When I lived in Laramie, Wyoming, I was friendly with a man who ran a motorcycle shop on the south side of Denver. I didn’t go to his shop often — it was 150 miles away — but I would go once in a while. One time I stayed too late in the afternoon and started back through Denver toward home during rush hour. Usually traffic heading into the city would be only moderate, but this day it was very slow. After creeping north on the freeway for twenty minutes or so, I got to the source of the jam. There had been a large crash on the southbound lanes. All four of the northbound lanes were clear except that everyone had to pause to look across the barrier at the wreck. Darn these rubberneckers!
I am reluctant to admit it, but here in the safety of my home in Portland I can’t take my eyes off the train wreck that is the coronavirus response in this country. I look at the numbers for various places each day. I watch in fascinated horror to see which state is gaining or dropping back. Oh look, after weeks of lagging behind, Texas has now surged past Louisiana and Florida.
A man lounging on a plaza in a posh suburb of Atlanta is quoted as saying: “When you start seeing where the cases are coming from and the demographics — I’m not worried.” Reports are that the virus is especially hard on black and brown people, prisoners, the frail elderly, and the working poor. As a Wisconsin supreme court justice said, it’s not like it’s a problem for “regular people.”
Of course there are the doctors and nurses and health aids who’ve died of the virus. There are all those sailors on the aircraft carrier. And now there are reports of regular people being infected by attending church services in Arkansas and Georgia and Texas.
I have two Facebook friends who seem to love conspiracy theories. One seems focused on specific ideas, and I can see why he goes to those. But the other seems more like a magnet for them. I’ve tried arguing with her, but Facebook is not a good venue for extended reasonable argument and I’ve given up. Still, it is interesting to see all the various rabbit holes she goes down.
A friend in neighboring Washington has been called back to work. She is worried but has little choice — she either goes back to work or loses her job. Reading about all the safeguards being put in place where she works, plus her careful plans, it sounds like she will be safe. But these are fraught times. Unlike Alaska, which is opening straight to pre-pandemic levels on Friday, both Washington and Oregon have drawn up detailed plans on how to open back up in phases. Theoretically, if the covid cases start increasing too fast we would drop back to a previous phase, but as my friend points out: It will be difficult to lock us back down once we are set loose — even fewer people will accept the restrictions.
Oregon has been doing well. We haven’t gotten the surge many places have, but now we are cautiously opening back up. We’ll see how it goes. Like my friend in Washington, I don’t know that I am ready. Yet I can feel myself edging in that direction. Perhaps it is human nature. After we stand on the edge of the precipice for a while and nothing happens, we feel like we can step closer.
Our clothes dryer has not been doing its job. This week I had to run some loads through three times to get them dry. This is the first place I’ve lived where I can’t get at the dryer vent and clean it myself, but I was reluctant to report the problem because I was worried about workmen coming into our home. But I did report it and they did come. They wore masks; I wore a mask; Andrea sequestered herself in another room. I turned on the bathroom exhaust fans and cracked open the windows to increase airflow despite the damp, chilly weather today. In the end, they couldn’t find a clog so perhaps it was all for naught. But it was an example of how this pandemic has made me afraid of being with others.
When we were kids, I would run away from my sister so I wouldn’t get her cooties. Seventy years later I am once again worried about getting cooties.