How Long Can I Last?

Published June 12, 2020 in Warp & Woof

How Long Can I Last?
Getting Used to the Pandemic
William Sundwick
We are gradually re-opening. Phase 2 has begun. Chances are good that I can soon get an appointment at my local Hair Cuttery. Heck, if I wanted to, I bet I could go to my gym again starting this weekend.
It’s been nearly three months of pandemic quarantine in Northern Virginia. Long enough for old routines to be replaced by new ones. Long enough for me to become quite familiar with grocery delivery services and literally everything else I need or want in my day-to-day life, all available with “contactless delivery.”
The new routines have become so comfortable, in fact, that I’m in no hurry to return to the Before Times. And, nobody in my life is encouraging me to jump back in. Kids and wife all urge caution. Perhaps my previous life was not so dependent on getting out, anyway. I’m more concerned with weight gains from gym withdrawal than any social deprivation; more concerned about my car battery dying from sitting in the driveway than from the absence of driving pleasure (despite having just bought a new car in September).
And, loneliness is not a problem since my wife works from home. I know not everyone’s life is so well-situated. I gather there are serious class divides, not to mention personality constraints, that determine how well people can cope with quarantine fatigue. As always, I must “check my privilege” here.
Some adaptations I’ve made in my admittedly favorable circumstances as a retired, high risk, 73-year-old man are these:
  •           Daily neighborhood walks are now enjoyed in company of my wife, after she goes “off the clock” late in the day – a new opportunity for some companionship. We’ve altered some of my standard routes on account of crowded trails or difficult topography. 
  •          Doing our own housecleaning has been required since maid service was suspended during the quarantine. I’m not very good at this, but doing some things occasionally feels like mastery.
  •          Discovery of grocery delivery services – Amazon Fresh, Instacart, Peapod, our favorite bakery. I had not been aware of this world previously but, indeed, you have always been able to get delivery of most things. It is contactless but I often leave an extra tip in an envelope taped to door. Delivery is getting easier now as more time slots are available. I try not to think about crossing picket lines for Amazon and Instacart drivers, who have been trying to strike.
  •          Podcast listening times have changed somewhat – no longer during neighborhood walks or gym workouts — but quite compatible with my typical Internet cruising routine during my wife’s workday. I still cannot combine listening to a podcast with reading a book, however.  
  •           One thing I do miss is my music library. That was previously reserved for listening while at the gym. I have not found another convenient time where my collection of rock, blues, and folk gives me the same biofeedback or physical/emotional charge as during gym workouts. Since I am not sure when I will return to the gym, I have some incentive to find another good music environment.
  •       Speaking of my gym, I have noticed weight up about five pounds over this quarantine period – vigorous exercise, mostly cardio with some back strengthening, apparently was also a weight control strategy. Yet, gyms are high-risk indoor environments and I still await guidance. Surely, I won’t return until Phase 2 is well-established (gyms only at 30 per cent capacity, with no backsliding in new cases). Investment in home exercise equipment remains a dubious endeavor. 
In addition to these adaptations, there have been some non-routine experiences. I learned to give myself a haircut (after a fashion); with extra begging, my wife does the back of my head. It looks reasonable! I have ventured out, occasionally, to the post office, pharmacy, or local hardware store. Post office and pharmacy were fine (masks required), but the hardware store with its narrow aisles and many customers was somewhat scarier. FaceTime has become the standard means of communication with the grandkids, and my two adult sons as well. Recently, the George Floyd/Black Lives Matter protests came to my neighborhood (finally), and I crafted a sign, walked to the protest site, and mingled with the masked crowd for an hour!
Perhaps the best part of the pandemic quarantine, however, has been deciding what to watch next on television! The entertainment ecosystem has blossomed in recent years – it’s little wonder that movie theaters, even without a pandemic, are having a hard time surviving these days. Subscriptions to streaming services (and cable still in my house!) provide a myriad of choices – quality choices, too! When the latest Hulu series is complete (right now, Little Fires Everywhere), there is yet another queued up in “My Stuff” – or maybe back to HBO for the final season of The Wire, or Netflix, or Prime Video (just finished The Romanoffs there). With such a panoply of late-night entertainment, including snacks and nightcaps, there is conceivably no limit to how long I can last!

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