes, you just don’t and, there’s a lot of variables out of our control and it’s not … realizing that and then taking action where you can is, I think is it’s not only calming but it, it shows you that you do have, you do have some power to affect, not only yourselves, but the people around you.

Alright, let’s zoom out to Spain… My next quarantine call is with Pablo Sanchez Blanco- he’s living in a small town close to Madrid. Like many of us, he’s worried about his parents. It’s personal. Several of his family members are working in the local hospitals – overwhelmed with patients. Often unprotected , andputting their own lives at risk – to save others. 

Laurie Segall: Hey, how are you?

Pablo Sanchez Blanco: Hello, I’m good. How are you all?

Laurie Segall: Good, good. Wow thanks for doing this. I know you’re in, you’re in Madrid right now, right?

Pablo Sanchez Blanco: Yep. Madrid, it has many like little cities surrounding Madrid. And I live in Alcala. Which is like 20 kilometers away from Madrid. Thank you for having me here. I think it’s great to have the opportunity to speak with people from other countries. Especially in a situation like this, which is worldwide. And, and I’m very into this situation now, because for example my girlfriend she’s a doctor. My mom she works… She lives there in the kitchen in the hospital here in my city. And my father has been a doctor as well for 30 years. And, I’m, we’re seeing how they’re struggling. N- not even daily, hourly. So hour by hour they’re giving everything they have to try to, to get us out of this.

Laurie Segall: Yeah, so, so tell me, um, let’s start with you. Are you self isolating? Um-

Pablo Sanchez Blanco: Yeah, everyone’s self isolating.

Laurie Segall: And so before we kind of dig into all of it, I just, I wanna ask you kind of a basic question. Like, how are you doing?

Pablo Sanchez Blanco: I’m doing good. And, I think you try to, to innovate within your house, right? Uh, I’m communicating more with my family. And I’m getting closer to my neighbors. Um, I think on, on one side you see all this information coming from the media and TV, which is bad. Really bad. And it’s getting worse, and worse and worse. Which kind of depress you a bit, but then you go out at 8 PM every day. Goes out and claps to all the people which is working for us, and it kinds of lifts you up-

Laurie Segall: But, but it… Can you explain that? What do you do? You go out and clap?

Pablo Sanchez Blanco: Every day, eight. Yeah, and, and everyone.

Laurie Segall: Explain it to me. Set, set that scene. I don’t know what that looks like. What are you doing?

Pablo Sanchez Blanco: Everyone. Everyone at 8 PM goes outside in the windows and clap, but you can hear like thousands of people clapping in, in their buildings. In their windows. In their balconies. It kinds of bring you up… People start playing music after that, and you, you get parties in the windows. There’s people drinking in the windows. Saying hi to neighbors. Neighbors to… I didn’t even speak to in my life, and now meeting them through the window. Yeah.So it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s bad. The situation is really bad, but you kind of have this environment. On ev- you’re sharing this with everyone, 

Laurie Segall: How has it impacting you personally. 

Pablo Sanchez Blanco: Um, personally I think it’s a really stressing situation. So, for example my mom in the hospital. The fact that they don’t have materials at all. They don’t have masks. They don’t have a gowns. They don’t have anything to protect themselves. It kind of stress you out, so I’m, I’m stressed for all these people who… Especially in a country like Spain or Italy. Our, our brothers there, they, this, this old people. They’ve been fighting a lot to get us out of many political things. Ah, really bad things. And now when they can retire and, and rest and this comes. Right. And, and that for me personally I’m good. It’s getting stressed by all this thing and it’s going up, and up, and up, and you don’t see the light, you know, at the end of the tunnel.

Laurie Segall: You say your mom is in the hospital. Um, what is she telling you?

Pablo Sanchez Blanco: She’s, she’s… People in hospitals, now they’re, they’re so strong. So strong. She’s telling me for example in, in the hospital here in my city. Hospital of Alcala. Was, two days ago, it the hospital with more deaths. In the beginning you get people from other cities, which is being, um, so many people’s getting infected in one city. Everyone is going to the hospital of the city sur- surrounding, and then so they see this wave of people coming. They don’t have materials, so they are infected. And they will all be infected. 14% of the health and public workers here in Spain are infected, and they don’t have here tests to test themself. My mom for example, she couldn’t test at herself to see if she’s infected. They are getting, she, she lives here in the hospital, and yesterday I think it was six people called, ah, for a lift. Because they were infected. They know many of them are infected, and they are still going to work. And they’re doing 16 hour shifts to 24 hour shifts. And they’re asking for help. They’re getting now help, but it’s too late now. It, it’s already collapsed. They have people in the floor in the hospitals, and they have to decide. It’s her colleagues, her doctor’s. Um, imagine how stressful is for you. And there was a woman, ah, yesterday. Ah, an old lady. She, she recorded a video for herself, um, asking for help. Because her husband got into the hospital. He was like 70 or 65. And he was really bad, and a, and a man that was 40 years old came into the h- hospital as well intensive care of course. They’re going a straight to intensive care. And, and doctor’s, they have to decide. So, we go for this, ah, old man which is 40 instead of this guy. So they will tell you, okay you can take now your husband home and he will die at home. That’s for sure. And this the system for the people who is working in the hospitals. It’s really bad.

Laurie Segall: Has your mom talked about having to make those types of decisions, or having to witness them?

Pablo Sanchez Blanco: Yeah, yeah. And they’re witnessing now as well. And people from university, because they’re getting people from university working in to hospitals. So here in Spain, ah, medicine is six years. They’re getting people from the fifth and the sixth year working into the hospital. And, and these young people they’re especially scared, because they’re seeing now all the, the corpses bringing down. And they can not even, ah, take it. So they, they open a huge mall that we have in Madrid to take all the corpses. And you see this all coming down from the hospital into a truck. The military trucks. You see all these military trucks going around the city. It’s, it’s, it’s bad. So this is what I was saying. That it’s making you see in all this kind… You try to keep up, but seeing all these things going up, and up, and up kind of affects you. Yeah.

