Real Time OYL

A sign posted in the women’s bathroom at my gym. A gym I haven’t seen the inside of for an entire year.

Exactly one year ago today, I decided to start keeping a COVID journal. Apologies to the followers who have heard me tell the story already. I realized that things were changing and that soon it was going to seem normal. I named my journal Noticed, and I tried to write things down that I noticed were happening because we were in a worldwide pandemic. My assumption was that I would stop noticing those things when they became “normal,” so I wanted to capture the memories.

On March 24, 2020, I went back through my calendar and my memories, and read old news clips and rebuilt my observations. But starting today, my comments are what was on my mind that day, a year ago.

A year ago today, I called Delta and cancelled my trip. Oh, that reminds me: I should still have a flight with Delta I can reschedule, because I “bought” it with frequent flier miles. Hmm, definitely need to make sure I don’t forget about that. Anyway, I was going to spend a long weekend in Scottsdale, Arizona to visit some friends. I didn’t go. Obviously.

“I finally called Delta. They didn’t want people calling unless their trips were nearly upon us. So I waited till the last minute. I got through pretty quickly at 8am, and got everything refunded, no questions asked. The bee people called and asked if it is ok if they bring the bees the end of April or early May. I tried to think of how bee delivery might not happen, but I don’t see why not.”

Below are some other things I wrote in my journal prior to March 24. I haven’t included them because…ahh, because because. I was scared I had cancer. I was swamped with finals projects. And I think most of all, I was too sad to follow through. My next OYL post after the last one, March 11, was supposed to be about the day I realized everything had changed. I think each of us knows which day the pandemic became painfully real to us. Mine was March 12.

But then everybody was doing One Year Ago stories, and it made me so sad because we are still in the middle of it. I had read up on the 1918 flu and I knew it could last a long time, but I foolishly thought to myself that it was a long time ago and those people lived in the dark ages and it would never happen today. So a one-year anniversary is unexpected and unpleasant. I’m ready to write again, now that the anniversary has passed.

They were good enough to send me all the swag, even though the run was canceled. I would have been racer number 50934.

Here are some things I wrote from March 12 – March 23:

March 12: “I got an email that the Shamrock Run was canceled. My Belle Brigade teammates were all mad about it, and one suggested a different run in a different town for us to participate in. March Madness was cancelled. G-7 was going to be a virtual meeting. I got an email that my Cherokee meeting was canceled. I got an email that the symphony’s performance of Beethoven’s Ninth was canceled. On the way home from school I decided to be proactive and go stock up on groceries. I didn’t need toilet paper, but went to look at the aisle for curiosity’s sake. The entire aisle of toilet paper, paper towels, and tissues was completely empty. It was just like the scenes we had seen on TV. Next aisle over was cleaners and disinfectants. Whole sections were gone. No bleach, no disinfectants, no bathroom or kitchen cleaners, no wipes. Well, almost. I giggled to notice that the earth-friendly all-natural cleaners were still available. I found out Disneyland and Disneyworld had closed.”

All those things, canceled in one day. I was just walking around sometimes with a maniacal giggle, “Wow! Can you BELIEVE this?” and sometimes with dread, and then mostly in stunned silence.

March 13: “Governor Kate Brown closed Oregon schools. Seth Myers, Stephen Colbert, and Trevor Noah all announced that they would no longer be doing studio shows. I was feeling virus news overload and pulled out some old movies to watch.”

March 16: “Governor Inslee closed all bars and restaurants in Washington. After an interest rate cut to head it off, stocks crashed anyway. The gym was packed as usual. Greg said he wouldn’t close unless police showed up at his front door with guns. The gym was completely out of paper towels, so no one could clean the equipment, and I felt like my hands were virus vectors. I was uneasy until I got home and showered.”

March 17: “West Virginia got its first case and now all 50 states are in it. I got a robo call from Portland Orchestra, cancelling all performances through May. Will’s mom watched her first online Catholic service.”

