March 16 rush hour traffic in San Francisco.
I know, I know. Although I’m over 60 years old and have moderately high blood pressure and a persistent old-man cough, so I’m more at risk than you healthy young people, I am not at serious risk.
I’m not over 80, and despite my cough I don’t have an underlying breathing or serious health issue that is likely to complicate the disease should I be unlucky enough to get COVID-19.
End of walk Sunday. Shadows on the sidwalk.
My chances of surviving are excellent, though not 100 percent. I hope, like I’m sure everyone else does, that I don’t get sick. I pray that if I do, it’ll only be a mild case.
And mostly I don’t want to get the virus because I don’t want to be a vector for it—despite the mostly positive prognosis for me, I don’t want to be part of chain that infects a person whose body cannot fight it off.
So, I think I’ll physically be OK. I am more worried about my mental well being. I gambled a lot by traveling to the San Francisco area—a hot spot for the virus—during the outbreak, and in the short time I’ve been here, things have gotten really odd and scary.
I’ve been walking at some famous places—by the bay, for example. While there were some crowds on Market Street on Sunday, mostly the streets have been much quieter than one would expect. Today, Monday, the mayor announced a ban on any unnecessary travel, and ordered restaurants to switch to strictly takeout or delivery business.
My wife and I went for an afternoon walk today (the mayor specified walking outside is OK) at what would have been rush hour. San Francisco looked like Ely, Iowa, at 10 a.m. on a particularly quiet Thursday. In other words, very quiet.
Spanish-American War memorial in Union Square, pretty empty on a weekend.
Except grocery stores. My son and I had, earlier in the day, make a quick trip to Safeway. We anticipated crowds and craziness, and the grocery store did not disappoint. I am pleased to say most Californians were being polite—although one woman sprinted through the store, cursing at everyone for not maintaining a 6-foot distance. Lady, we were pressed in the aisles like sardines. We were stiffly formal and careful to not actually touch, and I heard no coughing—but 6 feet was a physical impossibility in the canned goods lane of Safeway.
Actually, I held the shopping bag and let my son, with his son strapped to his chest, do the hunter-gatherer thing in that crowded aisle. I waited in the empty potato section, but even there I was not as isolated as guidelines call for.
On the way home, we noticed that another neighborhood grocery store was limiting customers by having an entrance queue. Not sure if that was effective—by preventing people from crowding in the store, you were having them crowd on the sidewalk.
Well, we do what we can. I washed my hands as soon as I got back to the apartment. And, while waiting in the long line at Safeway, I felt the familiar tickle in my throat. My old man cough, ready to roll.
I’m happy to say I deliberately salivated (try that sometime) and was able to use nature’s cough drop to prevent discomfort to those around me. Success! We exited Safeway with no social embarrassment.
And not all the groceries we planned, either. No flour, for example. We would have bought potatoes if we saw any, but honestly weren’t optimistic about seeing those scarce spuds. In this time of crisis, there may not be potatoes, but there was corned beef. There was no green cabbage, but we got some purple. As the resident Irish person, I am prepared to prepare Tuesday’s official holiday meal, and if there are not potatoes, there will still be corned beef, cabbage, carrots and soda bread (my son is not totally out of flour), so our suffering is pretty muted.
I am not sure my trip, made because it’s my wife’s and my first chance to see a young grandson, was a great idea, but the travel advisories changed daily and the travel ban was not in place when we boarded our plane.
When we get home and self-quarantine, the brave new world of online teaching awaits. The newspaper I advise is done printing for the year. Meetings and events are being reshuffled. All of our lives are being upended. Having to induce salivation in a grocery store line is, on the whole, pretty small potatoes (and metaphoric potatoes are the only ones to be had, at the moment).
I’ll roll with it. It’s a blessing to be around to take part in the struggle. May your struggle in the time of corona virus not be too bad. I hope all of you heed health advice, and don’t fret too much. Most of us will make it through, and more of us if we behave ourselves.
Now, go wash your hands.
Self portrait in in mirror in historic hotel meeting room. Empty, like the city.
Crab apple in bloom March 15, Union Square, San Francisco. Life goes on, even in a time of pandemic.
UPDATE March 18: There were potatoes on St. Patrick’s Day! Daughter-in-law went to neighborhood store in the morning and found some. A small victory during troubled times.
St. Patrick’s Day meal, bread by my son, rest cooked by me, including …. POTATOES found at local store that morning by my daughter-in-law.