My neighbors were out in the hallway, rustling bags and debating which shoes to wear down on the sand. They had a family member on the phone, I’m guessing an auntie, probably on video because I could hear her clear as a bell from inside my living room. This family has a two-year-old daughter so they were all pretty lit up.
The beach is open.
Our apartment is not quite a mile from the beach, more specifically from the pier, tourism center of a tourist area. You could plausibly put on roller blades on the front steps of our building and coast directly downhill to an ice cream shop.
Normally this would sound like a brag, which is why I’ve never mentioned it before. Right now, it feels more like the opening montage of a horror movie.
I’ve been hearing all about it on Nextdoor for weeks. A lot of our more vocal neighbors live closer to the action than we do. Some are directly on the beach. Others face onto alleys or live near shops where there is always a lot of activity. From all accounts, this is already shaping up to be a bit more chaotic than a normal summer.
Just today, a neighbor complained that a group of 15 teenagers and young adults were lighting off fireworks in their personal front yard. A police officer on the scene escorted them off toward the beach, and that was all. No masks, no distancing, no citations, not much of anything.
Another neighbor complained last week that various people are routinely copulating outdoors, in the open, in the parking lot next to their house.
Everyone is complaining that there is trash everywhere.
For the last 3-4 weeks, there have been steady reports of crowds of thousands of people on the beaches, in the parks, and all along the walkways. Someone talked to a security guard who said he had been hired by the city, and they were there to “report.” Not to ask people to leave an area that had supposedly been closed by order of the governor. Not to give out tickets. Not to do what they were apparently doing in... I think it was Brazil? Flying along the beach in a helicopter, spraying sand all over everyone until they packed up their picnic blankets.
We live at the beach, but we don’t really *go* to the beach, in the same way that Portlanders don’t usually go downtown during Rose Festival and New Yorkers don’t usually go to Times Square. My hubby lives for the sunsets and the occasional sea view. I like the palm trees and the wild parrots. But we’re not surfers or kayakers or whatever.
Too crowded, too loud, too messy.
Beach people are laid back. This is fun until something goes wrong. We’re probably a little too tightly wound, too serious, too Type A to truly fit in down there on the sand.
This happened somewhere else, but we went on a trip to Hawaii and I sprained my ankle after I fell out of a sea kayak for the fourth time. (Humblebrag) The kayak rental guy was like “Oh.” Fifteen minutes later he wandered over and handed me an ace bandage, then wandered off again.
I’ve found that episode instructive as I learn to live among the wild and carefree beach folk of the world.
I come from a rainy place and my hubby comes from a snowy place. I think it makes people a little different in their attitudes toward risk.
The reason we have a few different types of wild parrots here is that they can live off fruit year-round. A person probably could, too. This is a place where a human can go around permanently barefoot and conduct an otherwise ordinary middle-class lifestyle. My neighbors don’t like wearing socks, much less masks.
Someone on our Nextdoor list put up a poll asking which was more rude, to go out without a mask or to lecture someone else for not wearing a mask. It was pretty evenly split, but “lecture” was considered at least slightly more rude.
I don’t think rudeness really factors into it.
We’re not alone - this attitude seems to be cropping up all around the world. It’s an open secret that people have not been complying with social distancing measures, and by “people” I mean “most people.” We’ve reached the point where businesses are rebelling and defiantly reopening, calling the bluff of their municipalities.
People want haircuts, man!
I feel helpless and resigned about this situation. It seems transparently obvious to me that the majority of people aren’t ready to go out and pretend that nothing is wrong. “Opening” is not going to magically snap the economy back into place, marvelous as that would be.
Personally, I am far, far less likely to leave our apartment now than I was even a week ago. I already know that the majority of beach visitors have been traveling here from elsewhere, probably from 25 miles in every direction. Possibly much more. They’re self-selected as the most impatient, least anxious percentile of the population. I’m still not quite 80% back from the brink of death and I feel no internal drive to increase my exposure risk.
I can’t see it. I can’t imagine faking a casual, relaxed attitude even for ten minutes, strolling along the beach and pretending it’s 2015.
I can’t imagine going to a restaurant and sitting for 90 minutes, trying to figure out which is more dystopian - a waiter *with* a surgical mask or a waiter with *no* mask. Who could eat a meal and manage to avoid every single conversational pitfall, from the pandemic to the economy to “how are your friends and family, I hope they are doing well”?
On the other hand, I’m getting pretty good at sitting around our little living room and ignoring it all for up to an hour at a time.
I might go to the beach again - one day. I might go on vacation again - one day. Probably not until like 2025. Even though I live here, I can’t see what all the fuss is about.
I thought I was getting sick again. For two days.
Part of the long road to recovery is the paranoia, that if you sneeze once, that’s the bad omen and it’s all downhill from there. You don’t have the luxury of tuning out ordinary little aches and pains.
My eyes were really itchy again, which had been my first sign that I was getting sick with COVID. I used saline solution, but the next morning they were still at it. Made hubby go out and get me some Claritin, which worked almost immediately. Two days feeling irritable and low energy. Then my lungs started burning again, not anywhere near as bad as before, but not a great feeling.
All you do in a situation like that is rack your brain, spinning over and over like a bad dream. Where did I go?? How did I mess up?? When did this happen??
Took Mucinex at bedtime and again the next morning.
Then... I was fine! Maybe it *was* just allergies this time, after all! Or maybe this is just how my body reacts now to pollen, mold, dust, or any other minor irritant.
Reading back over my report from just a week ago, it is stunning to me how LONG these weeks are. Last week, I was complaining that I got light-headed and sort of collapsed onto a chair.
That was new, and possibly a weird glitch?
But then it happened every day for nearly another week. I was also still getting the vertigo, a distinct feeling that, to me, seems unrelated.
I reported that I went down to the garage, walked laps for half an hour, and came back feeling great.
The entire next day I was so washed out I had to take a nap, and didn’t have the energy to do much of anything at all.
The next time I tried it, I made it about 15 minutes and got so hot and tired I quit. By the time I had made it back upstairs I was fighting a wave of nausea. I’ve heard of runner friends hitting this particular wall after distance races, but I never did (because I am very slow). Imagine walking slowly for 15 minutes hitting your body the way a 10-mile run might.
