I have been staying at home with my husband since March 12, 2020, because of a worldwide pandemic. CORONAVIRUS, COVID-19, is a new strain of virus that has no vaccine and no cure, other than a person being able to weather the illness. It mainly affects the respiratory system; it comes with a headache, a lost sense of taste, dry cough, a fever, sometimes dangerously high and sometimes the need for a ventilator. It likes to kill people with underlying health problems or those who wait too long to get help when they are having trouble breathing. The information about it changes daily, as do the guidelines from the state governor and POTUS on how to protect ourselves. The main thought is to stay home and stop the spread. The television coverage has every person looking cross-eyed at anyone who coughs or sneezes near them, even at home. We are all washing our hands more often than we ever have because the virus is spread from germs on the hand to mucous membranes on the head.
I am not a paranoid person. I pretty much take what comes my way with little emotion. I am blessed with common sense and don’t take unnecessary risks with my health, except for liking to eat too much. I do get disgusted with the people in charge that talk double-talk and don’t stick to the facts, or change them to suit their political agendas. New York State is now four weeks into a statewide “pause” of life and the economy. I worry about the very large negative ripple effect on people’s livelihoods, families, businesses, schools, and even the state’s finances. The situation is creating an instantaneous economic crisis along with the health crisis.
Last year about this same calendar date the Rochester Veterans Writing Group which I belong to decided to put some of their memoir stories together and print them in a book. I know I didn’t know how much work was involved, but that’s another story. Today I had the privilege of driving to seven different personal addresses to drop off a proof book. At five addresses I left the book, in a bag, on a doorstep. At two places I got to talk to a friend and hand over the book in person.
As a retiree with a lot of hobbies, staying home for a month with the occasional trip to the grocery store or drive to pick up take-out dinner has not been an imposition. I will admit, the first week my internal resident child wanted to go out just because I had been told to stay home, but that passed. Today’s ride gave me a purpose and it felt wonderful. My trip took me from the southeast corner of Monroe County to the northeast corner, and then to the southwest corner. What was it like out there I was asked? The first difference in driving was being able to turn from my side street onto a normally busy main drag without waiting for a line of cars coming both ways. In fact, there were no cars in sight. The traffic on the expressway was sparse like a Sunday morning at a time of day it should have been busy. There were a few drivers that knew the police have stopped pulling vehicles over for infractions just so they don’t have to speak to anyone in close contact; thus the speeders were evident. I don’t know why anyone was hurrying, everything is closed from libraries to schools to shopping malls and bars. Restaurants are only allowed to prepare take-out orders. Some retail stores are doing curbside pickup sales so they can have a smidgen of income. And all pro-sports have been canceled so no crowds assemble including golf on those beautiful expansive courses, for the sake of the galleries.
It was very strange to drive past a school on a Wednesday and see the parking lot empty. I didn’t see children playing outside either. I did see people walking their dogs or jogging. When I stopped at an apartment complex the parking lots were jammed because people are working from home or laid off.
At 12 Corners, a very busy set of three roads intersecting in Brighton, I sat at a traffic light wondering why the color didn’t change because it seemed the wait was excessively long. Then I thought to how it usually is, so congested one might not make it through the light on the first try. The sparse traffic worked to my advantage, I was in the wrong lane and didn’t have trouble moving over to turn left. Driving past my grandson’s school made me sad because the sports fields were empty, and I haven’t spent time with him in a month.
The visual of empty parking lots and little movement existed no matter where I drove. The kicker was driving past the airport where the parking lot is usually packed and one can see at least one airplane descending or taking off. It was so quiet it made me more aware that most places on the earth are shut down. I know because the members of my international writing group are writing about the same fears I have and writing about trying to keep themselves busy at home and do homeschooling with little input.
The exceptions were hospitals, Wal-Mart and Wegmans’ parking lots. The contrast to those bustling made the quiet ones eerier.
Luckily we have great technology so we can have meetings via computer screens and we can hear each other’s voices and see faces. Let’s hope the power doesn’t go out. At this point, whoever controls the electricity controls the world. Now that’s a scary thought.