Stuck at home much of the time to hide out from the virus, wife Susie and I talk together more than we used to. A typical conversation goes like this:
Me—"What day is this?”
Susie—"Tuesday, I think.”
Me— “Sure it’s not Wednesday?”
Susie— “Pretty sure.”
I’m very sure that exchange has been mirrored in the homes of many people reading this. When you’re retired as are Susie and I, and in virtual self-quarantine, the days run into one another, distinguishable only by the numbers on the calendar. Personal calendars, once crowded, now stand mostly empty. When we have two errands to run we don’t do both of them on the same day.
The most-used cliché of the plague is that we’re all in the same boat, but it’s wrong. Were all in the same ocean but in different boats. The boat that Susie and I share is a good one— very good, in fact. We have a smallish but nice home on a large (1 ¼-acre) lot in an out-of-the-way part of Scottsdale, Arizona, on a cul-de-sac with no sidewalks or street lights and lots of space between houses. Without further labor we have enough income to support our needs.
The bad news is that I’m 82 years old and Susie is 77, so we’re in the age group that has the most to worry about if the virus strikes. I have to laugh every time I hear that the most vulnerable groups consist of people over 65 or ones with a “preexisting condition.” There is no “or” about it-- just about everyone over 65 has one of those nasty things. Susie and I are in relatively good health but we each have good-sized medical files. Like many, I’m sure, every time I cough or sneeze I think, “Oh, oh, this may be it!”
The reason I’m writing this now is that yesterday, September 14, marked the six-month anniversary of my personal history with virus fears. I’d heard about the affliction before that, of course, but with Arizona cases numbering in just the dozens didn’t take it too seriously. Indeed, things like the toilet-paper panic gave it a humorous cast. On March 14, though, Turf Paradise, the local horse-racing track where I’d spent just about every Saturday for years, announced it was shutting down. That meant a severe change in my routine, something old guys like me loath. It would be the first of many.
Arizona experienced a general shutdown of about six weeks beginning around then, but it was spottily endorsed and enforced by governmental units, from the top down. Mixed messages prevailed and from the outset it became clear that we Americans were on our own when it came to protection. We still are, which is why virus statistics continue to fluctuate scarily, amounting to anything but control. Everything in the U.S. is politicized these days, and such obvious antiviral measures as mask-wearing is deemed to be controversial. In some circles foolishness is hailed as freedom.
Susie and I take what we consider to be reasonable safety precautions. We wear masks in public, avoid large groups of people and utilize hand sanitizers. Susie shops, I swim four times a week in a large, outdoor public pool, bypassing the locker rooms coming and going. Once in a while we roll the dice and eat dinner in one of the restaurants we know provide for proper social distancing. We’d prefer to eat outdoors but our area has been too hot for that since June. Hey, you gotta get out occasionally.
Other than that our options are few. Since we moved to Arizona in 1997 we’ve bailed out for cooler climes during July and August, lovely Santa Barbara, California, being our recent-years’ choice. Not this year. No Arizona Diamondbacks’ games, either. Fall looms without theater, opera, my beloved Arizona Fall League baseball, or other public diversions.
That has left us to such time-honored amusements as reading and crossword and jigsaw puzzles (the last for Susie, not me), and the tube. We’ve added Amazon Prime to our TV list, allowing us to watch such series’ as “Bosch,” a detective show set in Los Angeles, and the fast-paced “Intelligence,” about cops and drug dealers in Vancouver. I heartily recommend both.
Sports, shelved in the plague’s early months (and the usual subject of this blog), have come back strong of late, albeit mostly before empty arenas. That has surprised many, including me. The NBA and NHL are successfully concluding their seasons in “bubbles,” and Major League Baseball lurches play-bound with limited travel after some initial stumbles. I didn’t think they could do it in part because I didn’t think their wealthy, entitled players could exercise the monastic discipline needed to stay “clean” amid a pandemic. They pretty much have so far, but it remains to be seen if that will continue.
At least equally important have been the truly massive testing regimes that professional sports have been able to institute, ones that dwarf those that exist in most other parts of our economy. Since their training camps opened last month the NFL has carried out daily virus testing for the more than 3,000 individuals who make up their playing rosters, coaching staffs and supporting personnel, enabling the quick identification and quarantine of infected individuals. It’s a telling societal commentary that our schools, hospitals and food processors don’t have it nearly so good.
It would be nice to report that help in the form of a vaccine was quickly on its way, but I’m troubled by efforts in that direction. The process is widely viewed as a race, with the first pharma company to declare victory able to claim a huge, global prize, but what if the third, sixth or tenth vaccine to cross the line is the most effective?
And what of complaints about spying involving the research drives? With thousands of lives at stake shouldn’t scientific cooperation be the rule, instead of competition? I’m expecting to note another six-months anniversary come March. I’m praying that’ll be the last but I’m not betting on it.