Covid 19 pandemic, life, Pandemic diary

A pandemic diary: Useful terms

September 9, 2021

Limbo. The word originated with the Latin limbus, meaning boundary or border. In Catholic theology it’s the place between heaven and hell, for those who die in original sin but aren’t among the damned in the underworld. It has nothing to do with the dance shown below, though it feels like the pandemic has forced me into similar contortions.

Hell. According to Jean-Paul Sartre, it’s other people. It’s also the realm whose hottest, most painful spot should be reserved for WHOEVER INVENTED THE BLOODY LEAF BLOWER THAT’S BLASTING OUTSIDE MY WINDOW. But I digress.

If J. P. had to navigate this country right now, he’d amend his definition to “unvaccinated, unmasked other people and the shitheads who lead them on.” (That’s connards for all you French purists.)

Smart. What jam-packed football stadiums are not. Kudos to LSU and the other schools that require proof of vaccination or a negative test.

Mandate. Formerly a bureaucratic buzzword; now radioactive. Not to be confused with mansplaining. However, the rabid anti-mandaters are often overbearing, bad-tempered men, while the nurses who hold their hands in their last moments are almost always women.

The Fish Cheer. If you’re too young to remember Woodstock (or got so stoned that you forgot you were there): This was when Country Joe McDonald of Country Joe & the Fish yelled, “Gimme an F! Gimme a U!” etc., from the stage and the crowd yelled the letters and the word back at him.

In those times, f*** never appeared in print or on the three TV networks we had. Today’s culture has freed us to use all its variations and forms: “Oh My Fucking God, Get the Fucking Vaccine Already, You Fucking Fucks.” Imagine 100,000 people screaming that. Maybe at an LSU game!

Take care and be safe. I’ll be saying this for a while longer, but not forever. I mean it, too. Gimme a T!

coronavirus, life, Pandemic diary

A pandemic diary: At the crossroads

August 10, 2021

I have some big choices to make: Compassion or fury? Hatred or empathy? Resilience or hopelessness? Depression or mere frustration?

If you haven’t guessed, these are the emotions and impulses rolling around my brain like surfers on a big wave, in light of the ghastly upsurge in Covid cases, hospitalizations, and now deaths. Most of the time I’m mad as hell at the willfully stupid unvaxxed. Not those who are uneasy because the vaccines are so new or the working people who can’t take time off for side effects or the Black people who remember Tuskegee. I mean the ones who put lives in danger for purely political reasons and the legion of cretins who cheer them on.

The impact of these people’s selfishness ripples far beyond their own families and friends. Right now a lot of Atlanta hospitals are so overrun with Covid cases that they’re being forced to divert emergency patients elsewhere.

Chart showing covid patients overwhelming hospitals and emergency rooms.

If I have a heart attack or get hit by a car, I might not get treated quickly enough to save my life. Because people won’t take a vaccine. Just like the ones that wiped out smallpox and polio and still save millions of kids from measles, mumps, and rubella.

Meanwhile in Florida, where I used to make my home, the governor wants to cut off the salaries of school administrators who mandate masks for children, most of whom have no vaccine available. Let that sink in.

It’s no wonder I’m PO’d. However, as John Lydon (Johnny Rotten) once said, “Anger is an energy.” It helps me write, which in turn keeps my head level, and allows me to cope with disappointments and burnout.

I’m determined not to fall into the pit of hatred and bile. I take no pleasure in seeing anyone sick and dying, not even anti-vaxxers. However, it made my day when one of the most loathsome was suspended from Twitter. Take care, mask up, and be safe.

Release the need to hate, to harbor division, and the enticement of revenge. Release all bitterness. Hold only love, only peace in your heart, knowing the battle of good to overcome evil is already won.

John Lewis, Across That Bridge: A Vision for Change and the Future of America

coronavirus, Covid 19 pandemic, Florida, football, Politics

A pandemic diary: Un-unmasking

July 28, 2021

My daily life won’t be affected by the disheartening but necessary call for vaccinated people in many places to wear masks indoors again. I never stopped using an N95 in public areas, both out of respect for others and to extend my personal shield as far as possible.

