Monday, March 23, 2020

We Live in a Bunker Now

I joined the world of international development eight years ago. I joined knowing that I would be travelling to places where I could contract malaria, dengue, zika, and any number of vector borne viruses. I knew I would be going places where the food and water could make me ill. I was aware that we may have to deal with various community- transmitted illnesses that could be exacerbated by extreme poverty. I have active vaccinations for typhoid, yellow fever, Japanese encephalitis, influenza, measles, mumps, rubella, polio, cholera, and probably others I've forgotten about.

What I didn't anticipate was the threat of being sidelined by some American chump who can't wash his hands after using a public toilet. Nor did I plan to potentially be taken down by a US-based hoarder who wants ALL the paper towel, even if she can't actually identify a use for it. I also did not consider the threat that Baby Boomers and Gen Z would band together to take an end run at killing off the population of the entire world by grossly flaunting sound medical advice on transmission prevention.


I have been working from home since March 12. The last time I was in a store was March 14, when we made a Home Depot run for the never-ending bathroom remodel. We brought our own sanitizing wipes, practically climbed shelving to stay away from other shoppers, and disinfected everything we brought home, which is the treatment we are giving to everything arriving at our door - mail, packages, shoes that have been worn in public. Everything gets sanitized. I'm writing at our kitchen table and a sparrow just landed on the deck rail outside. I thought about spraying it with Lysol.

I'm learning to be more conscientious about what we eat. We have a limited supply of fresh fruits and vegetables, and we don't want to waste any, so I'm trying to plan our meals around what needs to be eaten first. I admit - I am usually lazy about that, which means we routinely have a mango that's gone over or wilted-beyond-saving green onions in the crisper. We are making an attempt to not go to the store at all, we're trying to be smart.

I'm also noticing that with two of us home for all meals, and planning out real, full meals for us, we go through a lot of dishes! I'm running the dishwasher daily, whereas I'm not sure we ran it every other day "before." I say "before" like we've been living underground for years and not staying at home for 12 days. Sheesh. Maybe I should add "differing understanding of time" to the list.

We are also trying not to be jerks to each other. It will surprise no one that I am a terrible-horrible person, but I'm giving my best shot to not do that. We haven't gotten into any big fights, and considering that we were both planning on being on separate continents right now and not in the same room, I'd say we are accommodating the disruption of the disruption fairly well. We've been in a routine for most of our marriage that one of us is off travelling on a regular basis, so there's an ebb and flow to being around each other. Too much time together... and its not normal for our "normal."

We're also learning that there are different things about this global crisis that are triggering for either of us, and we have to learn to deal with that. Eric needed a few extra (seriously, a few - we are not preppers) cans of food in the house to be comfortable. I had to understand that even though I didn't think we needed more canned goods, it wasn't going to hurt our budget, and if that was all it took to have Eric feel safe, it was totally worth it. On the other hand, Eric had to listen to me get my feelings out about what I saw as a really legalistic and unreasonable reaction to the "limits we can have in this crisis" by someone (I don't do well with legalism because of lot of bad past experiences - although has anyone had a good experience with legalism?)... as well as me getting completely skeezed out by people who don't wash their hands.

Seriously. People don't wash their hands?? It's totally disgusting but true. The last time we went to the theatre, I saw an older woman bust out of the stall and make a beeline for the exit. I, on the other hand, was required to take a hand washing online course every 6 months for the entire 6 years I worked at St. Joseph Hospital, as well as regular refreshers on PPEs. That course included all the info on all the ways germs can go from surfaces to your hands to your organs... as well as proper handwashing behavior. You ever see me opening a restroom door with a paper towel, you will know why. In an era of Covid, my hands currently look like I've been 6 months in the Arctic without gloves.

Also, I'm truly amazed at the number of people who clearly must believe they are impervious to this new illness that has no known cure, and for which us regular humans lack immunity. Speaking of triggers! Today, I was reading online about a local community in the southwest of our state that has instituted a "locals only" policy - meaning that, as an extreme measure to try to limit contagion in their community, they are only allowing local people to drive on city streets. Tourists are not allowed, and those transiting must stay in their cars and pass through on designated highways, not secondary roads. And I kid you not, the first comment (pro-tip: don't read the comments) was "if you tow my car or prevent me from travelling, I will see you in court." First, I don't even know if your comment makes sense, dude. Second, the medical experts say that staying home is the best way and only known way to prevent the spread of this disease. Third, this community is concerned enough about its residents to institute these measures as a way to keep them safe and healthy. I'm sorry your desire to go winter camping or roll your disease ridden hiney around downtown Smallsville might get interrupted, but grow the hell up. Your inconvenience isn't an infringement on your constitutional guarantees or your human rights. I don't get to poop in the middle of the street in the name of personal freedom; you shouldn't get to spread potentially deadly diseases to an entire population because you want to stop for a latte. (note: For the record, I do not poop in the middle of streets. I have been known to emergency potty in various locations, but not in the middle of the street, and certainly not in the name of personal freedom.)

OK, deep breath....

Finally, despite the snark I just dished out there, and the sarcasm I spew when triggered, I'm also trying to identify things I can be grateful for. I am grateful I live with a good human, one that is concerned for our health and safety, and is neither prepper or denier. I am grateful I live on the side of a mountain where working from home means I get a better view than my office. I am grateful I live in a less densely populated area of the world so I can still run outside and maintain safe social distance. I'm fortunate enough to have the income to have been able to go grocery shopping at the beginning of the month and stock the pantry and freezer before things got bad. I'm lucky that when Eric had his self-professed "man flu" last winter he went out and bought a bunch of Lysol so we had a couple of cans on hand.

To be continued... stay safe out there (or better yet, just stay home).

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