Sheltering in place can be a very lonely experience, especially for those who already live alone. To be greater by doing good today, take a moment to reach out to someone (by phone, email, video conference) whom you know is sheltering alone.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020 – Live to Blog from My Living Room

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! True confession: I didn’t wear any green today. Green has never been a good color for me. With my complexion it tends to make me look pretty sickly. Except when my face is red but, then, I look like a deranged Christmas elf. Though I am greenless today, I am sending “thoughts and prayers” to those in mourning for the loss of this year’s holiday to COVID-19.

The cool thing about sheltering in place is that you don’t have to change clothes…for days! I told my spouse, Clemencia, that I was going for a new record for continuously wearing the same clothes each day. She smiled sweetly at me and said, “Of course, mi amor.” She disappeared briefly and came back with my jacket, a facemask, a small bottle of hand sanitizer, and said, “Good luck out there, mi amor. See you in two weeks…I hope.” So, I changed my clothes…but not my socks! Ha!

We have two miniature schnauzers (Dolly and Madison) who actually are elderly. As you can see, they LOVE sheltering in place. By social contract they are entitled to at least three walks a day. Today, after work (yes, I do try to keep work hours at home), Clemencia and I took “The Girls” (as we affectionately call them) for their afternoon constitutional. We thought it would be a good time to go out to avoid people. We were wrong.

We ran into a bunch of friendly people…which would be nice under most circumstances, except we are trying to avoid people. Isn’t that the point of sheltering in place and social separation? What is it about the term “pandemic” that some people just don’t understand?!? One friend came directly across the street toward me and was going to come within the appropriate social distancing limit (six to 10 feet). I had to stop her so I said, in a very Midwestern polite way, “Hey, sorry, we can talk but we just need to talk from a distance.” She stopped, looked at me, and for a moment I thought she was going to start screeching at me like Donald Sutherland at the end of the 1978 version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. (You know, that scene where the audience realizes he’s been snatched and all hope is gone. Be sure to click the link and check out the clip – it is about 50 seconds in length.) Happily, she didn’t do a Donald Sutherland on me but I did one her…just for fun. But I don’t think she saw the movie or got the reference so I’m pretty sure we’re not friends anymore.

Speaking of people getting too close, in the tiny town in rural Iowa where I grew up there was a man who was notorious for talking too close, too loud, and too fast in a very high pitched voice (kind of like Donald Sutherland’s screech). For years I never had any idea what he was saying to me when he would come up to me, actually get in my face, and screech, “HITOMMYHOWSTOMMY.” If he had been a step or two away I might have had a chance to read his lips. However, he was so close, I couldn’t even see his lips. His tonsils did look pretty healthy though.

Before I close, two recommendations for the sake of sanity. First, my friends and colleagues at the Tamarack Institute in Ontario, Canada have put out a really great resource for learning or refreshing skills for working remotely. Please check out Guidelines for Working Remotely. Second, to keep your sense of humor fresh, check out 50 Coronavirus Jokes That Should Help You Get Through Quarantine.

Do not be deceived, my friends. I know how serious the coronavirus and COVID-19 outbreak really is. In the words of Dr. Anthony Fauci of NIH, “It’s going to get worse before it gets better.” Nobody knows this as well as Clemencia, my incredibly tolerant spouse. Her super hero identity is actually Dr. Clemencia M. Vargas, PhD, DDS, etc., etc. She is an epidemiologist and was a fellow with the Epidemic Intelligence Service (Class of 94). She retired from the University of Maryland last October but she and I have been following this thing very closely since news first broke in early January. She cannot “turn off” her inner epidemiologist and I’m glad. If I’m ever tempted to make too much light of it, she brings me back to reality. I hope this blog lightens your day, but never for one moment believe that I am making light of a very serious situation and none of us should. This is only a momentary diversion for me and, hopefully, for you.

Remember, stay safe, be well, keep calm, keep washing your hands, and, still, find ways to virtually reach out to others to stay connected and to share your concern, compassion, and love. In this way we continue to be greater by doing good.

Tom

6 Comments

  1. Thanks, Jan. I thought several were very, very funny. I’m getting a lot of positive responses to the blog. It seems to be meeting a need for people to connect to something that is a little lighter.

  2. Too true Mike! I’m sure Donald Sutherland relishes that his career is defined by that scream. Hope you and your family remain safe and well.

  3. I much prefer the 1954 Kevin McCarthy Body Snatchers, but that wouldn’t have worked for the scream metaphor

  4. Thanks, Jan, for the kind words. I’m so very sorry to hear that members of your family are down with the virus. I was wondering when I would learn of a COVID-19 case “close to home.” Soon I believe we will all know someone with COVID-19 and, I fear, we will all know someone who did not survive it. I’m holding you and your family, especially those that are ill, in the Light. (That’s a Quaker phrase with reference to praying for some one.) I’m a bit embarrassed to admit it, but Gail Roth (who now goes by his middle name Lamar) and I still greet either with “Radio!” and a waved hand. Sometimes we just simply send a text back forth that says, “Radio!” Please send my best to Kathy and Cindy. And when it is safe, give it each other hugs for me.

  5. So good to see you smiling and making jokes. The red nose is a great touch. I recall your enthusiasm at youth meetings! Do you recall (hand raised) “Radio!” ??
    On a serious note, several of the Iowa folks who have the virus are my cousin’s family. We keep them in our thoughts and prayers constantly. Brings the situation a lot closer.
    Be well. Change your socks. (Be extra nice to that amazing lady at your house.)
    Kathy and Cindy send their best.
    Blessings, Jan

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