For the news that has permeated our social media and the decisions that have changed our world, I am struck most by something small. Today, Thursday, is my benchmark from one week ago.
As part of the astronomy group that I belong to, we were in the process of having a demonstration workshop for telescopes, and as the “lead” for the workshop, we were two days from it happening on the 14th. On Thursday the 12th, the news wasn’t quite that dire yet. Things were getting worse, but nobody was cancelling anything yet. And I was debating whether or not to cancel the workshop.
Another member involved in the event emailed me and asked the question, “should we or shouldn’t we”? And it was a legitimate question. As I said, nobody else was cancelling things anywhere yet. It was still business as usual. None of the schools were closed, social distancing wasn’t even a thing really, and all we had was general thoughts about ways to deal with the virus. The term flattening the curve hadn’t gone viral, so to speak, at least not in Canada.
With no real guidance from anyone, I mused aloud on FB, and asked about “how do we decide these things?”. Eventually, I found the Health Canada guidelines for events, and I applied it to the event. Even with those parameters, it was a toss-up. I loved that there was a framework at all, but it didn’t really guide me to a decision. On the negative side, it was indoors, small-ish space, some of our guests might be elderly. On the positive side, risk was low, we weren’t going to be hugging or anything. It was a “talk” more or less.
Yet for me the deciding factor, which wasn’t part of the framework, was that the event was totally optional. It was an “addon” and easily rescheduled to a later date. So I made the call and said no. We weren’t all in agreement either, and some of the members nudged back to suggest we were over-reacting.
Then the schools closed on Friday. Other events started cancelling. Theatres cancelled shows. Airlines started sounding the closure alarm. Things went dark really fast. We were working from home on Monday and Tuesday.
Later, on Wednesday, I was thinking about something else, and I thought about the workshop. And honestly, in my mind, I was thinking not that it was just 6 days before that I had cancelled the event but more like 13 days or so. Two weeks, not one. Until I thought of the actual date and realized that it was just 6 days before that the decision had been a theoretical toss-up. The answer, at the time on the Thursday, had NOT been obvious. Lots of intelligent people involved couldn’t agree on the best course of action. I have family, friends and colleagues who in that same time-frame of Wednesday-Friday were making decisions about travel to Florida and elsewhere. Some stayed, some went. And everyone who went ended up having to deal with complicated stressful returns to get home. Because the world around us changed drastically each day.
But I wasn’t travelling.
And work wasn’t that dire since we can do some of the work from home. Plus Andrea works in the same place so we’re in it together. Info I don’t have is info she might; or info she hasn’t heard, I might have already heard. And we’re home together. Jacob is here with us, and we sent him to private daycare on Monday. Which we probably shouldn’t have done, in retrospect, although it is just the same as him being with us in many ways, just different family. It freed us up to work, although in the end, I didn’t accomplish much.
Yet for me, the real change is the workshop. I feel like a quantum leap away from that person I was last Thursday. Naive, confused, optimistic, assessing risk without knowing the impact. Sure, I made the “right” call, but I could have gone the other way just as easily. And yet a week later, it is so obvious now that there was NO OTHER CALL to make. But that wasn’t clear at the time.
I can’t believe it is just a week, and the way our views, our world has shifted. My view has shifted. I don’t feel traumatized or anything, as I did with the tornado’s effect on me eighteen months ago. I’m isolated, I’m protected.
But I went out for groceries today, the first time since that last Thursday outing after supper. We had gone to the store for a few items ahead of a potential Armageddeon on the weekend, even though hoarding of TP had already started. We were almost mocking people for their over-reaction to issues, but we still stocked up on frozen and canned items. Nothing extraordinary. Today was different. I debated whether I should take my grocery bins in. Should I use my reusable cloth bags for produce. Everyone was encouraged to use social distancing, which wasn’t hard in a mostly empty store. Workers just about outnumbered customers. Should I buy deli meat? What’s the risk factor for THAT? Even my purchases in a few cases were over-reactions. Oh, I’ll grab two boxes of that cereal so I don’t have to come back again next week. We’re planning some extra baking, get some more eggs.
After 40 minutes, I was at the cash, and we rang through no problem. No biggie. But by the time I was done bagging things, and paid, I was mentally done. I felt like I was underwater almost. I came out of the store, got to the car, and I felt like I needed to have some sort of decontamination treatment. I felt dirty, and infected, and there were germs everywhere. Let me be clear — there weren’t. But my brain was suddenly in super-suspicion mode. The carefree shopping of last Thursday with Andrea and Jacob was replaced with “don’t take anyone else with you”, “don’t add risk to your required outing”, “get in, get out, don’t touch anything you don’t have to”.
We also did take out tonight for dinner for a break (Lone Star). I had ordered ahead at 3:00 p.m. for 6:00 p.m. so I could get in, pay, grab it and go. Instead, I was stuck in their little foyer waiting with four other people, none of us close to each other, but my skin was crawling the whole time. After paying, the food wasn’t ready, so I waited outside for 10 more minutes. And had them bring the food to the door. I didn’t want to go back in. And on pickup at a counter, I rarely tip. I don’t tip McDonald’s, why would I tip there? Today, absolutely I was tipping. If you’re working that counter today, you deserve every tip I’ve never given a counter worker before.
And my skin was still crawling when I got home. I wanted to wipe off every product with anti-bacterial wipes or cloths. Total over-reaction of course, but it took me being home with my family about 15 minutes before I reset my internal balance.
I thought I was doing fine. Maybe that’s true when I’m in my bubble, just don’t ask me to leave. A week since I was doing a toss-up of whether or not to have a telescope clinic. Wow.