July 6, 2020
Thanks to the novel coronavirus, I’m a prisoner in my own house. Fur-lined and luxurious to be sure, but prison, nonetheless. Like all of us, learning to make do with uncertainty: How long before we have a vaccine? How does it spread, really? How effective are social distancing and masks? How paranoid and careful should I be, really? Not knowing is as bad as hiding in my cave.
Is it safe to have one or two friends over to sit six or more feet away on the screen porch for drinks? Should I turn on the overhead fans on the porch to mitigate the heat, or does that spread the virus?
Do my risks rise significantly when I go to the grocery store or to a gas station? Why does medical and scientific awareness about Covid-19 seem squishy and indeterminate?
It’s not all doom and gloom. As I explained in early April, one silver lining is that my wife stopped complaining that our house is too big.
However, the biggest unanswered question remains, What degree of disciplined care is proper to live by now? I honestly don’t know where the guardrails lie.
Sure, I always wear a mask in public, and I carry and routinely use hand sanitizer. I keep extra masks in our cars in case a family member forgets one. I keep my distance from folks. But are those sufficient measures to keep risk low?
I’ve discovered that my friends fall into two camps: either super-cautious and never leave home or vigilant but willing to carefully make forays into normal routines, save perhaps not going to the office. I seem to fall into the second group.
I understand other Covidtime-camps exist, such as virus-deniers who go to places like Ace Speedway, brazenly flaunting North Carolina rules prohibiting such mass, maskless gatherings.
And of course the throw-caution-to-the-wind youth who collect cheek-by-jowl in bars to drink and howl at the moon. But I personally don’t know anyone in those genetic-pruning camps, and if I did, I wouldn’t let them cross the threshold. No sense inflating my risk by letting someone fool enough to have exposed him- or herself to the virus inside our door.
As it is, just like everybody else I can’t go anywhere any more without fretting over it.
Or can I? The uncertainty is maddening.
Though I strive to stay busy, the days tend to lack variety and merge into one another, like a series of disconnected, unending, but meaningless dreams.
I get excited by little things, like my wife saying we need something from the grocery store. Anything for a change of pace.
I volunteer to drive to the hardware store for a bag of potting soil, or even to fill up a car. I enjoy taking the dog for walks like never before. I fight to take out the garbage.
I’m not alone in going stir-crazy, either. When I alerted friends to the fact that I had planned another trip to the Kruger National Park in South Africa for February of next year in order to keep my sanity, 23 people expressed interest in going with me, some of whom had been with me before.
It was heartening to grasp the collective excitement. However, that large number got whittled down pretty fast as wariness over the future trumped their zeal. I’m currently down to six still seriously contemplating the trip. All are coping with the inability to plan our future with certitude, even a half year out.
Ambivalence be damned, I have bought my plane tickets and paid for my Kruger accommodations. It’s spiritually uplifting to have made the commitment.