That was the end of that plan. I realized that, as usual, it was too soon. I wasn’t ready. I was pushing too hard.
It is hard to express the restlessness, the frustration and boredom that I feel every time I realize that the least little thing is still outside my physical abilities for at least another week. My stamina is... I don’t want to be rude to my own body but it’s like a limp white celery stalk from the bottom of the crisper.
The good news is that I have at least been able to contribute a bit around the household.
I’VE BEEN WELL ENOUGH TO COOK!
This weekend I made Fancy Breakfast, something I used to do every Saturday and Sunday without a second thought. From today’s perspective, it’s actually quite a workout: I have to get out two pans and the toaster, and I have to reach things from the fridge, freezer, two drawers, and the cabinet above the stove! Whew! Then there’s the timing, trying to get three items ready on the stove at the same time while making sure the toast is still hot.
Ahh, I still got it
I’ve also been taking my turn to cook dinner!
This is a seriously big deal. It had been well over a month since I had cooked anything; I had barely graduated to fixing my own instant oatmeal and occasionally making my own sandwich for lunch. My poor hubby had to do everything and sometimes go back to his desk afterward, finishing his day around 10 pm.
But now... I can chop up a cauliflower! I HELPING
I’ve also started slowly doing a few chores here and there. One per day. For instance, one day I might scour the bathroom sink. Another day I might sort the laundry and then lie down for a while. I finally figured out that I don’t have to spend 12 minutes scrubbing the entire shower area. I divided it into six wall sections plus the tub. Right now I actually have 2-5 minutes in me.
This is my fitness plan, at least for now. A year ago, I could do a four-hour promotion in Krav Maga or Muay Thai and then ride my bike uphill for two miles. Now, I can’t even walk slowly for fifteen minutes... It’s going to be a slow journey, but I’m going to get it back. In five-minute increments.
It helps to think of these efforts not as “chores” or “housework” but as regaining my health and feeling like myself again. Every time I’m able to finish a little job like unloading the dishwasher all by myself, I have a few minutes to feel normal.
It’s helping me remember who I am.
Tightly wound, restless, maybe a little hyperactive, bustling around cleaning everything and testing recipes while listening to an audio book on triple speed.
Right now I’m the 0.5x version of that lady.
Two milestones today:
This is where I am after six weeks. Proud of myself for making dinner and emptying the dishwasher. Finally beginning to tackle the backlog of correspondence that built up while my brain was packed up in a box. The old me could have done all of this *while* fixing dinner and barely noticed.
Today, there is nothing wrong with me. Today, I don’t have vertigo. Today, my legs didn’t give out. Today, I didn’t have a headache or itchy eyes or chest pain or heart palpitations or burning lungs or anything. Today, I got up and did a few things and it was okay.
Tomorrow, maybe, the laundry.
I’ve been thinking about conspiracy theories and fake news a lot lately, and I wasn’t sure what to do, so I thought, “Why not try it myself?”
My goal was to make up something so transparently dumb that nobody could possibly believe it. I spent two days trying to come up with something and realized that
because of the very nature of conspiracy theories. The entire idea is that the more the mainstream rejects it, the juicer it is.
I did have a couple of funny ideas, which I will detail, before sharing something my dad made up that illustrates my point. (I get it from him, after all).
“Listening to Nickelback cures COVID” - I thought, if anyone is dumb enough to believe that, at least it won’t hurt them - but then I listened to myself and realized what I was saying
Um... uh... I’ve got one! “Having a beard is protective against COVID” - surely that one is dumb enough for people to realize it’s a joke? No?
Okay, here’s my dad’s story, and the reason that my mom is my mom and that, thus, I exist:
He had a girlfriend who was hot and fun but not super bright. He wanted to demonstrate to her how gullible she was, so he made up a ridiculous story, like so:
“Giant condors live on Mt. Hood and they swoop down to the fields and steal babies and eat them”
She believed this and started crying because of how horrible it was. He felt so bad that he told her he had made the whole thing up and it wasn’t true. THEN she decided that it really must be true after all, and he was now lying to make her feel better. It is possible that she believes baby-stealing condors live at Timberline Lodge to this very day. We will never know because my dad broke up with her and married my smart, ambitious mommy instead.
It is possible that that same woman is actively sharing the “Plandemic” video on social media as well.
Isn’t it more fun to believe that we are the chosen few who are savvy enough to understand the true truth, and that everyone else is a sheeple??
See, I wouldn’t have fallen for that story, even if I didn’t already know that my dad is a spinner of tall tales, because I’m an ornithology nerd and I’m super into condors. I know they eat carrion. The one who steals children is the Slender Man, everyone knows that!
That’s the first thing to consider when evaluating juicy exciting stories. Who is telling them?
Rule 1: Consider the source
An issue that comes up when someone is trying to talk a true believer through a conspiracy, even one that has already been widely debunked, is that the true believer will say, “Why would they lie?” Like, what could their motivation possibly be??
This person is what we would consider an easy mark.
I come from a family that prides itself on word games, banter, snappy repartee, storytelling, puns, and leg-pulling of every kind. If you know any one of us, simply extrapolate up and across the family tree. Whenever one of us prevails in a battle of wits, we save it up to regale one another at family parties, and inevitably wind up falling about laughing ourselves into hysterics.
The lesson here is that some people will propagate silly stories just for, as they say, the lulz. Or for that other new game, clout.
Others will do it because, say, their former professional reputation is shot and they have a new book to sell.
Others will do it because they are Russian operatives who think it’s hilarious to destabilize Americans and, thus, American culture, economy, and politics.
Others will do it because they are teenagers (or people with the mentality and emotional maturity of teenagers) who have nothing better to do than troll people.
Others will do it because they are, to use the technical term, whackaloons.
Others will do it because they have burned out on all the pre-existing conspiracies and they need a fresh one.
All of this adds up to:
Rule 2: Consider the motivation.
