Friday, October 9, 2020

First foray

Coronavirus chronicle continued ...


A friend and I met at our usual favorite restaurant for lunch. It was my first foray into group dining since February. We were happy to see a large tent and widely spaced tables outside, but sad to learn this restaurant now is open only for dinner. We stood in the parking lot to Google every nearby restaurant to learn their hours. Much to our surprise, most of them are also now closed during lunchtime.


Fortunately, a Walker Brothers Pancake House was nearby. They not only serve pancakes and other breakfast items, but they also offer some lunch plates. We loved it! 


In July, a friend came over for lunch on my front porch. Last weekend, my sister and I got deli food and made our own pop-up cafe on a grassy knoll in a parking lot. Not the best ambiance, but oh, the person-to-person conversation was grand.


This week's first actual restaurant dining was, I hope, just the beginning. Time will tell if we successfully dodged droplets, but I did feel reasonably safe. Restaurants seem to be taking wise anti-COVID precautions with their outdoor seating.

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Adjust to the Flux


COVID-19 confinement has lasted six months … well, to be exact, six months and nine days, but who’s counting? Newscasters glibly give news of the “new normal.” About the only new-normal aspect of my life is masking and distancing. Everything else is in flux.


Washing or letting groceries rest before using has come and gone. We no longer worry about the virus living three to five days on food. Visiting the grocery store only during senior hour has come and gone. For the past few weeks, I’ve comfortably shopped at times most convenient for me. A little less tension feels good. This week, I saw signage indicating that stores themselves have cut back senior hours from daily to once or twice weekly.


About half my middle-aged friends still avoid eating out; the other half have flitted about the restaurant scene, indoors and outdoors, since the moment Illinois allowed eating establishments to re-open. After six months (and nine days) refraining from restaurant dining, I edge toward flux. For a few weeks now, while driving around, I find myself eyeballing restaurant table distance and outdoor tent dining. Uncertain about this new eating-out risk, seeing the setup calms my fears. I just called a friend who has invited me to join her for lunch multiple times over the summer. We’ll figure out an outdoor dining option and just do it. I ventured out to get a massage (glorious!) this week, so will probably wait fourteen days before lunching out, just to be on the safe side. Can’t be too careful about dastardly droplets!


Increased freedom necessitates more frequent mask laundering, so I’ve recently increased my mask stash from three to eight. Never thought I’d be asking for face masks instead of a Mon Ami Gabi restaurant dinner for my birthday. But yes, it has come to that. 


Early in September I hiked a few freeing hours in a nearby forest preserve. Although my friend and I remained masked at all times, most other hikers did not. My body took three days to recover from being six months (and nine days) out of shape, but thankfully, not from virus exposure. Padding along paths and seeing trees different from the ones I can see from my house windows, I felt like an animal released from its cage.


Before this week, “an animal released from its cage” was just an expression. Every summer my husband traps destructive wild animals and drives them to a forest preserve. Although I am glad for their humane release, I have not had empathy for their time in the trap. Just this week when I looked out the window to see a bewildered little critter pawing its silver steel cage, I began to cry. I had to close the blinds to recover from feeling its hopeless plight.


In summer when our library and local Starbucks re-opened with huge WE ARE OPEN signs, they had chairs, generously spaced. Finally, I again had someplace to go to read or work. My choices were no longer limited to home office chair, living room chair, dining room chair. I didn’t go often, but oh, it was so refreshing to be out in the normal world. Now Starbucks has removed inside seating.  


One day a friend and I sat masked in the library for an hour and a half. Boredom-wise, we were somewhere between riding a bike around the same block fifty-seven times a day, as one little neighbor girl does, and ordering a kit to crochet "The Golden Girls." Six months (and nine days) hungry for playful diversion from serious stuff, we had planned to color in coloring books. Also being starved for company, however, we ended up just chatting. I don’t know if it was laughingly detailed descriptions of our kitchen junk drawers that got us kicked out by the librarian, or simply that we’d stayed too long. Now the library has removed all its chairs. I feel pretty sad about this loss of freedom. After six months (and nine days), so desperate am I for variety of venue, I have begun going to the library to read standing at one of their chairless tables.  


One increase in unmasked freedom that I appreciate is the ability to take Zoom French classes held far enough away that I could never have driven to them. Also thanks to Zoom, my book group, formerly meeting in someone’s home, can now include friends from Alaska and Minneapolis. And I’ve had a super-convenient Telehealth doctor’s appointment.


When I worked in corporate America, the late 1990s and 2000s saw many mergers, and we went from freaking out over all the changes to joking about how flexible our nerves were becoming. Not that some adjustments weren’t difficult, but we certainly got better and better at coping without complaint. Maybe that era prepared us in some ways for this pandemic-caused state of uncertainty. Next time a newscaster says “new normal,” I’ll be thinking, “Yeah, whatever. Go with the flow. Adjust to the flux.”