Usually this blog is about road trips that Andrea and I take. But we are starting a different kind of journey — a journey that we are all on together, separately.
Andrea and I had planned a road trip to Utah and New Mexico, returning through southern California. I had been watching the weather to see if we would encounter snow in the mountains. Actually, the plan had been to have already been gone and to return today.
It’s hard now to remember what things were like even two weeks ago — things are changing so quickly. I knew about the virus and the deaths in Washington State. I looked at the map of where known cases were. We would go through a couple of hot spots, but mostly the trip looked like it would be safe.
Andrea called our doctor, to ask him about our planned trip. She and I are both in our 70s, and I have some underlying health issues, so we are of elevated risk. Our doctor didn’t say we shouldn’t go on the trip, but he advised against it until we knew more about the virus’ spread. On the last day we could, I cancelled all of our reservations. We decided to go to Astoria for a long weekend instead. We like Astoria.
The trip started out with rain and drizzle but then the weather turned nice — cold but sunny. We found that our timing was good. The town had some large events the previous two weekends but was fairly quiet when we were there.
We drove down the coast to Seaside on Saturday.
Then on Sunday we went out to Cape Disappointment, which is the Washington side of the mouth of the Columbia River.
We woke Monday morning to another beautiful day and drove home.
Tuesday and Wednesday, life was still pretty normal. Tuesday I rode the light-rail into town. Already we had begun to worry about being with too many people, but the train is usually pretty empty when I go. On Wednesday Andrea and I drove together in our car.
By Thursday things began to close down. Andrea and I live at Rose Villa — a retirement community. On Thursday it was announced the campus was closed to non-essential visitors and all activities were cancelled. I had gotten in the habit of going into town on Thursdays, too, but decided to stay home. I did go to one of my favorite coffee shops to stock up on beans, though. No latte on this trip — just buy the beans and leave.
With all this time on our hands, we decided to clean out our pantry. We found some cans of food with “Best by” dates in 2018. We ate some of that Thursday night and made a shopping list for the morning.
My habit has been to get up around 5:30 each morning. Six AM is sleeping in. But with all events cancelled I slept until seven. We went off to Fred Meyer before breakfast, hoping to beat the rush. It was pretty empty when we got there, but there were long lines by the time we were ready to check out. We didn’t buy toilet paper or soap — we have enough of those already — but did stock up on produce and packaged goods that wouldn’t spoil quickly. There were only eight boxes of the facial tissues we like, so I put four in our cart and left the other four for the next person. We also got some snack foods that we usually don’t eat — to keep our spirits up during what could be a long period of staying home. I began to wonder how much I’ll weigh at the end of this. Will I be a lot heavier from eating junk food? Or lighter from not getting enough? Or maybe I won’t make it through, so it won’t make any difference what I weigh.
Normally there is a restaurant here at Rose Villa, where we can get a meal if we want. The campus had closed the day before but the restaurant stayed open for residents. On Friday they announced that the restaurant was closed it to all in-house dining and carryout. If we want a meal, we call up and they deliver it to us.
Friday evening we went to Andrea’s brother’s house in Oregon City, stopping to pick up a pizza on the way.
Saturday morning I read that King County (Seattle) and Multnomah County (Portland) libraries had closed. In a light snow, I trotted over to our local library and picked up some light reading. (I’m working my way through M.C. Beaton’s Hamish MacBeth series about a police constable in the far north of Scotland. It’s not great literature certainly, but it is fun and engaging while being easy to read. And despite all the murders, there’s not a lot of mayhem. I’m tired of mayhem.)
Saturday evening I was feeling pretty good. We’d been practicing social distancing, more or less, for three days and it hadn’t been too bad. But I wondered what it would be like after three weeks. Or three months.
Sunday morning we got up with lots of energy. We scrubbed the crack where the kitchen counter meets the backsplash, where the backsplash meets the wall, and the under-counter lights. We usually buy our flour and oats in bulk and had gotten an infestation of pantry moths. With Sunday’s cleaning, I think we’ve finally managed to get rid of them. We thought perhaps we’d start cleaning the cupboards, too, but haven’t yet.
We often go to church on Sunday morning — First Unitarian: the church where we met in 2011 and where we were married three years later. But by Sunday, the church was closed. We sat on our couch and watched the service live-streamed. The ministers were there; the organist and pianist were there; and there was a small choir, each sitting apart from each other. But there was no congregation other than those of us tuning in. We found out later that they had hit their limit of sign-ons — 500 — and those trying to sign on later were turned away. They are working to increase their bandwidth.
Already feeling the isolation, we spent more time talking on the telephone than we usual do. By afternoon, Andrea was busy setting up Zoom accounts for people so they could have a meeting without physically being present.
Monday I went out again to look for a thermometer and isopropyl alcohol. Just empty shelves. Things were closing down fast. Last Wednesday we’d gone to the art museum gift shop; now it was closed. Governor Brown ordered all restaurants and bars closed except for takeout. I got a notice from Dansko — I love Dansko shoes — they were closing their offices and distribution center. People who could would work from home; the others would continue to be paid even though they couldn’t work. The phones would be answered, but no orders would be shipped.
I cleaned our cellphones, did the laundry, scrubbed the kitchen vent hood, read about Hamish MacBeth, and walked around the neighborhood.
Andrea and I are in good shape. We are more vulnerable than some, but we are retired and can stay at home. We know we will have enough money to eat as long as there is food available to us. Rose Villa will deliver meals to us. We can talk to our friends by phone or Zoom. We can read and do housework. Perhaps we can finally sort our family pictures — a task we’ve both been putting off for years.
But not everyone is in good shape. We don’t have to go out, but many do. We can get things delivered, but what about the delivery people? We cancelled our trip. What about the people who clean the hotel rooms? The restaurants are closed. What about the servers and cooks and baristas? What about construction workers, repair people, bus drivers? The grocery stores are still open, as are the pharmacies. What about the clerks and pharmacists and stockers? The hospitals are open. What about the doctors and nurses and receptionists?
We enjoy going to the little family-owned restaurants and shops around here. The big chains will survive, but what about these small places?
It is becoming very evident just how very much we rely on one another.
Stay safe. Stay healthy. Offer help where you can. And be kind to yourself.