Why, who on Earth would ever say something that wasn’t true?? Other than the entire mainstream news media, governments, academia, and medical establishment of each and every nation and culture throughout history?
Bats in belfry
Born chaos muppet
What always mystifies me is how someone can be so suspicious of certain things and yet so wide-open to others. Why we think we are such skeptics and contrarians, but we don’t realize that the back gate to the brain has been left wide open.
I’m gonna make up another conspiracy and we can test out these ideas.
Okay, here we go. This is the joke fake satirical idea that I am testing for comedy humor purposes.
EATING MEAT CAN GIVE YOU CORONAVIRUS
My proof is that thousands of slaughterhouse workers have been infected and at least forty of them have died. They are breathing COVID all over your meat!! Also everyone knows that cows, horses, and dogs have been getting coronavirus for years and years.
What do you think of them apples??
Okay, let’s take it apart.
(Actually totally not. Don’t go trying it and screwing up and then blaming the lifestyle just because you did it wrong).
Now you know not to believe anything just because I said it.
Next we can pick apart what I actually said, how that shapes up as a logical argument, and whether my stated results follow from that argument.
First off, I didn’t cite any sources for my claims, so it would be up to you to Google those numbers and see what comes up. Is it true that at least forty humans have died because they were producing meat under the Defense Production Act?
Second, I seem to be claiming that coronavirus can be transmitted into the food supply through people breathing on it. Is that true? Seems like the kind of thing that someone would have tested by now, takes only a minute to Google.
Third, I seem to have made a factual statement about coronavirus in animals. Is that the same coronavirus as the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19? Again, easy to check.
Note: A “factual statement” is a claim that something is a fact, such as “the Moon is made of green cheese.” It isn’t necessarily true, but it can be tested or verified, unlike an opinion, such as “tights are not pants.”
Okay, for reals though, I don’t want to convince more people to quit eating meat because quite honestly it has been getting very hard to find beans and legumes lately. Back off, people, go eat sardines and leave me the beans! Leave me the lentils or I’ll get relentless! Stop giving peas a chance! Or something.
The only way I can think to tackle the hundred billion and five conspiracy theories out there is to try to talk about them as folklore, try to reinforce everyone’s critical thinking skills, and of course offer a few talking points for others who are doing the same.
It’s my belief that somewhere inside every credulous believer of conspiracy theories is a keen and curious mind that can be shaped to the discipline of inquiry. We can do it together. Let’s approach this conundrum with kindness, patience, good humor, and sympathy.
Or at least humor.
Quaranteaming is tricky, and we’re figuring it out as we go. I’ve been trying to come up with a simple way to categorize people based on their exposure risk. Letters? Colors? Numbers? Animals?
Conversation with hubby:
Me: What animal would I be? A woodchuck? Like something that hides in a burrow.
Him: No, a woodchuck goes right up on the porch, looks in the window, and eats pizza! Maybe a chipmunk.
Me: I was thinking that. I’m a chipmunk. You’d be a bear; like, “I’m going to eat these berries and I’ll leave you alone if you leave me alone. Maybe it’s time to hibernate.” Now, how about our neighbors? Meerkats? They have to stand in the sun in groups?
Him: Or groundhogs.
Me: But groundhogs hide underground...
Him: But they keep popping their heads out!
Animals are complicated and we know of too many that may not be widely recognized in North America. Capybara? Echidna? I dunno.
I went with numbers.
Let’s say that each individual has a number representing how many people they are in contact with during social isolation. My hubby and I are both a 2, because we see each other and we sometimes see our quaranteam friend. We trust that she is also a 2.
The Unabomber would be a zero, because he would only hang out with himself in a cabin in the woods.
Anyone with an unknown amount would be an X, for ‘variable.’
I have no idea about any stranger on the street, so to me all of them are an X. I should be an X to them, too.
Going through our local friends, one lives alone, which would theoretically make her a zero. But we know that she regularly sees her parents, her sisters, and her nieces and nephews. We also know that she was exposed and refused to tell any of them. They may think of her as a zero, even though she is a 9 within their family group, because they picture her chillaxing alone in her nice apartment.
When they think of their family exposure risk, the ‘zero’ of their group probably wouldn’t be the person who came to mind.
When the three of us started talking about quaranteaming, weeks before we actually took our masks off, we went over our friends, family, and colleagues and started socially profiling them. We were able to decide pretty quickly that anyone with kids was off the list.
Parents will chafe at this, but the simple fact is that parents believe they know their children’s souls and they can tell when they are lying. WE actually were children and teenagers ourselves at one point, and we know better! We’ve also spent years mentoring young people, who tell us they confide things in us that they would never tell their families. And we know better than to think that kind of statement makes them 100% open books to us, either.
We also see young people in groups doing very reckless things, and we assume they all have parents.
Guess what? NO, your kids are not wearing their masks - at all. If they are pretending to, the mask is in fact hanging off one ear, or dangling around their neck, or worn around forehead or chin. They are not physically distancing with their friends any more than they ever did before the pandemic.
The only reason this is our problem is because we do occasionally have to leave the apartment, and young people are perpetually walking or jogging or skateboarding or pushing a shopping cart too near to us. They don’t care.
This is why to us, anyone in regular contact with anyone under 30 is automatically off the list. Every kid gets an asterisk
And we get to say that because it’s OUR asterisk
The saddest group, to me, are all the people who can’t physically distance at work. This is sad for two reasons: those who are forced to work with no PPE and not allowed to wear any even if they bring their own. This is awful and so unfair! The other category make me sad for a different reason. They are those, mostly self-employed, who aren’t taking precautions because they think the risks are overblown.
We know three people in this category: a personal trainer, a hair stylist, and a dog walker.
The trainer already had COVID-19, as did his girlfriend and at least four of his clients, three of whom are still training with him in person. When we talked to him about offering classes virtually and potentially earning a lot more, maybe even becoming nationally known, he refused. He has no interest in learning how to use social media, or even recording video for that matter. He’d rather continue to risk his own health than reframe his business.
The hair stylist thinks she might be immune, which scares me because she has an autoimmune disorder and is about ten years older than me. I worry for her the most.