March 18: “I pulled up to the gym at 6am and saw it dark and quiet. Greg had not been kind enough to tell me our appointment was canceled. I got a blast on my phone from VA that said not to worry, they had things under control, and had already administered over 322 tests nationwide. That’s terrible and embarrassing. I couldn’t believe they’d even publicize such a low number when South Korea was testing about 10,000 a day. I watched more movies. I find I’m reaching out to people a lot. Is it because I have more time? Or because my phone is constantly in my hand?”

March 19: “I took my final exam online with no problems. I called Tara to make plans to visit on Saturday. I wanted to visit the very next day, Friday, but it was too short of notice for T and B. I double checked travel options and the only essential travel restriction was the US-CAN border. Friends and family were getting agitated on facebook, and their moronic selves were exposed. A former co-worker said earnestly and hopefully that she heard some psychic say it would all disappear overnight, and another friend agreed and said God would simply take care of it. My mind is blown at how simple-minded even earnest, interested people are. My friend from high school was frustrated to the point of madness because he used percentages of death to compare regular seasonal flu to COVID-19, and decided that we were all overreacting. My mind is blown at how fecking DUMB so many, many, many Americans are. I did not realize so many people are truly this stupid.”

I was distressed to think of my friends and neighbors and family as “stupid,” and it led me to write a post called Pandemic Epistemology, in which I convinced myself that they are not stupid, but have not yet had the chance to learn (or have not chosen to employ) critical thinking.

March 20: “Tara and I had a long talk on the phone about whether or not I should make the 2 1/2 hour trip that we usually don’t give a moment’s thought to. In my mind I was annoyed that I should have gone that day and now traveling would probably be put off limits. T and I shared all our worries, and T said they were concerned about infecting me, older and more at-risk. Argh! My kid thinks I’m in an at-risk group! But we both ended the phone call deciding I would come. In Oregon we don’t pump our own gas, and I wouldn’t interact with anyone along the way. It would be safe. Will’s online trivia game wasn’t working well because too many people were logged on.”

March 21: “Gov. Brown said that nonessential travel was discouraged, and the official word would come out Monday. I called Tara again. This time we decided not to do it, with the understanding that this had been our last chance and that life would surely be locked down soon. We were both very sad, but just not willing to take the risk. Tara was very uncomfortable about going to work, and very frustrated with their boss, who is elderly and not in robust health, and yet is taking no precautions whatsoever at the smoothie shop. Tara said their hope is that during the shop’s normal closed days of Sunday and Monday, that will be time for the state of Oregon to force the shop to close, otherwise Tara is going to quit. In my disappointment not only of not getting to see Tara, but also not going out into the world, I left my house anyway. I drove to Scappoose to drop off recycling and get gas and try again to find some toilet paper. I never joined the fracas, so all I have on hand is what I would have had anyway. Enough for about two weeks probably. I was surprised to see plenty of traffic on Highway 30, and in the towns it seemed like most stuff was open as usual, with a business empty here and there. There was no TP at the store. I brought a container of wipes with me, and used them on everything: opening the recycling bins, holding the basket, pressing in my PIN onto the keypad when I paid.”

And that was my last chance. I have technically “seen” Tara since then. T and their partner, Brynnen, came three times in 2020. The first time we didn’t wear masks but stayed apart. Their two most recent visits were for the holidays, one in November one in December. Brynnen stayed in the car, T and I kept masks on. I stood back and watched while T delivered goodies inside the house. We chatted from 10 feet apart, then waved and blew kisses into our masks, then they drove away. Ugh. Heartbreak.

March 22: “I watched more movies. I keep remembering this disease-spreading game that Tara used to play, called Pandemic 2. The object was to kill off as many humans on the planet as possible, by spreading disease. That night I dreamed that I got COVID-19 and was infecting everyone I saw. It wasn’t a nightmare, more like a hassle.”

March 23: “Gov Brown issued a stay at home order for Oregonians. Gov. Jay Inslee issued a stay at home order for the state of Washington. I was able to mail off a care package to T and B, with most of the stuff I was going to take to them if I had made the trip. On the way home I noticed new Keep Out signs in two driveways. Coincidence maybe. It felt ominous though. For some reason, as soon as I saw the second one I imagined people freaking out and getting mean. I could easily see our country having a hate explosion. I envisioned small fortresses like in Mad Max or The Postman.”

