Getting Used to Doing Nothing
April 6, 2020

Heyy. How ya doin'? How was your weekend? Wow, did you see that great game last night? Boy, those referees really blew that call, didn't they? How was that movie? Was it really good? Do you think my (son/daughter/niece/nephew/grandma/neighbor) might like it? I heard the acting was fantastic. You went to that new restaurant? How was the food? Was it crowded? I've been wanting to go there for awhile. Oo, I heard that show was good, but I don't get that channel.

None of that conversation is going on now, of course. What is there to talk about at work (if you are going to work, that is) or with the neighbors (if you get to see them) while we all shelter in place and wait out the coronavirus? It's now been a month since most counties declared a state of emergency, three weeks since the schools were closed, and about two-and-a-half weeks since we were mandated to stay home except for 'essential' duties like shopping for food, or going to work (if you are that fortunate). Otherwise, what are we supposed to do?

How are you holding up? Have you talked to (so-and-so)? How is (he/she) doing? I've been meaning to give (him/her) a call. I went to the store today and they were out of toilet paper. Did they have any when you went? Where do you shop? Did you have to wait to get in? Yeah, I don't know if it's because of Easter or not, but they were out of eggs. So was that other place I went to across town. I had to knock on the door just to see if the bank was open. I didn't realize this shutdown was going to mean I couldn't get a haircut. Wow, that other place is closed, too. I drove downtown and the place was empty. What are all those people supposed to do for money? That's how the conversations are going now.

It's a crazy world out there right now, and we are just trying to get through it. I had a conversation with a co-worker today about hiking and jogging. We just did a story on how local trails are open as long as you keep proper social distancing. Now, some of those trails may be closing. “What are we supposed to do?”, he said. El Dorado County has just issued an order telling people not to visit Lake Tahoe, and they plan to enforce it. They don't want tourists stopping in the store and buying up their limited local supplies. “That's not fair”, he said. “What if I just want to go for a scenic drive?” We have to constantly remind ourselves. You aren't supposed to do any of that. You are supposed to STAY HOME.. That's what shelter in place means.

Have you noticed that when you do interact with people these days, mostly with the ones you don't really know like the clerk at the store, the bank teller, or just a person walking in or out of a place that you hold the door open for, they aren't very friendly. Now they are probably wearing face masks, which means they aren't going to make eye contact anyway, but they don't say anything. Everybody is worried, but they are also uneasy. I mean, what are you supposed to say, anyway?

If you haven't been out, just in the last few days, things have changed drastically. The clerk at the Seven Eleven or AM/PM is wearing gloves and a face mask, there's plexi-glass hanging from the ceiling acting as a sneeze guard, and customers just look down. There's blue tape on the floor around the check-out counters at the supermarket, marking spaces six feet apart. My bank branch had laminated paper taped to the floor, six feet apart, for you to stand on while waiting. They also had a high-level manager whose only job that day was to periodically count how many customers were inside, and lock the door if there was more than three.

With only one exception, it was dreadful to go anywhere, even when you do go out. My exception was a clerk in a convenience store. I only go in there every couple of weeks or so. I think he's the owner of the place and doesn't speak English all that well. Anyway, when I do go in there, and he is in there, he tells me it's great to see me and it's been a long time, and asks me how I'm doing. I think if I went back in there tomorrow he might do the same thing, but it's still nice. He was wearing gloves, though, but no face mask, at least not yet.

Just while writing this (which is one of the reasons I do this), I now realize the way we are acting, and maybe should be acting, in stores. It's like the 'Soup Nazi' episode in Seinfeld. You keep your distance, when it's your turn you take two large steps up to the counter, place your order, say nothing else, avoid eye contact at all costs, pay the person, take a giant step away, and then leave. Just change “No soup for you!” to “Better stay at home!” Let's just hope you got bread.

Sports shorts: Tonight would have been the championship game of the NCAA Basketball Tournament. I was hoping for an all mid-major Final Four with Gonzaga, San Diego State, Dayton, and maybe Butler, but instead, I observed the occasion Saturday by watching the 1983 NC State-Houston game where Jim Valvano went nuts looking for someone to hug afterwards. That game was kind of sloppy, actually. NC State had about a four-minute scoring drought in the first half, was outscored 17-2 to open the second, and still won. I wanted to watch the 1985 Villanova-Georgetown game tonight, but I don't think the sports networks have aired it. It is on YouTube, and I might watch it tomorrow.

More sports: The so-called 'classic' games being shown on TV are getting more random. I turned on MLB Network this afternoon and they were showing Game Two of the 1987 World Series. Minnesota beat St. Louis in a blowout to go up 2-0. Bert Blyleven pitched well, though... I am looking forward to watching this. During the night, NBA-TV aired Magic Johnson's first NBA game. I did watch the first two minutes just to set the scene. The October 12, 1979 game was on CBS with Brett Musberger and Rod Hundley. The game was in San Diego against the Clippers, and, breaking news, just in, Bill Walton was a late scratch, and would not play because of a sore ankle. Interviewing Johnson before the game, Musberger went out on a limb when he concluded, “I predict stardom for you”.

Let it go: I think I'm now the last American to watch the Disney movie Frozen. It was on TV a couple of weeks ago, and I recorded it and watched it last night. Cute. Now I can relate to the seven year-olds I interviewed last year when they were telling me about Elsa, Sven, and Olaf.

Joan Small passed away late last week at the age of 91. I guess the best way to describe her relation to me is my second cousins' mother, and the wife of my mom's first cousin. Her three children (my second cousins) are Jonathan Small, Greg Small, and Libby Boyce, who lost her son Cameron last July. Joan was always a kick to be around, and we're told her health declined rather suddenly, but her death was not coronavirus related.

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