The dog walker has an appointment to get tested today because she was exposed to someone who now has a sore throat.
These are all people I know and like, people I’ve seen socially, hugged, brought coffee, eaten meals with, etc. I wish I didn’t have to avoid spending time with them, but for the next year, I will. Because all three of them are Xs. They see various people all day, every day, and all of those people have their own households and their own workplace variables.
When we do bubble math, we have to keep to our own local community, because seeing anyone else in person would involve traveling. That is unfair to the other cities. I would dearly love to fly up and see my family right now. Frankly, I’d love to just move in with them! Oregon is keeping the numbers nice and low - which is exactly why they don’t need a carload of people from an X region like Southern California heading their direction.
My husband and I are extremely lucky. We’re lucky because we were both exposed, and even though I was deathly ill for a month, we survived. Everyone in our cluster lived through it. We’re lucky because our kid is independent and lives safely outside our hot zone, 500 miles away. We’re lucky because we’re debt-free, insured, and our employer is WFH-mandatory. We’re also lucky because our social lives have improved during the pandemic. Suddenly we have text threads going all day long. We’re back in touch with people we hadn’t seen in years, and it helps us feel like our bubbles are actually much bigger.
Now I have to go get ready for virtual game night tonight. Ciao!
Yesterday I set out to make some predictions about the near-to-mid future coronavirus timeline. By the time I had evaluated myself on the predictions I made back in March, before I got sick, I had run out of room to fit anything new.
Now I’m just going to list off a bunch more stuff, rapid-fire, and maybe we can go more into depth on some of these later. Just to set expectations, this is going to start out dark, but I’ll try to work in a few positives.
I don’t think we’ll be done with coronavirus until, like, 2023. I don’t think a vaccine will offer long-term coverage; I think one season, like the flu shot, at best. I also think a huge percentage of people would refuse to get it. I don’t think we’re going into the “second wave;” I think the first wave has barely gotten started. I don’t think everyone who gets COVID-19 will have antibodies and I don’t think antibodies will provide immunity for more than a few months, if at all. I think the predictions that at least 100,000 Americans will have died by the end of May 2020 are probably a little on the sunny side.
I think if I get it again, I won’t survive, which is why I’m publishing all these thoughts now. If I have to die before my time because my asymptomatic young neighbors refuse to stay six feet away from me, I’d prefer my legacy be spooky and impressive rather than sad and pointless.
I am stone-cold certain that the statistics of who died, and when, will still be actively being updated at least a year from now. There are vast areas of the world where an accurate count would not be possible due to infrastructure, and in those areas we will never know. At time of writing, over 270,000 people have been confirmed to have died of COVID-19, about 77,000 of those in the US, and I believe the true numbers are at least 10% higher [*cough* up to 100% higher *cough*]. Part of that is due to reporting lag, part is that places like Florida quit reporting weeks ago, and part is because only tested patients who died in a hospital setting are being counted.
My cluster from Virus Brunch includes 6 people who were sick and could not get a test. My husband, my friend, and I all got sick and couldn’t get a test until we had already recovered, when of course we tested negative. At least from my personal experience, I know not all the statistics can be accurate or up to date.
Regardless of hospital capacity, there are people who, if infected, will not survive. We simply don’t have the interventions yet that might save them. This is why I think the fatality rate isn’t really going to drop much even if we supposedly “flatten the curve.”
Okay, what else?
I think a lot of companies, especially in tech, are going to move to permanent WFH and then they are going to want to unload their commercial real estate.
I think a lot of investors have already realized that they need a different formula if they want to live off passive income. Investing in the market or buying rental properties are a totally different game now.
I think a lot of people in the service industry are going to get shafted out of unemployment, disability, or death benefits because there is no “proof” that they have/had COVID-19. I think in the near-to-mid future we’re going to be relying on people for certain jobs (food service, warehouses, deliveries) who would have been considered unemployable (even in the gig economy) just six months ago.
I think AR/VR could actually become a thing in entertainment if the price point for the rig is low enough.
I think certain communities will get delivery drones/robots and most won’t.
I think a lot of people are going to want to relocate or change their housing situation if this keeps up for another year. Some will want roommates or want to combine forces with broke/lonely family members. Others would rather live in a tool shed than stay where they are.
I think attempted burglaries will be up, and I also mentioned the word ‘brigands’ in casual conversation with my husband recently.
I think there will be a significant turnover of people working in the health care industry, some who will run screaming (if they still can) and others who will enlist and seek out ad hoc training.
I think travel will go back to being as expensive and exclusive as it was in the 1920s-1960s. Wealthy-ish people will buy some kind of suit, helmet, or connector hose to get their own clean air supply, and then go back to normal. (The “really” wealthy will just cheat and use personal transport/yachts/private jets).
I think a LOT of people will return to normal levels of socializing, and the toll of that will always take a month to reveal itself.
I think certain parts of the world, starting with island nations, will achieve total eradication and then require at least a two-week quarantine before anyone can visit.
I think the “immunity passport” will definitely become a thing, and will definitely be hacked, and will definitely lead to sickness.
I think society will polarize even more than it already was, specifically in the area of “health expertise.” Those who would drink bleach will start doing even dumber stuff, and those who were already inclined to get their shots will start seeking out deeper reality-based knowledge of scientific and medical topics.
I think philanthropists will start funding vaccine research, not just for COVID, but also for diseases that arguably kill a lot more people, like TB.
I think a lot of people will quit smoking and vaping, and a small portion will also drop weight and work toward getting off their meds (asthma, diabetes, high blood pressure).
I think 2020 is going to be a great year for conservation and species reintroduction. (Cite white-tailed eagle, storks in Britain, beavers, tortoises, etc).
I think residential construction will move toward isolation-ready floor plans with larger pantries and more home-office alcoves.
I think a lot of people, like my personal household and our techie friends, will just shrug and stay home for the next couple of years. People on the other extreme are already experiencing crisis fatigue to the point that they will quit following coronavirus news, and accept a background fatality rate of 2,000-3000 deaths per day (and up) in the same way that they previously accepted traffic fatalities and gun violence.
