Wednesday, Oct. 6 | Day 1: We make our second gas stop of the day south of Farmville, Virginia, at a quiet, rather forlorn Exxon station1 on U.S. 15. I’m thinking Farmville – sounds like it’s within hollerin’ distance of Mayberry in “The Andy Griffith Show” as we shut down.
We’ve come a scant 160 miles so far, keeping to old U.S. highways and county roads as the mission navigator2 planned. The pace is slower and the views are more rewarding. Farmville itself is interesting, as is Longwood University. We’ve hit rain but the bikes are running fine.
I pay for gas at the pump and move Terra Nova and Linda’s Vespa in front of a blocked-off garage. Inside the store, I fetch the obligatory bottles of Mountain Dew (original) and Diet Dr Pepper for the flight crew3.
Coming out, I glance through the garage doors, noting how both bays are empty of tools and relegated to storage. And that’s when I notice the pink sign, taped to the inside of the glass.
Rapid REVIVE! Training it says, and asks if its readers are interested in learning how to save lives. It lists free 10-minute training courses in the area, including one at Granny B’s Market on Abilene Road in Farmville.
The courses are sponsored by the Virginia Department of Health and the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services, according to the pink paper.
I just sorta stand there and read it, marveling at:
(1) Its rather cheery presentation, looking like a flyer promoting a garage sale (FREE Walk Up – 10 minute – REVIVE! Training) and its matter-of-fact tone (Are you a friend or family member of someone who uses opioids?)
Not to mention use of the exclamation mark (!) and the REVIVE! program’s unfortunate harmonic proximity to the dopey “Revive with Vivaran” commercials, which advocated consumption of caffeine pills.
(2) My own inexcusable ignorance of the depth of the opioid crisis. I’m aware of the public health emergency declared in 2017 by the Department of Health and Human Services, and the number of deaths, and the lawsuits filed, and the Sackler family getting immunity from lawsuits.
But I didn’t know how far we’ve fallen down the rabbit hole, that it was this bad, to the point where ordinary people are publicly encouraged to get schooled in recognizing opioid overdoses in friends and family members and administering naloxone. And that they’re learning this with quick classes in places like Granny B’s Market4.
I can’t even begin to imagine what life is like for folks who have to know this, who are aware someone they love could die by overdose.
They take classes and keep Narcan close by and carry on. They may not have a choice, but they have a strength I will never know.
And then there are those unsung heroes on the front lines, preparing and teaching those classes, and distributing thousands of flyers in county after county.
Weeks later, after we return home, I take a basic online class from the Virginia health department and receive a 4 mg dose of Narcan and a pencil-case-sized pouch of overdose emergency supplies. I’ve started carrying them when we’re out and about. God knows if/when I’ll ever need to use them, but they’re there.
The thing is, it seems most of the nation has moved on from opioids and is now dealing with the pandemic, and Jan. 6, and the upcoming mid-term elections, and shouting matches over vaccinations, and everything else. We’re just not paying attention anymore. Maybe we’re just not capable.
Our short attention span lets us overlook the pink REVIVE! notices, even those fortified with bold type, capital letters and exclamatory punctuation.
But on the roads ahead, in dusty windows across rural America5, the flyers are still out there. And so are friends and family members and opioids.
1 – I shouldn’t be so judgmental. We were on Farmville Road, in a rural area, and the two garages hinted at ghosts of busy mechanics keeping cars on the road. And look at the triangular awning over the front of the station, on the left – jaunty and daring enough to suggest its designer was a fan of Frank Lloyd Wright.
2 – That would be Linda, of course.
3 – That would be us. Mountain Dew seems to fuel most of my rides these days, I’m afraid.
4 – Where the fried chicken gets rave reviews from Yelp commentators.
5 – And in Washington, D.C. (and no doubt elsewhere) as this article from the Washington Post shows – 10 overdoses with three fatalities in a single day.