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COVID-19: The Unseen Enemy

Jonna Mendez: The Master of Disguise Discusses an Unseen Enemy

A Different Kind of Threat

Living undercover for years,  Jonna Mendez has served tours of duty around the world and became the CIA’s chief of disguise. She’s helped steal a top-secret encryption machine from a Soviet Embassy and helped America win the Cold War. Now, the coronavirus is threatening Americans and everyone worldwide. We’ve asked Mendez for her insights on this unseen enemy.

Behind Closed Doors

HOW ARE YOU, YOUR FAMILY, FRIENDS, COLLEAGUES, ETC., DOING?

My circle of family, friends, and colleagues is knitting itself together a little more closely as we each hunker down in our respective caves. Family checks in with me often; as the matriarch of the group, there is a little extra concern regarding my wellbeing. My son had already risen to the occasion following our loss of his dad in 2019. And he, too, keeps close tabs. I have used this quiet time to reach out to those I interact with less frequently, catching up and listening hard. I have been in touch with an old friend from high school, last seen 54 years ago. It is interesting to see how they are faring. Some don’t seem to mind this isolation; others are depressed and unnerved. It doesn’t seem to follow the introvert/extrovert paradigm, and I find it almost impossible to predict who is depressed and who is fully engrossed in their newly found free time and projects.

HOW HAS THE CORONAVIRUS AFFECTED YOUR LIFE, YOUR BUSINESS, ETC., AND HOW ARE YOU COPING?

As for me, my life has gone from 100 mph to an empty calendar. Before the Virus (BV), I had about eight trips booked where I was to speak — Dallas, Santa Fe, Tucson, Pasadena, Las Vegas, New York. That was for the next two months. Of course, all of that was canceled or rescheduled, and my calendar opened up. A lot of work I was planning to do with the International Spy Museum has been set aside. And a few personal trips I was hoping to take have faded. Now, after the virus (AV), I wake up each morning with an empty slate. Outside of walking the dog there is nothing else I must do. I have to say that I almost relish this. While the paperback of the last book, The Moscow Rules, comes out in May, I am already at work on the next and probably last book, a memoir of working as a female in the CIA for 27 years. I am actually enjoying writing like I never have before. The difference, the luxury, is time. Oh, and I am painting my apartment, one room at a time, in some pretty dramatic new hues. And talking to LA about a treatment of the last book. Staying busy, in other words. That’s how I cope.

DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR OUR BUSINESS LEADERS AND GOVERNMENT?

If I could have a few minutes with politicians who listen, I would suggest that this administration turn its energy to testing. Testing has been the main problem so far, and testing can provide the best chance for us to move forward and beyond COVID-19. Right now, we don’t know even know how many are infected; all we have is how many have been diagnosed. That is just a small fraction of the total because of testing limitations. We don’t know where the virus is, and we don’t know who has it and is asymptomatic. Likewise, we don’t know who has had it and now is immune to the disease. When you start thinking about after COVID-19 passes (AV) and imagine what will allow us to mingle together again, to shop, dine at a restaurant, or go to a movie, it’s pretty clear that without knowing who is infected, who is immune, who is untouched, many of us will not come out of our isolation. We need a basis to form trust. So, putting the emphasis on testing, testing everybody would be my first piece of advice.

HOW DO YOU THINK THIS EXPERIENCE WILL IMPACT OUR LIVES AS WE MOVE FORWARD?

I think that the majority of us will arrive at a shared wisdom as we go through this crucible, this incandescent viral fire that has raged out of control. I believe that when the smoke from that blaze dissipates, we will find ourselves emerging from our self-imposed isolation into a changed world. We will have discovered that the dreaded commute to the office is not necessary. We will find that our physical presence, while quite nice on occasion, is not really required any longer. We will be loathe to shake hands, even when the danger is (is it?) gone. We will be more inclined to slip into the screens of our devices, whether they be TV or smartphone, and retreat from interpersonal connections. We will remain isolated from each other to a degree that may linger for some time. In the BV world, the face-to-face meeting was the key to most interactions that mattered. In the AV world, face-to-face takes on a new meaning. Have you tried to look directly into the eyes of the person you are Skyping with? Exactly! But at the same time, new opportunities will arise. There is the possibility of choices and chances arising to create a path we could not have otherwise imagined. I do believe that this pandemic will change our lives in ways we cannot yet understand. Perhaps it will be for the better.

Taking Pause to Reflect

Coronavirus has upended our lives, and we are going through something most of us have never come close to experiencing. One thing this unseen enemy has done was to slow down our pace of life. Maybe we will become more introspective, more compassionate, and appreciative of the life we have.

Fascinated with cloak and daggers? Then settle in and read up on Jonna Mendez on Throomers.com.