I think the Pacific Northwest will be mostly clear by fall, but my part of Southern California will continue to heat up. Most deaths in my state are right here in my county, and as far as I can tell, most of the local community doesn’t even care.
What kind of numbers would it take to impress my neighbors? I have no idea. Will people who are out protesting and being very vocal about “herd immunity” ever change their minds, if someone in their family dies or if they themselves get as sick as I was? No idea.
This is a weird time. It’s made weirder because nobody knows what’s going to happen and nobody knows what to believe. I choose to make some predictions because it helps me to feel like at least my brain still works. Undoubtedly the most newsworthy events of 2020 will be completely surprising and thus unpredictable. I’ll be following those threads from indoors.
Rather than admit that I’m too tired to do anything else after walking for half an hour yesterday, I’m going to discuss a few predictions I made about the near-to-mid future.
As I always say, making predictions is risky because they are almost always wrong. The main reason for that is that we can’t anticipate the biggest, most transformative events until they are already starting to happen. Case in point: the entire internet.
It’s like we have this big donut where all our predictions are the cakey part and the hole in the middle, the part that defines it and makes it an actual donut, is just this empty void.
What the heck, though. Let’s do it.
I made a bunch of predictions about coronavirus before I personally got sick with it. Let’s review those first and compare them to what really happened.
First, I claimed on March 3 that my husband and I prepped for coronavirus. We did this by buying a month’s worth of food and backup supplies of TP, cleansers, and bath products. I had been planning to start stashing cash but didn’t get to it in time. Reality testing was hard on this prediction since we have been in isolation much longer than that and we wound up running out of a bunch of stuff.
I THOUGHT THREE WEEKS WOULD BE A LONG TIME + A LITTLE EXTRA TO BE SAFE
Also, I never really anticipated that either of us would get sick.
Our personal lives are where our strategic forecasting abilities actually matter. Where I applied this to my own household, I, ah, did not over-prepare.
That’s something: the dog that didn’t bark! I did not make any purchases or take actions based on guesswork that didn’t pan out. Another way to put that is that I didn’t blow all our liquid cash reserves on shopping carts full of paper towels or bacon.
The only thing that I bought that we haven’t needed so far was four bottles of Gatorade, in case one of us got the dreaded fever.
What I was envisioning was something out of Contagion, in which the government came down like the scientists in E.T. The Extraterrestrial. I did a ton of research for a draft of a novel I began back in 2010, the plot of which was a strep-type airborne bacterial pandemic that turns everyone into zombies. I thought we would all be in “real” lockdown and that this sucker would quickly be brought to heel.
Then I wrote a post called History Says, and I laid out several specific predictions:
“...sometimes an entire family can be taken out in days.”
“Burials become a serious logistical problem.”
“Supply chains collapse and it becomes very difficult to find food or other material goods.”
“...labor...could negotiate for legal rights, higher pay, and better working conditions.” [reorganization of my argument but I stand by my point]
“...people... run amok like a bunch of morons, rioting, fornicating in the streets, getting falling-down drunk, running around naked.” [looks like we leaned more toward ‘riot’ than ‘drunk and naked’ alas; looking to you, Florida]
“Rationing (i.e. one per customer), including food, medical supplies, and other material goods
Total unavailability of certain categories of product
A thriving black market
People waiting in line all day for something like a single loaf of bread
Economic, um... opportunities? 😬”
“It could be that a month from now, we’re all laughing off what was a very scary first quarter of 2020. Or, it could be that this is just the beginning of a major watershed, after which everything will be totally transformed. We are in the middle of the Place of Uncertainty.”
Okay, First Quarter 2020 is over now, and I don’t think a lot of people are laughing. (I kinda stuck that in there to make that piece seem less gloomy, and again, that was before I got sick).
I have no idea about the black market thing, although it looks like this might be happening with PPE, sanitizer etc? Yet the total opposite for the drug trade? From what I’ve read business is down for drug dealers and sex workers.
(What?? Trend analysis is part of my job!)
Pretty sure I was wrong about bank runs, at least in the U.S. At least so far. I think virtual banking has been a big help here.
Something I didn’t think of, when I did this list, was the concept of speakeasies. That’s probably because I’m not a user of recreational substances other than green tea. When I heard it was happening already I thought ‘DUH’ because what matters the most to people right now is their desire to get drunk in groups. Which, I feel ya.
Looking back, these last four months have been the longest twenty years of my life. Some of my predictions I thought would come down maybe at the three-year mark, and lo and behold, they are already in play.
What this means for me and my little household is that I was not pessimistic enough. I had no idea that a month after I claimed “we prepped” I would be at Death’s door, with the Grim Reaper spattering me with little sparks from his scythe sharpener.
On the other hand, I was also not optimistic enough. I didn’t know that I would survive COVID-19, that my husband would remain uncertain whether he even had it, or that we would basically continue to have access to most food, pharmaceuticals, and consumer items. We even maintained access to water, power, the internet, phones, and streaming entertainment!
As I was writing this, I started rattling off a bunch of future predictions, and it quickly became obvious that this post should really be a two-parter. Therefore, I hacked off that section and pasted it into a new document. You can come back and read that tomorrow.
What, this again? I hate this plot line, it’s so boring. Can’t we move on to something else? New season? At least a new episode?
The thing about COVID-19 is that every day feels like its own month. I often think I’ve taken a wrong turn down some timeline wormhole and I’m just wandering the hallways, trying to find my way back.
This year, when I made my resolutions and did my planning for the next year and the next decade, my theme for the year was to GET MY BODY BACK. *facepalm* I have a knack for being a little too on the nose and creating huge loopholes for the plot devil to drive a big old semi truck through.
All I wanted was to run a half marathon and lose 15 pounds! I didn’t mean to get my body back from my own coffin! Sheesh. Who writes this stuff.
On the other hand, it’s thrilling to feel that I can actually do this... and maybe even do both?
Right now the state of this rusty old carcass is fairly dire. I’m still having lingering after-effects and would by no means pass an audition for gym trainer, or possibly even Walmart greeter.
The worst problem I am having has to do with my heart, and I’ll come back to that in a minute.