Laurie Segall: It’s, um, it’s like my career I, I can interview people from afar, right. And, ah-

Pablo Sanchez Blanco: Mm-hmm.

Laurie Segall: … and, um, and thank God. That’s awful. And so much empathy, and, and, I think maybe the scariest part of this interview, even for me is thinking like, ah, it’s here, you know.

Pablo Sanchez Blanco: Yeah.

Laurie Segall: It’s, it’s maybe a couple weeks away-

Pablo Sanchez Blanco: Yeah.

Laurie Segall: … um, from, from, ah, from me being able to describe the scene that you just described to me. I could be describing it to you. I, I, um, think about the fear in all of this.

Pablo Sanchez Blanco: Yeah.

Laurie Segall: And, and, you know, and I think there’s just so much-

Pablo Sanchez Blanco: Just-

Laurie Segall: … fear.

Pablo Sanchez Blanco: Yeah, this is… Then it so yourself isolating. You’re, you’re good. . You try to… But you can feel the fear growing up and growing up. And, this is what I, I love. I love being here with you guys. Talking to you. Just try to, to tell you what we did bad, and so please don’t do it. Please don’t believe that it is just the flu, it’s something else. And, the sooner you go home and isolate yourself and make your elders to isolate as well. It’s the better for everyone, because yeah, we’re one week away from Italy. I think we, we can be wiser than governments here. And, and the, the weapon that we have is what you just said empathy. And it’s empathy for, for all of us together. Also, empathy for the people which is working in a hospitals, or people which is working outside, or in supermarkets, because they, they’re still open. We need to, to have this empathy for them, and to stay at our houses. Because they just can’t handle it anymore. People in hospitals, et cetera. I think this is the biggest weapon, we have empathy.

Laurie Segall: What do you do, um, when you’re really afraid? Do you have… Your mom is working in the hospital, this is really close to you.

Pablo Sanchez Blanco: Yeah.

Laurie Segall: What do you do when you’re afraid?

Pablo Sanchez Blanco: I talk to her. She, she has liked this ability to, to be like, it’s just one more day and it will be over. You know, we try to think about it that it will be over. It will be over.

Laurie Segall: What is the hardest part for you?

Pablo Sanchez Blanco: Ah, for me the hardest part is to, for example, now we’re seeing the news. I think the hardest part is to… Because imagine people in hospitals, which are in intensive care, um, they can not speak to their families. And, they will die alone, because no one can go inside. And they will die alone. They wouldn’t, they will have a funeral. Funerals are forbidden for corona virus deaths. So, the imagine families that they couldn’t even says not even goodbyes. Not this, just go the hospital with them to emergency, and, and that’s it. Bye. Gone.

Laurie Segall: What do you want people to know? What do you think is important? 

Pablo Sanchez Blanco: What I would tell you is that first, um, and, and I know it’s hard. Don’t be scared. Do not panic. But I think that the biggest thing that we can do is, is just to stay in our houses. You know, our grandfather’s, um, they were called to war, and we’re called to stay in our houses. So, it’s just to stay at home. 

Laurie Segall: How is this changed you?

Pablo Sanchez Blanco: Um, I think it’s soon still for me to… Well, it’s not soon, I think when after this… I th- me and everyone, I think we will all, not love, but try to say how much we love to our parents and, and elders.

Laurie Segall: Yeah.

Pablo Sanchez Blanco: Now because, now we see them at a real risk.

OK we’ve got to take a quick break to hear from our sponsors.

Thank you to all who shared your stories with me. And I want to to end with a quote – this is one of my favorites – it’s something I’ve lived by as a journalist. It’s by Joan Didion who’s just one of my favorite authors. She says we tell each other stories in order to live. Well, we’re all in the same story this go around. We’re all experiencing love, courage, anxiety, fear. And hopefully above all – empathy. What an extraordinary thing that the throughline of all of this is that although we we may be socially distant – collectively we can work together, stay inside, and save each other.  Thank you to everyone who reached out to me, I love hearing from you. 

And special thanks to Danielle, Max, Joe, Julie, Pablo, and Brett. Your stories, your courage and your resilience keep me going too. 

So I’m gonna throw this out there- in these times of social distancing when everything feels completely unknown, I have always believed it’s important to stay connected but I believe that now more than ever, and I say this and I really mean it, reach out to us, reach out to me, keep an eye out on our social media, we’re gonna have ways to participate. You can text me, 917-540-3410. 

Also, if you have anything you’re thinking about, if you’re sitting in self isolation, if you’re in your head, you wanna say something, you’ve got questions, send me a voice memo to firstcontactpodcast@gmail.com. I wanna do my best to be there for everyone during this tough time. I want you guys to know we are listening. We’ll also be hosting Zoom town halls on different issues during this time so follow along and participate for some human-ish contact. 

You can connect with me, I’m self-isolating here, I’m @LaurieSegall on Twitter and Instagram. The show is @firstcontactpodcast on Instagram and on Twitter you can find us, we’re @firstcontactpod.

First Contact’s a production of Dot Dot Dot Media, executive produced by Laurie Segall and Derek Dodge. I will say we’re being creative and executive producing this from home at the moment, this episode was produced and edited by Sabine Jansen and Jack Regan. The original theme music is by Xander Singh.

I’m sending my thoughts to each and every one of you guys and so is our whole First Contact crew. During this time I hope that everyone is staying home, staying healthy, and staying human. 

First Contact is a production of Dot Dot Dot Media and iHeart Radio.