The mysterious ‘a’ (mygdala)

Every year, tens of thousands of people die from the seasonal flu. Thousands of people die in car accidents. In the US they regularly shoot thousands of people. And yet, we are all going mad with the latest coronavirus.

Waitrose today was mayhem. I’ve never seen so many people, each with a full trolley. I stood behind another regular Sunday shopper and we shook our heads in unison. “Do you think any of these people panic buy during the time of the seasonal flu?” I asked, loud enough for everyone to hear. She shook her head, wondering.

I observed that next Sunday Waitrose will be empty because everyone crowded into supermarkets today will all be self isolating.

But why does a huge section of the population feel the need to fill their houses with stuff they don’t need, want or care about? It’s the amygdala.

In our brains we have a specific area responsible for the fight or flight instinct. This is called the amygdala. It is triggered when something unexpected happens. That feeling when a sudden, unexpected explosion goes off near you. The chill up the back when someone jumps out and frightens you. The wave of fear when your Twitter feed starts telling you there’s a plague and people are panic buying toilet roll.

I watched an excellent video this morning explaining why humans worry about the unknown so much. To be fair, Mirinda had already discovered the reason during one of her many forays into trying to understand why she has a problem with elevators.

That’s your amygdala. It’s very handy when you’re in a survival situation but the complete opposite during pandemic situations. (Even the word ‘pandemic’ is frightening.)

Meanwhile, in non-viral news…

This morning, Mirinda came downstairs. She walked into the extension, absently putting her hand on the kitchen counter. She lifted her hand and spotted something on the tip of one finger. It was a small lower case plastic letter ‘a’.


We have no idea where it came from. Mirinda suggested it may have slipped through from another universe where we had a plastic lettering machine. Seems a reasonable enough explanation.

This was all very odd and humorous. By the time I returned from the shops, things had taken a bit of a turn in an unwelcome direction.

During yoga, Mirinda managed to stretch her back in a way it didn’t appreciate. She remained crippled in pain for the rest of the day. Of course, we have some pain killers but, as I realised while shopping, the greedy, panic buying hoarders had cleaned out both Waitrose and Boots.

So. Painkillers and toilet rolls. Who knew these were viral cures?

Late in the day I had an email from Talking Newspaper saying the committee has decided to suspend all recordings after this Thursday’s Haslemere edition. As Mirinda said, some people are going to get really, really lonely.

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