I take no pleasure in knowing I was on the right track. The warning is driven by the finding that vaccinated people infected with the Delta variant can carry as much viral load as the unvaxxed, which means they may spread it to others. I’m not at all surprised that the CDC reversed course. I wish like hell that they’d done it before now. According to the New York Times, six weeks ago (June 14) my county in metro Atlanta reported 12 new cases and a seven-day average of 27. Yesterday we hit 282 cases with an average of 208.

Some accuse the CDC of flip-flopping or inconsistency. IMHO, the guidance should apply nationwide, not just where cases are surging, but it changed for a good reason: the data changed. This is natural. In my lifetime, there were serious people who claimed space flight was impossible because there was nothing up there for rockets to push against. You might recall that weather forecasters don’t keep predicting tropical-storm-force winds after the storm blows up into a hurricane.

Forget science: I’ll put this in the language of the least vaccinated part of the USA, the South or more precisely the the Southeastern Conference, stretching from Columbia, Missouri to Gainesville, Florida.* This language is football.

Let’s suppose Alabama’s new quarterback lights up the Florida secondary in the first half but in the second, the Gators’ edge rushers get into the backfield and he’s running for his life. Does Coach Nick Saban stick with the same blocking scheme? If you think so, you haven’t got the brains God gave geese, and he didn’t give geese much. (Nothing personal, y’all.)

Of course, we wouldn’t need masks if more of us got the jabs. That’s why, as a retired federal employee, I strongly support the vaccination mandate for the government. Like members of the armed forces and all civilian feds, I took an oath to defend the Constitution “against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” This virus is our enemy but we can win. Take care, mask up, and be safe.

*The home of those Gator fans who never call. But that’s another story.

coronavirus, Covid 19 pandemic, Pandemic diary

A pandemic diary: One small step for my face

May 20, 2021

To keep up with these changing times, I’ve decided to dispense with my mask. Not on my actual face, just the one I display on my “platform,” the amalgamation of social media, writing, and other sites that make up my online brand.

Last year I replaced all my profile pix with new ones that showed I was trying to act responsibly and protect others as well as myself. I’m still doing that, but in keeping with CDC guidance for fully vaccinated people, I don the mask less often. So I’ve gone with a new mugshot. This little gallery shows how my persona has evolved since last March.

I still wear a mask in public spaces even if they don’t require it, out of respect for those who aren’t vaccinated or are understandably confused about the CDC info. I’m confident the science is correct. As a communicator, I can categorically state that the messages were terrible. Nobody seems to have thought about how this news would affect states, cities, stores, offices, schools, nursing homes, etc.

After fourteen months, we should know the importance of speaking clearly and with authority, and not forcing a weary population to muddle through (again). The bottom line is that the news is good. I just hope I’m not putting a mask back on my face or my photos next fall. Take care and be safe.

coronavirus, Covid 19 pandemic, Family

A pandemic diary: New nightmares and old memories

July 17, 2020

So far, the flood of new cases hasn’t affected the way my wife and I live. We wash our hands religiously (not just at Christmas and Easter), stay home for days on end, and when we go out we wear masks, like we have all along. We’re sure as hell not letting our guard down anytime soon. We’re still healthy and we know we’re lucky.

Even so, the jitters and paranoia are creeping back into my brain whether I’m conscious of it or not. Restful sleep is wishful thinking; this morning I woke up feeling like a truck ran over me in my dreams. And though I’m not a parent, I used to be a kid, and I worry about the ones who may soon be back in school.

Dave and his grandmother on brick porch.
My grandmother and me,
a year after the measles

When I was growing up, long before MMR and other vaccines, the measles, mumps, chickenpox, and rubella were considered routine. But when I caught measles, I got pretty sick. It happened when I was seven, almost eight, and my parents and I were visiting my grandmother in Springfield, Illinois during my summer vacation. We’d planned to stay for two weeks but it took three before I was well enough to leave.

