We’re Normalizing The Pandemic
Ho-hum. Just another day in the world’s richest country.
I’ve been sheltering in place now for 2 months. I have a certain routine that I follow now, one that is very different from the way things used to be. I work from home five days a week. I rarely venture out of the house now. On the weekends, I’m doing something around the house. Cleaning, fixing, installing. My existence now, compared to life before the pandemic is just a bit surreal.
I don’t drive to work anymore. I don’t miss the drive. I don’t miss the traffic. I don’t even miss listening to music on the way to work much anymore. I drive so little now, my car could sit for weeks if I don’t drive it for something else. Gravity is relentlessly pulling the oil down to the oil pan, so I take the car out for a spin on Sunday morning just to keep the engine lubed.
I used to have to endure very bad traffic on the last leg of my commute. They’re widening that street now. The lease on the building for the company I work for expires early next year and they’re planning on moving to another building that they own. Rather than move me, they might just let me work from home, permanently. I wouldn’t mind that at all. I might not see my desk at work before the end of the year. Maybe never again.
I’ve been working on home improvement projects at home lately, mostly in the front and back yards. That means a trip to the local Lowes or Home Depot. If it’s big, I take the SUV. If it’s small, I take the economy car. I’ve been busy last weekend and my hands are sore. My fingertips sting when I wash my hands in hot water. That’s because I’ve been putting irrigation fittings together and to do that, I have to press them together and wiggle them until the joint is made. I collaborated with my wife to lay the hose where she wanted it, and we’re not done yet. We’re getting more hose and fittings for some more plants, too.
I nailed all the leaks at the bib and buried the pipe in the ground. Now there is only a connector with no valve sticking up above the ground. Once I ran a few tests and purged the lines, I plugged up the ends of each line and set a schedule. I also got the sprinklers to turn off almost completely just for now during this trial period, but I still have one leaky sprinkler to fix. Then we want to see how it all works out. If you saw my story from yesterday, “Keep Digging”, you might like to see that I’ve got it covered now:
Here is the finished irrigation project:
After a week of testing, I’ll open up the sprinklers to water the grass by the side of the garden that I’ll plant later. My neighbor was kind enough to give me half a bag of seed, so I’ll use that. He works from home like me and his family has been following protocol, so I know I can trust his attention to safety.
Now about those trips to the hardware stores. I’ve found that it’s better for me to order parts first, then pick them up at Home Depot. They’re very strict observers of protocols. They’ve made it very inconvenient to just go there and shop. Their emphasis is online shopping and pickup. Lowes is almost just like before, except that they’ve re-routed traffic in the parking lot. Inside, there are signs everywhere about staying six feet apart. There are even signs on the floor where the checkout lines form. At least I know that I can go there, with or without a mask (I wear a mask), and shop for what I need.
It’s become normal to wear a mask now. It’s become normal to stay away from others. When I see my neighbors, I wave to them and say, “hi”. It’s become normal to use Facetime, Duo, and Hangouts to get time with other people outside of the house.
I think this is a very confusing time for our kids, though. They’re bored, even with screentime. School has ended for one and will end soon for another. We will have to find other ways to keep them busy and engaged. When my wife and I are busy in the garden, we invite the kids, but they’d rather play on computers or watch TV. They’re not quite at the point where they see the joy of working with their hands around dirt.
The other day I wanted to hire a landscaper to fix my problem with the sprinklers in the backyard. I called around. They either didn’t return my call or they were booked solid for the next few weeks. They’re busy. Really busy. Landscapers have a rather unique situation. They can work outside, so social distancing is easy. They can land their work with customers over the phone, email, and text. They have an array of payment options, so they don’t have to handle a check and go to the bank.
Lowes and Home Depot are doing brisk business. They have lines. Every time I went there, it was busy, almost crowded in spots. That means I’m not the only one doing home improvement projects.
My experience fixing a leak in the sprinkler system has given me the confidence to fix a leaky sprinkler head, too. I’ll have to dig around it, pull it out, and examine it. If I can fix it, great. If not, I have a spare to try out. Or I can buy a new one as they’re not that expensive.
So we’re gardening big time. That’s been one of the ways we’ve adapted to the pandemic. I enjoy working outside. I enjoy working with my hands. I enjoy cleaning things up and making them tidy. I have plans for the backyard now that I have a better idea of what I can do on my own. I can work with my wife to make the backyard a very nice place to hang out on a hot summer day.
The drip irrigation system I installed yesterday will be very efficient compared to spraying the garden with a hose. It’s on a timer now, so it’ll be consistent, too. Step by step, we will add more hose to get to some other plants that my wife wants to grow as well. We’re working together, step by step.
That’s how I’ve been approaching our projects. I break them down into steps I can manage. I’m doing the same thing with the pandemic. I’m breaking it down into steps that are easy to manage. I’m focused on just a few main things right now. Day by day, I’m focused on staying healthy and following protocol. On weekdays, I’m focused on maintaining my job. On weekends, I’m focused on maintaining the house and tending to my family. When everyone else is asleep, I take care of myself. Writing is one of those things I do to take care of myself.
Though my habits and my life have changed, I can still remember life before the pandemic. I remember the pizza houses, the Indian food, the bounce houses, the recreation centers, the swimming pools, the botanical gardens, and everything else we used to do for amusement. Much of that is closed. What is left is shopping for food or home improvement. We could walk the trails, too. But I don’t think we’re ready for that just yet. Now that I think about it, hiking is a very safe outdoor activity in the context of the pandemic.
For now, I just want to get through the pandemic with family and house intact, and I think I can make it. I’m learning to live with the new normal, with a bit of hope that the old normal will return. That’s the best I can do right now, and that’s enough for me.