George Boardman: Just doing my part to flatten the curve, one sheltered day at a time
Observations from the center stripe: Kowtow edition
VICE PRESIDENT Mike Pence more and more resembles a North Korea functionary who wants to stay in the good graces of Kim Jong-un ... DR.ANTHONY Fauci could actually get some work done if he didn’t spend all of his time on interviews and press conferences … A LOT of men are rediscovering their families now that there’s no sports on TV worth watching … BAD TREND: Along with toilet paper, there’s also been a spike in the sale of craft beer, pot and guns … WHAT GOOD are plunging gasoline prices when I can only drive to the grocery store? ... AS SOON as people fear a shortage, they create one … AVOID A cook who uses the smoke alarm for a kitchen timer …
We’ve been talking about downsizing for a couple of years, but I’m glad we still have space we don’t need as the Boardmans adjust to the new reality of a coronavirus pandemic.
Our large house gives us plenty of room to roam as we shelter in place, and it also makes it easy for us to accommodate our daughter and granddaughter, two refugees from the outbreak in China.
Our daughter Rosemary would normally be teaching seventh-grade science at the International School of Beijing, an English language K-12 school that serves a veritable United Nations of the children of foreign nationals working in China. The student body includes children of Americans assigned to the U.S. Embassy and English-speaking Chinese children.
ISB was on its Lunar New Year break when the coronavirus — and how serious it can be — started appearing on the public’s radar. Rosemary was debating whether to make a quick trip here to leave her daughter until June when the school was ordered to stay shut an additional two weeks.
They arrived here Jan. 25 and it’s becoming increasingly unlikely Rosemary will return to finish the school year even though the disease is ebbing in China and life is slowly returning to normal. It is an irony of our time — and an example of how the world is interconnected — that she may be better off (virus-wise) in Beijing than in western Nevada County right now.
Rosemary is spending her time engaged in genuinely long-distance teaching, working with students on four continents. She’s at her computer nightly from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. (9 a.m. to noon, Beijing time) working directly with students who have questions or need assistance with assignments. Those students who are asleep when she’s online can email their questions. All assignments can be accessed online at the school’s learning center.
Their exile has made it possible for us to spend a lot of quality with Lotus, always a good thing. I had forgotten how much energy a 5-year-old has, probably because I haven’t been around one in decades. She doesn’t seem to be fazed by the disruption in her routine, probably because she’s flown enough to circle the globe a couple of times. (I didn’t get on a plane until I was 18, non-stop San Francisco to Orange County.)
We’ve been working on bike-riding skills, she’s discovered Rocky Road ice cream, and I’ve been introduced to the “Octonauts,” a ragtag group of cartoon animals that do good deeds deep in the ocean. Lotus’ favorite is Shellington, a sea otter who is the crew’s researcher, always on the lookout for new and rare creatures. I lean toward Captain Barnacles, a polar bear who’s in charge of the outfit and clearly a born leader.
The lockdown isn’t as bad as the PG&E blackouts of last summer, mainly because we have power at night and can communicate with the outside world. We’re fortunate to have a lot of wide open spaces in Nevada County, which means you can get plenty of exercise without getting close to other people. (Advocates of high-density housing may want to rethink their position.)
Still, I don’t like the disruption in my routine. My gym is closed for now, the performance of “Blythe Spirit” we were going to attend was canceled, and I’ve resigned myself to the fact we won’t be eating in restaurants any time soon. But this gives us a chance to eat some of that meat we’ve been storing in the freezer. I’ll bet some of it has been there since the last Ice Age, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we find a roast of mastodon somewhere in the back.
Even outdoor activities are impacted by the pandemic. When I take Lotus out to ride her bike (still with training wheels) I’m cautioned to keep our distance from others and I’m loaded down with wipes and hand sanitizer. I feel more like a janitor than a teacher or playmate.
I venture to a grocery store reluctantly, mainly because customers are grumpy if not hostile, and the stores resemble a looting scene from a zombie or apocalypse movie. Stores are reporting that the same people are coming back day after day, buying whatever’s available. A lot of food is going to be thrown out when things return to normal.
I don’t understand why people are hoarding toilet paper — COVID-19 doesn’t give you diarrhea, and you can’t avoid the disease by wrapping yourself in TP. Maybe this is what the term “anal retentive” really means. We have enough TP to last us three or four weeks, and I’m guessing the hoarders will be done stocking up when we have to buy some again.
I won’t be surprised if grocery stores have toilet paper up to the rafters two or three months from now, but nobody will be buying because they’ll be working through the doomsday supply they hoarded. The same goes for hand sanitizers and aerosol disinfectants.
In normal times I would be in Reno with friends making some sporting investments, but March Madness has turned into March Sadness and all of the professional sports leagues have shut down. I haven’t gotten around to reading the baseball preview issue of Sports Illustrated yet — what’s the hurry? They won’t be playing before mid-May anyway, and if the governor insists on keeping crowds below 250, only the Oakland A’s will be on the field in California.
Sports pages are becoming increasingly barren as reporters run out of things to write about. The only news these days is about the clueless NBA players who are becoming super carriers of the coronavirus, and free agent maneuvering by NFL teams. Do I really care that Tampa Bay is dumb enough to pay Tom Brady a reported $50 million over the next two years? No.
That leaves a lot less television for me to watch. I rarely watch TV during the day except for CNBC, but the stock market news is way too dreary these days. When I start thinking about watching one of the other talking head networks, I close my eyes and relax until the urge goes away.
I don’t know how long I can stick to this routine. I know it’s for my own good, and this will probably be over a lot sooner than some other pandemics — the Black Plague and Spanish flu come to mind. But I’ll become antsy when the weather gets warm, and I won’t have an excuse to avoid one of my least favorite chores — spring gardening.
Maybe I’ll just spend more time watching the “Octonauts” until it’s safe to resume normal life. Peso doesn’t seem to be pulling his weight these days.
CORRECTION: I wrote in the Observations section of my March 16 column that Supervisor Heidi Hall held her election party outside of her district. In fact, she attended a party in Grass Valley sponsored by the Nevada County Democratic Party Central Committee. I apologize for the error.
George Boardman lives at Lake of the Pines. His column is published Mondays by The Union. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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