Updates from the Interim Normal: Masks and Other Tasks

Mask Black!

Our niece made us masks! Very sweet of her.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover, everything’s coming up COVID-19 worldwide:

…whenever we think we’ve settled down and the tension has eased as we’ve adapted to each change thrown at us, some knowledgeable authority or some know-nothing internet crank picks up a megaphone and bellows in our ears like William Dozier on ye olde Batman TV show, “THE WORST IS YET TO COME!”

The story is far from over — more so in other countries disproportionately hit by the Coronavirus disease. I’d rather not imagine what a “Chapter 2” for this post would look like. I have other things I’d much rather write about, but I’m skeptical as to whether anyone would take a break from refreshing their Coronavirus phone updates to glance at anything else. Frankly, I know the feeling.

We’ve been rolling with the changes. Anne is still working from our home library while I’m among the 3% of employees in my legally Essential company still driving to the office every day, handling critical in-person tasks so my coworkers can stay home. I’m weathering the indefinite suspension of the comic book direct market, which has given me an opportunity to dive into my gigantic backlog of unread books. To while away the hours between shifts we’ve doubled down on family game night, supported our local journalists and their greedy overlords, reminisced about restaurants, and discovered Zoom. We enjoyed a weekend of free HBO, found mixed results with a new streaming service, and, may the Lord have mercy upon us, withdrawn from Tiger King mania.

We’re balancing our responsibilities to others with our self-care leisure time. We’re checking on elderly relatives. We’re appreciative of our church’s weekly online services and their midweek updates on prayer needs, such as this week’s news of a fellow congregant who’s been diagnosed positive for COVID-19, an Iraq War veteran we used to see in our old Sunday school classes. And here in our little humble hovel, we’re trying not to drive each other nuts.

We’re trying to take more long walks around the neighborhood for our health and for the fresh air. With Anne cut off from her employer’s walking paths and being homebound except for her Saturday grocery runs, she’s been motivated to get out more. I join her on weekends, but I could use more. We also miss the intense workouts of walking miles and miles around comic conventions. With the postponements and cancellations of HorrorHound Cincinnati, Indiana Comic Con, Motor City Comic Con, and the Superman Celebration in Metropolis, all our favorite forms of exercise have been disappearing from our calendar. For now, seeing the houses of the strangers who live around us will have to do. Many of them have prettier yards, so sometimes the visuals are a little treat.

Stay Healthy!

A sign of compassion a few blocks away.

Groceries were a problem for a while. Anne has done a masterful job of keeping our inventories steady without falling prey to contaminants from other shoppers. She was utterly delighted to find disinfectant wipes a few weeks ago, a scarce resource of late. We’re overstocked on toilet paper. Our freezer is amply filled for the time being, in preparation for the meat shortages that may be in our future.

Clorox Wipes!

Ancient civilizations had their golden idols. We have our plastic canisters of big towelettes.

We’ve patronized a few of our local restaurants to help keep them alive. Our favorite Chinese takeout joint was shut down for over a month. They weren’t ordered to do so, but were out of commission nevertheless for their own reasons. The last week of April they reopened at last, but with a new system in place. And there was much rejoicing — not just from us, judging by the line. The other day I saw a rib joint undergoing a similar revival as a line of cars stretched out to the street. People want their foods, and they want their excuses to leave the house if only for a few condoned minutes and causes.

Closure sign.

The sorrow of a closed restaurant that kept pushing its return date back.

This past week in Indiana has seen a startling development. Governor Eric Holcomb announced a long-term plan to begin reopening all businesses statewide at an extremely slow pace, in phases over the course of the next few months, as opposed to the pell-mell suicide runs that other states are entertaining. Effective May 4th, 89 of our 92 counties were granted permission to reopen certain businesses (not everyone, but a select few) provided that a number of sensible guidelines are strictly enforced, involving the usual social-distancing stand-offishness, and incessant sterilization of everything in sight, and so on. We, however, live in Marion County, one of the three Indiana counties not yet entitled to go wild. Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett has extended Marion County’s stay-at-home edict to at least May 15th because we’re far more crowded and arguably more unkempt than a lot of sparser rural areas. In an exemplary display of nonpartisan negotiation, both sides are perfectly fine with the differing timelines.

We live near the western edge of Indianapolis/Marion County. We’re virtually next door to one of those 89 “freer” counties. Technically we could cruise right over there into their shops and restaurants — albeit respectfully minding the COVID-19 “treat everything and everyone as poison” rules that are like an advanced expansion pack of the original “The Floor Is Lava” game — and totally party down and spend hard and paint the town red. We as a family are unanimously not doing this. Our pet theory is the people most likely to rush out at breakneck speed to indulge their pent-up shopping urges are also the people least likely to adhere to those lifesaving guidelines that have thus far kept us off the casualty list.

So yes, thank you for tempting us, Hendricks County, but we’ll wait. And wait and wait and then wait some more, if need be. It’s been over three months since my last haircut, but now I’m thinking about letting it grow out even longer as a display of…I dunno, solidarity or wisdom or whatever. Call it abundance-of-caution chic.

But sooner or later, if infection rates and death rates ever do dwindle to any encouraging degree, I’ll need to reconsider errand-running as a viable activity in limited quantities. As things currently stand, I drive to work and back five days a week, where the desks of the very few live personnel have been moved dozens of feet apart; I get gas once every three weeks; and that’s my entire routine itinerary beyond our four walls. Three weeks ago I made stops inside two “essential” businesses and wound up deeply unnerved each time — me without a mask trying to navigate around other humans, some masked and some not so much. I’m now more than fourteen days from those events and remain free of symptoms. So far I’ve seen no evidence of having infected anyone else. I’d prefer not to be wrong about that.

Anne has gotten used to wearing a mask for her Saturday grocery runs. I’m still working on that part, for that eventual time if and when I start venturing forth for any non-work reason, at all, ever again. Our niece made us a few masks, including the example in our lead photo. Upon my first try, within two minutes my nose and mouth were toasty and on the verge of profuse sweating. I suppose that’s a good sign of its sufficient thickness, but I’m concerned whether I could weather it for much longer than that.

We have a few items around the house I could conceivably wear as facial coverings. Results vary.

Red Bandanna!

An old red bandanna my company gave out at a cowboy-themed shindig once, which wasn’t my thing but I kept it anyway. It’s large enough to tie securely behind my head, but the material is quite thin.

Blue Scarf!

Anne’s winter scarf. Very comfy, and plenty of slack left over to cover my unsightly, naturally curly hair. But is it protective? And do I have any outfits that won’t clash with it?

Ace Bandage!

The Ace bandage I use to support injured joints as needed. Also very comfy, and it has a reliable Velcro fastener.

Honestly, the Ace bandage was the most comfortable, most breathable, and most solidly secured of all these options. Knowing my luck, it’s probably the worst one from a medical standpoint. With a bit of rearranging and the right hat on top, I could also cosplay as Sam Raimi’s Darkman.

As added insurance, Anne took the liberty of pre-ordering me a set of large Marvel masks from Disney’s online shop. I expect those to ship sometime between July and 2040.

Or I could continue my current pattern of leaving the house for work only, thus sidestepping the mask issue. I’ll have to keep checking for updates on how local humanity’s doing and get back to you on that.

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