I’m still having vertigo when I get in bed at night, and again when I first wake up and get out of bed. It’s getting a little better each day, but still here and still annoying. Got some advice from someone who suffered from vertigo for over a decade and went through every possible test, including the tilt table.
Apparently vertigo can be a symptom of zinc deficiency. This makes a lot of sense. Research backs up that zinc is a key nutrient for immune system function. I tested this back in 2018 when I kept getting every cold and flu for most of a year, and my expensive vitamins clearly helped me bounce back. The vertigo returned when I ran out, and now that my new bottle has arrived it is ebbing again.
I like to think of specific nutrients with various analogies. Those who like the fighting/battle/warfare type of imagery could think of zinc as the bullets used by the immune system, that it uses it up and then needs more. For me it is more helpful to think of it as batteries that need to be recharged, or rare ingredients in a special soup that needs to be boiled up batch by batch. Grated ginger, or more likely saffron threads. You can make gallons of pretty decent soup without saffron, but there really isn’t a convincing replacement for it.
After weeks of a severe infection, my immune system is probably looking a lot like some wicker furniture that’s sat out on the porch for ten years. Total restoration job necessary.
I AM a mixed metaphor these days
About the heart thing. Anyone who thinks that COVID-19 is “just a cold” or “just the flu” should be allowed to peacefully exist inside that gentle fantasy for as long as possible. For me, the real problem was the second week, when most of my other symptoms went away but I had serious lung and heart trouble.
My lungs have blessedly improved. In that second week, I was gulping air and feeling fairly certain I would die within a day or two. Then I started breathing better and feeling like my lungs had recovered... only to be struck by a secondary bacterial infection that felt like it would kill me in a completely different way. That second infection was a constant burning pain, much worse than anything I had felt from COVID. That was when my doctor sent me in for the chest x-ray and diagnosed peribronchial thickening. He prescribed five days of azithromycin, which totally seems to have worked. I haven’t had any lung issues since then.
I’ve had heart palpitations since the fifth day after I was exposed to the coronavirus, long before I knew I had been exposed. Before I got sick, it would only happen after exercise, like riding my bike, walking uphill or up the stairs, or that fateful day I tried to go for a run. This is not a problem I’ve had in the past, so it definitely got my attention!
After I had been sick for a week, it started happening all the time. My heart would race for no reason. My resting heart rate was elevated to 50% higher than normal. It would spike to double my normal rate any time I got up. Much worse when I would go through the air-gulping episodes for hours at a stretch.
It was already in the news that people with COVID-19 were getting blood clots and dying from heart attacks and strokes. I felt in my body that this could happen to me, and soon.
I did start to get better, and the third week I didn’t have the heart palpitations. Not really in the fourth week when I was battling the secondary lung infection, either.
It wasn’t until after I had tested negative and was off the antibiotics, genuinely starting to feel like I had won the game, that my heart started pounding again. I also started getting brief stabbing pains all around my heart.
Um, that’s not good?
I wear an Apple Watch and it didn’t give me any special alerts. I checked my heart rate and looked at my tracking data, and it showed I was spiking back up to 90 bpm, but that is considered within normal range.
After the second day of this happening more often and feeling more painful, I decided that if it happened again the following day, I would get on the phone with an advice nurse. Took some Tylenol and went to bed, hoping this was just some sort of inflammation.
My big concern is blood clots, and general stroke risk rather than heart attack necessarily.
When I got my chest x-ray, my doctor ran a full panel of blood tests to check for nutritional deficiencies. (I had been complaining about tingling in my hands and feet, and he felt that this could not be related to coronavirus). Everything was normal.
Other than this bout with the virus, I’m in great shape for someone who is 44.
Today I had a weird moment when I got up too quickly and sort of didn’t make it across the room. Light-headed. Then we ate lunch and it was fine.
Other than all this, I would say I feel like 80%, which is fantastic!
I decided to walk some laps in the parking garage of our building, the only place where I can get some exercise with no mask on. I did a half hour at an 18-minute mile pace, rolling sweat in shorts and a t-shirt at 70F. When I came back upstairs, I felt great.
This is my plan, so far: Eat clean, get as much sleep as I can, and walk half an hour a day. I can gradually rebuild my stamina, keep my blood moving, and feel once again that my body belongs to me and not some alien trash invader.
I went to the grocery store for the first time in... over five weeks?
It was too soon. As usual I was pushing too hard. I don’t think I was psychologically prepared for full immersion yet. Several hours later, I’m sitting on the couch checking my Apple Watch because I’m having chest pains, hoping it’s “just stress.”
The last time I went to the grocery store, there were disinfecting wipes (new addition) and the checkers were wearing gloves, but nobody was wearing masks yet. The shelves were almost entirely empty in every single aisle, except the produce department. That had been the status quo for weeks and every chain was the same.
Hubby took me, so he could teach me about all the changes over the past month.
You probably already know what it was like today, but I hadn’t yet seen the capacity sign out front (150), the arrows on the floor, the acrylic sneeze guards at the checkout stands, the checkers wearing double masks.
It was surprising and reassuring to see that everything was fully stocked besides the TP, but then our store was always low in that aisle for some reason. Also, there was no line coiled around the front of the store, which I had been hearing was an issue. It could have been worse.
What I wasn’t expecting - although I probably should have been - was what a shoddy F- effort the other patrons were making at pretending to social distance.
It wasn’t technically possible to stay six feet away from people in the first place, partly because the staff were bustling around getting near people. When you stand in line, the clerk in the next aisle is only two feet behind you. I’m sure they don’t like it either.
While the aisles are set up like one-way streets, with stickers asking for a two-cart-length spacing, the aisles across the front and back of the store are packed. Also, patrons seem to feel totally free to go up the wrong direction, do U-turns and pass again in the same aisle, or linger two feet away from whomever.
I started feeling the jacked-up cortisol level I used to get in the shark pit in Krav.
Want to punch something / don’t want to get knuckles dirty
The worst offenders were the Gen Y males. For some reason the store was crawling with half a dozen of them, all in shorts, tank tops, and bandanna masks. Clearly they have no fox to give.
