Sunday, April 5, 2020

COVID-19 - A Post for my Future Grandkids

This post isn't for the general public. We're all going through this quarantine together, so there's nothing I can say here that would be new or interesting for you.

This post is for my future grandkids. I want them to know what life was like here in California when Coronavirus hit America. So Ling Ling and Thing 2 (and any other grand-babies that end up popping into existence), this is for you. 

When it comes to shocking events, everyone remembers exactly where they were or what they were doing when their world was suddenly spun off its axis. My grandparents remember where they were when Pearl Harbor was bombed. My parents--though little at the time--remember the shock that swept through the nation when they got the news that John F. Kennedy was shot. For my own generation, it's 9-11. We all remember the sickening numbness that washed over us when we saw that second tower crumble down, and the fallout that resulted from that terrorist attack. But for your parents (I'm talking to you, Ling Ling and Thing 2), it's Coronavirus. As I write this, I'm 41. Your [future] parents are in their late teens. This pandemic...well, this is their life altering event.

Pandemics don't work like bombings or presidential assassinations or planes hitting towers, though. There's no "Where were you when..." discussions, because it doesn't slam into you the way other calamities do. Instead, a pandemic creeps upon you slowly, where you see it first from a safe distance, and you think nothing of it. It continues to inch closer and closer, and you adjust to every new development. You get used to its omnipresence in your world. But then you wake up one morning and realize you were the frog boiling slowly in the pot all along, and your entire world has been turned upside down. And you take a step back, and scratch your head, and mutter to yourself "What the hell happened?"

For me personally, it all started Wednesday, March 11. With over a thousand cases of Coronavirus (COVID-19) now in the U.S., the virus was already on the peripheral of my thoughts, but at this time most of us considered it nothing more than an extreme cold or flu (except for my twin, Shannon. She's known since December that this was something different). That night, the World Health Organization officially declared COVID-19 a pandemic. In school the next day, our principal came on over the loudspeaker in the middle of third period to ask all teachers to play a safety and hand-washing video for our students. At my school, it's rare for the school's intercom to be used to interrupt teachers in the middle of their lessons, so the loudspeaker announcement was probably my first real sign that the outbreak had finally stretched its long, spiny fingers far enough to graze my part of the world.

That night, panic buying ensued. Aisles were cleaned out of food, especially bulk food such as beans and rice. And of course, hand sanitizer, and toilet paper. I don't even need to mention the Great Toilet Paper Shortage of 2020 because that one will be forever marked in history.

The next day was Friday the 13th. We found out that Disneyland and Disney World had closed, along with Universal Studios and every other major theme park. Students and teachers scraped by the school day. I was out with a sub to take Elijah to the doctor's for a possible ear infection. I never went home that day; we had planned a trip to Las Vegas for my nephew Dylan's 21st birthday. So after Elijah's appointment and lunch, we started the long drive. We were nearing State Line when we got the news that school was cancelled until further notice.

Our weekend in Vegas was...surreal. Buffets were only allowed to stay open if gloved restaurant workers dished out the food. There were workers stationed at the escalators with disinfectant spray and towels, whose only job was to continue to spray the moving hand railings and wipe them down. Everyone--visitor or worker--had hand sanitizer. You'd see hand sanitizer every five seconds, next to slot machines or as you were walking the aisles. Despite all this, there was a relaxed vibe in Vegas. Kinda. It was calm, yet there was an underlying uneasiness in the air; a nervous energy. It was an accident that we all happened to find ourselves in Sin City in the beginning phases of a pandemic, and I think most of us wanted to go home. No one likes to be away from home when the shit's hitting the fan. We still had a good time, but it was the weirdest 21st birthday ever. Our family spent a lot of our free time during meals following the events happening in California and laughing over the latest toilet paper memes. 

We returned home on Sunday, March 15. The entire Vegas strip shut down a few days later.

Here's where I start to lose track of dates, because every day seemed to bring a new damage report--and still does today. So what I can tell you is this: Sometime after returning home from Vegas, we were given "Stay at Home" orders from the governor. All non-essential businesses were closed down. Grocery stores (of course) remained open, but movie theaters, parks, dine-in restaurants, etc., were all closed, and remain so today. Gatherings of any kind are prohibited, so birthday parties and social events are now being held over video conferencing. Here's me and some colleagues enjoying "Wine Night" together:

If you take your dog for a walk, you have to practice "social distancing," which means you must avoid coming within six feet of another person. It's so odd, because we hear this phrase a thousand times a day now, to the point where social distancing feels like it's been a fixture in our lives forever. But in reality it never existed a month ago. 

Seniors (such as Trinity's boyfriend, Caleb) will not have prom or graduation this year. The Class of 2020 is probably the most gypped class in our nation's history.

Visiting any of the essential stores that are allowed to remain open is...strange. Unless you show up right when they get their new deliveries, aisles are still cleared of food and other provisions. Half of the shoppers are wearing face masks. And more rules keep getting added.

My mom works as a nurse, and you should see the 'gear' she has to wear. It looks like a hazmat suit from the movie Outbreak. Here are the confirmed cases here in America, as of today:
It's expected to peak at the end of this month. School is now out for the rest of the school year, and Distance Learning starts tomorrow. 

I think the most surreal part is, unlike the assassination of John. F. Kennedy, or 9-11, this pandemic is not isolated to the United States. It's happening across the globe. We're all in various forms of lockdown. I've never in my life experienced an issue that everyone on the planet can empathize with. It's disconcerting on the one hand, but unifying and equalizing on the other.

The plus side of all this is the amazing quality time I'm getting with my family. We play games regularly, take walks, have movie nights, etc., and I get to do leisurely things that I've never had time for in the past, like take Neil Gaiman's online writing class, home interior projects, and play Sudoku. My favorite thing though is sending and receiving "Polos" from my mom, sister, and niece. These are short video messages, and we go back and forth all day, staying a part of each other's lives.

I don't know. Is the world still like this a decade from now? Because right now, it feels like it's never going to end. It's permeated every part of our lives. Even when it does end, it won't end. So many Americans who are considered nonessential employees have lost their jobs--either temporarily or permanently--and despite an emergency stimulus package that was recently approved, our nation might be heading for a bad recession, if not another Great Depression.

As I write this, I wonder how your lives--Ling Ling and Thing 2--have been changed as a result of Coronavirus. Is it normal in your world to see people wearing face masks? Do people still carry hand sanitizer everywhere they go? Are they still practicing social distancing in public? 

I'm going to end this with a few random pics that capture a bit of the world we live in today. I believe that, for the most part, life will return back to the way it was before a pandemic held the entire globe in its grip, and that someday this will all be a blip in the radar of our world's history. But I also believe this pandemic has created waves that will be felt for generations. LL and T2, you'll be born in the wake of those waves, so you won't know the difference. But they're there, and will always be there. Every little ripple will be felt and known by the people who remember what life was like before the outbreak of COVID-19. Your parents and grandparents--their lives will never be quite the same.




Doctor wheels elderly Coronavirus patient outside to watch the sunset.