Oy, I didn’t intend to end it on an ominous note, but I guess in the wake of the race-motivated murders of six Asian women and two others in Atlanta, I suppose it’s a chilling validation that my fear was a premonition.

I think it’s funny that on the 12th I said I didn’t need any toilet paper, and a week later I was already trying to find some to no avail. Don’t worry, I found one store eventually, that had a single 4-pack on the shelves. I grabbed it. And the smoothie shop closed on Monday, to Tara’s relief. And then it never opened again, to Tara’s sadness.

14 thoughts on “Real Time OYL

    1. Derrick I thank you for your encouragement. I have been asking myself who is this journal for? For me, I suppose. But my idea was to keep a record, as a service somehow. The thing is, we all went through it. We all can tell these stories. I’m not sure why I kept doing it, but I did. 🙂 It will definitely be fascinating to someone in 100 years when they look back on the amazing pandemic in 2020.

  1. Oh, Crystal, it is heart-breaking to think of you two blowing kisses in the mask. 😦 And how you were sucked into the TP hysteria (well, not really, but still you wanted some and they didn’t have it. The only thing we weren’t able to buy in the whole year in our tiny supermarket was wine, once. In Italy, wine runs out first. Cheers to that. I remember the first time amore returned from the shop and he said “Empty!” I was thinking, oh no, he wasn’t able to get anything, but what he actually meant was empty of people.

    It’s really interesting to hear of what you were thinking then and it brings back my thoughts too. How the first person in a mask that I saw was a deliveryman with bloodshot eyes and I was certain he was sick with fever and wouldn’t touch the package for hours. How I was mortally afraid to touch even a blade of grass on my dog walks for a while. How I was following the news until I realised that in reality nobody knew anything for sure anyway or were lying. How one tweet with a burned mess in a pot brought the reality on me: a Slovenian friend was self-isolating in an old house and burnt the beans because she couldn’t smell them burning due to Covid. How another blogger friend in the US rejoiced when I told her that if she could smell her tea, it wasn’t Covid, but later it turned out that it was. And then the neighbour of my parents were on the news for being put in a coma for Covid but got better soon. And then one of my best friends in Slovenia got the mild version. And then a good blogging friend got it too, together with almost all her family, also mild. And more and more.

    Let’s just hope that there won’t be another anniversary next year. All well to you.

    1. It was a hard memory to write about, not having Tara in my life for a year. I hadn’t really thought about how long it had been since I hugged my baby till I read this. I know others are suffering so much more by not seeing their beloveds, so I’m trying not to feel sorry for myself. Also! Tara and Brynnen are coming today! They are ready to now because I got my first vaccine shot. I’m not sure if they will want me in a mask and I’m not sure how long they will stay and I’m not sure if I will be allowed a hug. But just seeing them will be nice.

      Isn’t it amazing how hysteria works on people?! I mean, I wasn’t hysterical, but I was so concerned with TP there for awhile. Why? It makes no sense – I had tissues. I had paper towels. For gosh sakes I have water, ha ha. But I worried about it, and that speaks to the power of mass hysteria. Not a force for good.

      Your memories are grim. I didn’t talk to anyone who lost their sense of smell or taste, and the image of burned beans is telling a story without words. I did have the same experience as you: being afraid to touch anything at all for awhile. Thank goodness the doctors and scientists all eventually figured out we didn’t have to be so diligent about touching things. I remember I had to drive to Portland one day and the interstate was empty. Three lanes usually packed, had a few cars only. That’s what Amore’s “empty” reminds me of. There are a lot of stories ahead. I was diligent. I wrote every single day for a couple months, till I finally lost that momentum and only wrote a few times a week. I’ll probably have more memory-triggering stuff for you.