I’m decades too young to go during the morning senior hours but I have no intention of ever visiting the store again when these kids are going to be there en masse. You’re not worried, bully for you.
There should be some widely recognized sumptuary signal of survivor status. I want to be able to point forcefully at it without having to try to talk through my mask. HEY!!! STEP BACK PLEASE
But nobody is looking at anybody else. You might as well be a stack of cans or a cardboard display module.
About my mask(s):
One of our astronaut friends brought us these 3D-printed prototype N95 masks. (Privilege) Heat them up with a hair dryer to soften and mold the plastic. The rectangle on the front pops off and you can replace the filter material, which is cut from larger HVAC filters. We had to make the straps ourselves and fortunately had some elastic in the sewing box.
Also on our model is a pair of standard safety glasses, ransacked from kickboxing bag, originally purchased for knife fighting practice.
Top layer: You know those plastic packages for sheets and blankets? The kind with the zipper? I happened to have one in the closet. Cut it up, clipped it to a fabric hair band with bobby pins to check the fit. After this test run I brought it home and shaped the edges into more of an oval. It makes sense that the professional-grade versions have that foam headband, because it could really use more space between the plastic and my face.
I was the only person in the store wearing remotely that much gear, but nobody said anything or pointed or stared at me. Or backed away slowly and gave me a wide berth, which is what I was hoping would happen.
Do I feel like I went over the top? HECK NO
I want to make other people feel like they missed a news update, that they are underprepared, the same way you feel when you pull up to the beach and see someone going back to his car with a cherry-red sunburn. UHOH
More than that, of course, I want to be as protected as possible when hoi polloi insist on scooting within two feet of me, no apologies, no hesitation. Rear elbow strike? Again, don’t want to get elbow dirty
I should not be close enough to you to start throwing hands
Now that I’m out of quarantine, I’ve been outside twice, and I am rethinking my entire pandemic strategy.
My region is statistically highly suspect. Field notes confirm this is just the standard here. People are NOT being careful or respectful, and by ‘people’ I mean both the young and the elderly. Hubby tells me that on at least two occasions, people 60+ have come up right behind him and immediately coughed.
In different circumstances, I would solve my social issues by simply going to the store after 11 PM. That’s not an option, which is okay; I can accept whatever constraints it takes to keep the workers as safe and healthy as possible. I know they obviously have to deal with this stuff all day, every day, and it isn’t fair.
I’ve already decided that I am not going outside for exercise again, not while this stuff is going on. I’m just going to walk laps in the parking garage under our building.
What am I going to do about groceries? It’s not very fair to my hubby to expect him to do all the shopping, especially because males are more at risk from the virus.
Not sure yet.
I’m going to do what I always do when confronted with a thorny persistent problem. I’m going to research it, puzzle over it, reframe it, and try to come up with alternative approaches. The first one is going to be delaying supply runs as long as humanly possible. The second is to try to find a time slot that is less congested. The third might be buying a scythe - just for decoration of course.
Check the heat map of the United States and you’ll see us down there in the bottom left hand corner. SoCal, land of beautiful beaches and beautiful nincompoops. More people have died in my county so far (as of May 3, 2020) than in 39 states. In fact, more people have died in my county than 18 other states PUT TOGETHER.
I could have been one of them.
My friends and I were among the first 400 cases in the state, if the statistics are to be believed, although I bet we were really among the first 5000. Nobody will ever know.
We can’t be sure about this part, either, but apparently California had the first COVID-19 death in the United States. At the time that my friends and I were exposed, we thought we were third.
What I’m trying to say is that we got a solid head start on most of the country, and we had good reason to be more alert. By now. Which I can tell you we are not.
There was a protest in my little city, less than a mile from my apartment. People are flipping out because they aren’t allowed to go to the beach, and they’re showing it by heading down there and standing next to each other with no masks on.
Then again, people in my community aren’t known for wearing other stuff, like shoes, or clothes either. I once saw a young mom pulling two kids in a wagon, red to match her bikini, right in front of my building. Along a seven-lane highway. I mean, less laundry, right?
It’s impossible to ignore how sloppy people are being in my area, from my own apartment building to our Nextdoor digest to gossip with my friends.
A couple weeks ago, when I came back from my chest x-ray? I used the elevator to come upstairs because, well, because I had a lung infection. We live on the top floor, and there is a roof deck. Much to my surprise, there were at least five of my neighbors clustered together, hanging out and drinking wine while watching the sunset. No masks. They were like “Hi, care to join us” and I was afraid to even talk to them.
I COULD KILL YOU ALL YOU FECKLESS FOOLS
Wearing a surgical mask, gloves, and safety glasses. I ask of you
Earlier today, hubby and I went out for a walk for the first time in... six weeks? Very first thing that happened, one of our neighbors came in the front door with her dog. Neither of them were wearing a mask. Walked right by us within two feet.
But... you’re wearing a mask, you say. Why do you care so much?
I care because I don’t know if I can get reinfected and I’ve only been well again for a few days. MY mask lowers my chances of being exposed by about 30% against a COVID carrier with no mask. HER mask, if I had a bare face, would lower my risk by 95%. If we both wear one, I have only a 1.5% chance of getting reinfected.
I wear my mask for YOU, not me. Please do likewise.
All these people wearing pink ribbons and talking about “F*** CANCER” and wanting to protect cancer patients, can we put some of that energy toward protecting coronavirus survivors?
Stay home if you’re so worried.
Um, I need groceries and medicine too. I stayed home to protect you and your friends, and you should be sending me little thank-you notes because none of you want to be sick for a month.
We went out for a thirty-minute walk, staying within a mile of our apartment. We passed at least thirty people, only one of whom had a mask on, and he was on a bike.
One little boy was wearing one draped around his neck like a scarf. Ironically his bike helmet was clipped; I often see children “wearing” bike helmets without the strap. How many layers of fake safety gear do we need to add so kids can feel like they are disregarding some of it, but keeping their masks on their actual snoots?
Saw an old man wearing a mask in his front yard, only a few feet from the sidewalk, but it only covered his mouth.