Instead of playing at the nearby park or fishing at the lake with my dad, I spent my time on the couch in the living room, which in the August heat was cooler than the bedrooms upstairs. I was weak, feverish, achy, and generally miserable, but between my parents and my grandmother I had the best “care team” in the world. I remember my dad sitting up with me all night when the rash was first breaking out and I couldn’t sleep. I knew I’d get better, as I had with chickenpox and mumps. I was never scared.

Now imagine being seven again. You’re coughing and running a temperature, your throat hurts, and you’re throwing up. You’ve had colds and earaches before but never, ever felt this bad and you don’t understand what’s wrong. Worst of all, you’re alone in a hospital, surrounded by machines and strange people. Your mom was with you at first but the nurse says she can’t come in any more because now she’s sick too.

Everyone in the hospital is wearing a mask, all the time. The doctor says it stops the virus from spreading. You wonder why all the people outside don’t wear them.

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coronavirus, Covid 19 pandemic, life

A pandemic diary: Take me to your leader (if you can find one)

June 30, 2020

I hope everyone who reads this wears a mask, but if you don’t mind looking a bit like a ’50s sci-fi spaceman, there’s another option: a face shield. I’ve been giving one a shakedown cruise for the last few weeks and plan to stick with it.

Dave wearing plastic face shield.

I decided to try it because when I put on a mask, my hearing aids get all tangled up in the cords and sometimes fall right out. The shield eliminates that problem, covers my eyes as well as my mouth and nose, and is easier to clean. You can sanitize and re-use one of these in a few minutes, unlike a mask that has to be washed and dried. It might look bulky but doesn’t weigh much, and is adjustable like a ball cap.

The downsides: It sometimes gets foggy. If you’re outside in hot weather, it can become uncomfortable after a while, although masks are too.

The experts are divided about whether shields are more or less effective than masks. However, I figure I’ll be all right because even with the shield, I won’t go anywhere near a badly ventilated bar that’s packed to the gills with sloppy drunks. The mostly Republican governors who enabled this horrifying rebound in cases are backpedaling and shutting the saloon doors again. Trust me, we’ll soon have Prohibition-style speakeasies offering freedom from masks, zero distancing, and cut-rate Covid tests for good customers. Nothing like a swab up the nose to sober up after last call!

The pols aren’t the only clueless ones. Today I got an email from a grand old hotel chain, gushing about “getaways” in Orlando, Las Vegas, and Myrtle Beach, which the last time I checked are three of the bigger hotspots. Get away from what?

It’s especially depressing around the Fourth of July, a holiday I’ve always enjoyed and used to celebrate at the beach. But even if my wife and I hadn’t already sold our place in Florida, this would be a down year, probably even worse than the time it rained bullfrogs the whole week. There’ll be other chances. Take care and be safe.

Two American flags flying over beach.

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coronavirus, Covid 19 pandemic, life, retirement

A pandemic diary: Two months in

May 13, 2020

Not much new to report. I’m still healthy, indoors, grateful, and paranoid. I’m not spending quite as much time lying awake, worrying about exactly what I touched and when I washed my hands. However, an approaching human without a mask gets my pulse and my dander up something fierce.

I deeply miss non-virtual contact, concerts, theaters, salad bars, dive bars, parks, haircuts, handshakes, barbecue, beach sunsets, and much more. I realize this doesn’t mean a damned thing when millions of us are missing food on the table and an untold number are missing the loved ones they’ve lost. The problems of a person like me don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.

Frankly, though, I wish the cheermongers — the influencer types who keep babbling “Stay strong! Think positive!” — would shut the hell up. I don’t need to be told how to feel by some clown who’s probably half my age. I know what I need to do to be safe and responsible, starting by covering myself. Anyone who truly believes this tramples on their rights isn’t worth the air they consume. I’ll try to be less grumpy next time. Y’all be safe too.

Dave in mask.
Think I should apply to the Over the Hill Gang?