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As I write this column, Senator Bernie Sanders announced earlier that he is suspending his campaign for the Presidency. In normal times that announcement might result in a move in the stock market, but I am not sure that it will in these difficult times.

I thought that I would share some more of my thoughts and observations as we all try to stay home as much as possible, knowing that our lives have all been displaced, but in very different ways.

First, during this horrible crisis, we are told to wash our hands often with soap for at least 20 seconds, and not to touch our faces, so last time I promised I would share my research on the history of soap. Before I do that, my other research indicates that the average person touches their face between 16 and 23 times per hour, so it’s not that easy for us to break that habit. It is something to work on with all that time that many of us have as we stay home. So, here is some of the history of soap.

Soup supposedly got its name from Mount Sapo in Rome. The word sapo, Latin for soap, first appeared in Pliny the Elder's Historia Naturalis. The first soap was made by Babylonians around 2800 B.C. The early references to soap making were for the use of soap in the textile industry, where it was used to clean cotton and wool, and medicinally. The Mesopotamians, Egyptians, and the ancient Greeks and Romans also made soap, by mixing fat, oils and salts.

Second, there are a number of estimates that sports in this county is a $1 trillion-plus industry, but it wasn’t until the pandemic, and the shutting down of sports at all levels, that I realized how really addicted to sports we are. As a college athlete, who years ago had season tickets to the Buffalo Bills and the Rochester Nighthawks lacrosse team, I have found myself not that interested in actually watching an entire sports game anymore. OK, I do occasionally watch an Alabama football game, or a Connecticut women’s basketball game.

That said, how is it that, with all sports shut down, daily newspapers can still fill up an entire sports section, and presumably people read it? That’s just crazy! It gives some credibility to those sports widow jokes.

Third, I haven’t had a pet for a long time, so I would never have seen this one coming. In a recent Ask Amy column, there was a discussion about the arguments that a couple, currently going through a divorce, were having over their “shared custody” of two dogs that go between houses. We have all heard of shared custody when it comes to children, but pets! It must be about being a pet parent versus a pet owner.

Fourth, we have all come to see that there are many things that we have come to take for granted, including in medicine and health care, that can be done remotely online, especially with the kind of creativity we are seeing these days, but that there are other things that simply cannot be done remotely. For example, I have a friend whose daughter is an acupuncturist. Many of us men are also realizing how much we “need” our hairstylist, as we struggle with giving ourselves a haircut. The only good thing is that many of us don’t have to go anywhere or come into contact with anyone, as we try to stay home, and most everything is canceled. Also we can always wear a cool hat to cover up our hatchet jobs.

Fifth, I don’t know if I am the only one who is reverting to their childhood as I look for comfort food in these stay-at-home days. I don’t think I have had a grilled cheese sandwich in nearly 20 years. Well, a few weeks ago I saw a television commercial where they were making them.  I have been making one pretty much every other day since then. It’s great for my mental health, but not for my waistline.

Sixth, I got a big, and much needed, smile out of this one. A weather reporter on the radio was talking about the weather for that particular Wednesday. He added, “Yes, it is Wednesday for those of you who are still keeping track.” 

Seventh, people ask me all the time about the likely increase in bankruptcies by both individuals and small businesses that we will see as a result of the effects of this pandemic on our economy. Clearly, governments at all levels are looking at aide programs to prevent this, as much as possible, but I am sure that there will be more bankruptcies, especially by small businesses that are so undercapitalized that they may have no other choice. But, that doesn’t mean that the owners will not be back in a similar business, like the restaurant business, going forward, when demand requires it. The problem is that we cannot create a “time warp” where everything just freezes for three or four months. It’s not the Twilight Zone. Businesses can’t pay their rent when they are closed down, but landlords need the rent to pay their mortgages and real estate taxes, and, similarly, related providers of products and services.  It is a domino effect that we just might not have all the financial answers for, no matter how many rescue packages governments put in place.

Eighth, unfortunately, I can’t believe that we also won’t see more divorces when this is over. Some relationships must be very strained.

Ninth, if you are having problems paying any bill, you need to call the creditor and explain your situation. There may be programs that you can take advantage of. People and organizations are trying to help. I even received an email from my insurance agent indicating that there could be help for me if I was having trouble paying my premiums.


John Ninfo is a retired bankruptcy judge and the founder of the National CARE Financial Literacy Program. Find his previous weekly columns at or at