Two Boomer men walked in our direction. One called to us, “Mask of the year!” I called back, “I was sick with COVID for a month. I’ll be wearing these the rest of the year.”
Our friend told us that all of her other friends are gossiping about her. Especially including the ones who passed the virus to us. They’ve decided she’s being “paranoid” and “obsessed” and they’re going to try to gently cajole her back into feeling like she’s safe to go to parties. Same friend who spent weeks bedridden with COVID.
Her neighbors, like ours, are having constant parties in their homes. Her neighbors may actually be more social now than they ever were before the stay-at-home order.
Our dog-walker friend is still seeing all her clients. Our hairdresser friend is still seeing clients. Our trainer friend is still seeing all his clients. Assume that almost every small business owner or sole proprietor is out there working in defiance of orders, trying to feed their kids or just not believing in the threat of the pandemic.
This is why cases here continue to climb. It’s almost like the higher the numbers go, the less my neighbors believe in them.
The masses in my town have decided that it’s all hysteria, that people who wear masks are there to be pointed and laughed at (got that at least twice today), that people who complain about someone else not social distancing are being rude and unreasonable. It’s the same stupid peer pressure one would expect to see at a high school where kids were eating Tide Pods.
Go ahead and laugh at me, neighbor, I don’t care. I cheated death. You won’t be laughing so hard if you’re wrong about your chances. Unfortunately (or luckily?) it’s going to take at least two weeks for you to find out.
We had “the talk” today. The new talk, the quaranteaming talk. If you haven’t been party to one of these conversations yet, take note; you probably will be soon.
The young ones call it DTR, or “defining the relationship.” There’s this awkward point when one person realizes that the other may not have the same interest in exclusivity or commitment. Then comes the Catch-22 moment: the DTR conversation may kill the relationship, but it can’t continue without it.
If you thought that was awkward, wait until it actually becomes a matter of life and death and also involves a multi-familial org chart.
There are three reasons why we’re having the talk with this specific person:
I live my life in the crossroads between FREE HUGS and TRUST NO ONE, only now one of those roads is closed. After getting coronavirus in the circumstances that I did, I’m rethinking how I make decisions and who is in my circle of trust.
A big part of that is no more vouchers, no more “friend of my friend is my friend.”
Okay, it’s one thing to make connections between people, write references, help people on projects, or have conversations when it’s virtual. What I’m talking about now is being in the same room with another person.
One of the changes we’re going to see is that hugging and shaking hands will take on entirely new and deeper meanings. Another is that a couple feeding each other cake at their wedding ceremony will be doing something much more dramatic, something that may feel like more of a gesture of commitment than trading rings. The kiss! People may faint when they see newlyweds kiss for the first time.
I’ve always had an open door policy. We used to have an open house night every week and sometimes whole carloads of people would show up, only one of whom we had met before. We hosted couchsurfers all the time.
Those days are done.
I mean, I hate it? But I also just spent a month trying not to die. Until we all have spacesuits, I can’t be taking any chances.
I know for a fact that most people don’t understand this attitude yet.
Teenagers outside in groups of half a dozen, no masks, or maybe one hanging off an ear
Majority of people on the streets in our neighborhood not wearing masks
Nextdoor blowing up with posts every single day complaining about the “lockdown”
The same person who got me sick now meeting her trainer IN PERSON - somewhat legit since they both tested positive for COVID and recovered, but that doesn’t explain his other clients
Our friend’s neighbors hosting a “free beer” stand in front of their house
Our downstairs neighbor leaving repeatedly for two hours at some point between midnight and 5 AM, we know because his puppy howls on continuous loop, do his parents know? Doubtful
I think there are a few broad categories of reaction to self-isolation, based on what I have seen and heard.
Skeptics who think it’s “just a cold” or “just the flu”
Young people who feel immortal
Well-meaning people who don’t know how far 6’ is and won’t do a thorough job with hygiene
People who know the rules but think it’s okay to cheat, just a little
The category of person who is extremely strict and has strong self-discipline and self-control is a very, very small category. I can list off on one hand the people in my acquaintance who would qualify for an interview for my bubble.
Most of them live far enough away that it’s a moot point, at least right now. When we get limited travel back that may change.
Here’s the deal with vetting people to be in the bubble. You aren’t just vetting them, you’re vetting EVERYONE ELSE they may meet in person. Any one of them could be... sloppy.
The best parallel for this type of arrangement comes from the polyamorous community. We could really use some guidance from them and I hope they’re willing to share. How do you have these conversations about boundaries and trust and honesty and health and safety? In a cute way?
I know several poly groups - it’s quite common in the Pacific Northwest - and I have watched several split up in what I considered predictable ways. Lot of moving parts, to coin a phrase. I was privy to one group debate when one member kept dating on the side, outside the group, after being chastised. The main rule was that everyone in the group got tested every year, but introducing a bunch of random elements made that rule ineffective for all of them, and by ‘all of them’ I mean a lot more than three.
The reason I trust our friend is that we had this conversation about which of our local friends and relatives could be considered trustworthy, and we agreed that none of them could! She can’t trust her parents because she doesn’t trust her brother-in-law, and obviously that takes her sister off the list. I’m not her best friend, but two of her other close friends have been flagrantly breaking social distancing and a third has turned full pseudoscience.
There is another reason that I trust her judgment, besides trusting her as a follow-through person who has a strong track record of keeping her word. She has health conditions that made COVID more dangerous for her, and having been sick for weeks, she has a vested interest in not going through that again. I believe that she is at least as scared as I am of getting breathed on by a less serious individual.
“I just feel like everyone else is diseased,” she said, and that’s the attitude that I need to see right now.
What qualifies as ‘trustworthy’ and ‘reliable’ and even ‘clean’ now all has to be reevaluated in a new context. Someone who would never dream of stealing from my purse or talking about me behind my back might cheerfully expose me to coronavirus again without thinking it matters, or maybe even realizing it had happened. Right now the three of us are part of the 0.1% of Californians who have been officially confirmed to have COVID-19, so this kind of negotiation may seem outlandish, but keep it in mind. It may seem more relevant to you in a few more months.
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.
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