  2. It was interesting to read all this, Crystal. I write down the daily statistics of covid in my county in my journal along with the weather, air quality and Fit Bit stats. I guess other than my daughter working from home and being here 24/7, nothing has really changed for me. I no longer go to my sewing groups because they were canceled. Most of them are much older than I am. I miss going “out” to eat and having someone else do the clean up. That was always my favorite thing to do. I watch the news in fast forward and work hard not to focus on what can’t be at this moment in time. Wonder if covid will be under control enough before I’m gone. So many young and old just don’t think it applies to them. The mess in Florida is a prime example. And if they get through it unscathed, they will continue to think it’s a hoax. Fortunately for my daughter, this hermit thing is right up her alley. ;(

    1. Marlene, I have had that thought so many times with all these people not following guidelines. They’re probably not going to get COVID, or notice any symptoms when they do get it, and then everyone else will get vaccinated and make the world safe and those dummies will then say, “See? It was all an overreaction.” In Idaho and Montana there is basically no pandemic – no one wears a mask and half the population doesn’t think COVID is even real.

      I start the statistics soon. It had not occurred to me on the first day. Then I began the tally each day of the Nation, the State, and the counties near me and Tara. It became morbid, like the totals at the end of each day during the Vietnam war. I will probably leave those numbers out of my blog, except for my reaction to them, like being astonished at how many died, back when the number was so much smaller.

      I read just yesterday an article in the NYT about how a guy did a study with a team that proved news in the U.S. was consistently more negative than news around the world, using generally accepted “positive” and “negative” words in articles. There were some theories on why. The author thought it was because in the US, journalists are taught to value hard-hitting questions and exposing problems in every story. So they are all doing a great job of digging deep into problems, but they tend to skip over anything that’s not a problem. You pay them back by skipping over their news.

      I have been going out to restaurants. With your health concerns, I agree that it is best not to take the risk. That takes one more joy away from you, and it’s not fair. We will get our sh*t together this year, and you will be able to eat out safely again. I’m sure of it.

  3. Very interesting, Crystal. Peggy and I had been to Costco twice in February and forgot the second time that we had bought bulk TP the first. There was no lack. 🙂 Sanitizers were a problem. We have been careful throughout the pandemic but not paranoid. And it helps that we have each other, and a sense of humor. And Quivera, the RV. It was our home away from home and allowed us to escape using the same precautions we did at home. Even though we both have our Covid shots now, we are continuing to always wear our masks in public and social distance. And get pissed at people who don’t.
    Peggy is now binding your quilt. The last step. 🙂 –Curt

    1. Ooh, lucky on the TP! I was lucky on Clorox wipes. I had just purchased two family-sized tubs in February, because they were on sale and sold as a set. Then I had no problem. I left one in the house and one in the car, and wiped down anything I needed to disinfect. I am so glad you guys had Quivera. It allowed you to escape isolation and see the world. You were ahead of the curve, because a lot of people had your idea and RV sales and rentals were through the roof in 2020. Good for you on the masks. Apparently you understand, unlike Ted Cruz, that masks are mostly for others, not yourself.

      1. Laughing. I fail to understand most of the things that Cruz thinks, Crystal. Unfortunately, the extensive media coverage he receives on his questionable decisions (I’m being kind) helps to bolster him with his followers, kind of like Trump. The more outrageous, the more they cheer.
        Quivera has definitely been a blessing. And the small RVs like Quivera have doubled in price! They weren’t inexpensive to begin with… –Curt

  4. I’ve been reading your current posts, guessing that they were based on 2020 observations but wondering what OYL meant. I’m glad to have this clarified.
    Very interesting and thanks for sharing.
    What a difference a year makes, and maybe not so different.

    1. Hi Sandy! You just answered a question for me. I’ve been wondering if I should keep explaining what I’m doing briefly at the beginning of each post as I started doing. After a while I assumed my regular readers might be tired of it, but now I see that there is a good reason to keep explaining just a little bit: for the new readers! Yep! You figured it out: One Year Later. I am finding it interesting to spend so much time with my journal, a year after the fact. I am noticing even more, now that I’m reading it with 20/20 hindsight. As you said, what a big difference, except for the things that are not so different.

      1. All you have to do is add the year in your Journal dates, and it’ll be obvious.
        I might still be guessing what OYL meant but I woudl get it, eventually 🙂

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