I’m extremely lucky to live where I live. In more normal times, I’m two blocks from a station on the Metro line that runs to my job, have plenty of grocery stores, drug stores, etc., live near beautiful parks, and am not far to fantastic trails
and urban wilderness. During this…challenging…time, I am per order of the Hon. Ralph Northam, meant to stay as close to home as much as possible. In
other words, walking down to Roosevelt Island or through Lubber Run park is probably not what the elected leader of the Commonwealth had in mind. That said, I do live in a rather beautiful (if you like older homes) and certainly walkable
neighborhood. This will be fine.
Except…the number of Ring cameras in my neighborhood seems to grow daily. Especially at night when their pale blue eyes burn the brightest.
Nevermind the facial recognition. We’re living in the future! If the future was the early 1990s when video door bells first became a thing.
But I mention all of this because tonight, I noticed how I’d started reflexively dodging their gazes: “look left here, walk 20 feet, then look right, then you’re clear for a house.” Walking up one block near my own, I counted 7 on a standard block of maybe 12 houses? I guess I’ll avoid Norwood from now on. Or at least until the inevitable Spring power outage.
edit 2020-03-31 00:30
And how could I forget that for my first year of living here, I walked by a neighbor’s apartment door who had a similar thing that fit in her peephole that took a photo whenever it detected motion in the hallway.
When I lived in Austria my newspaper of choice was either Die Kurier (a solidly middle of the road and plainly written broadsheet) or Die Presse, a higher brow broadsheet that I read partially to put on airs of being deeply integrated in upper/middle class culture.1 Part of my choice had to do with my working for a political party for a spell. But that’s another story for another time.
The editor of Die Presse is an especially witty writer by the name of Rainer Nowak whose daily newsletter during Austrian national elections I’ve long enjoyed (with no attempt to put on airs). So I was delighted–if one can be delighted by such a thing right now—to see his daily email show up every day since Austria began an effective lockdown two weeks ago.
Wir werden diese Phase in unseren Leben nicht vergessen. Wir werden uns noch Jahre gegenseitig fragen: Wie hast du das damals erlebt? Wie ist es dir ergangen? Und dann wollen wir nicht antworten: Ich habe mich gefürchtet und immer beobachtet, ob die Nachbarn nicht vielleicht doch feiern. (Selbst wenn wir uns so gefühlt haben.) Und bitte zitiert jetzt niemand die letzten Drinks auf der Titanic. Wobei: Die Musik soll nicht so schlecht gewesen sein.
Or, my shite translation (it makes me sad to lose my German skills, yet I do nothing to stop it):
We will never forget this part of our lives. We will ask one another for years to come: “How did you experience this crisis? How did you get through it?” But we won’t want to answer: “I was afraid and always watched whether the neighbors were also miserable” (even if we felt that way). And no one should talk about the last drinks on the Titanic. The music probably wasn’t that bad.
We are all doing our best. For that, in these bizarre and extraordinary times, we should feel no shame.
Ich möchte eine Antwort geben, was ich am ende dieser Krise sagen will:
„Ich tat alles was möglich war, um diese schwere Zeit nicht nur durchzukommen, sondern sie zu erobern.
Damit am ende war ich eine bewusstere Person geworden.”2
Oder anders gesagt…
At the end of this crisis, I want to be able to say:
“I did everything possible not just to make it to the other side of this crisis, but to overcome it. So that at the end I had become a more conscious person."3
Die Kurier and Die Presse both have fascinating origin stories, the former having been founded by the US Army in 1945 and the later being the German speaking Habsburg Empire’s leading liberal-nationalist organ during the Revolutions of 1848. ↩︎
Not to venture too deeply into psychoanalysis here, but the feeling I’m going for here is of a person who is more kind or compassionate, thoughtful, and conscious of the world around them. I’m not sure exactly how to describe that. In German or English. Spelling it out like that I did in the previous full sentence isn’t doing it for me. On the other hand, my original use of the phrase „bessere Person“ (better person) isn’t doing it for me either. ↩︎
To be perfectly honest, by the time I came back from Pittsburgh I had kind of resigned myself to the idea that I would, at some point in the coming months, contract Covid-19. Despite being a consistent handwasher, despite taking every precaution, despite doing what I thought would be enough, I’d get it.
Last Friday I started feeling lethargic with a dry cough. My chest began to tighten up. I had a headache that no matter what just wouldn’t go away. Stomach cramps and a fever consistently around 100.5-102° F. By Sunday, it was bad enough that I called Kaiser Permanente’s advice line and was scheduled for a video visit the next day with my primary care physician. Dr. Egan designated me a ‘presumptive positive’ (I’m in a higher risk group to boot) and arranged for me to be tested three hours later. Because as a ‘presumptive positive,’ I’m not supposed to take public transportation, I had to find a car (or walk) to the testing site. I’m very grateful for my friend Stephen, who loaned me his and for people staying the hell home. That was the easiest drive I’ve ever had in this area. Though the person who honked at me for going the speed limit in DC’s Center Leg Freeway tunnel (the one that runs under the National Mall) can go to hell.
I received my test results just today and with them the news that I have tested negative. Apparently there’s another strain of the flu that bears many of the same symptoms currently circulating. Great timing buddy.
Still feel like shite though. Though that probably has something to do with the fact that I’ve spent very little time not on my sofa this week.
I am extremely lucky in all of this. Lucky because of the fact that my symptoms have been fairly mild. Lucky because I have access to an excellent, well integrated group of physicians, and especially because I have a primary care doctor with whom I’ve built a deeply trusting relationship. This is to say nothing of the fact that I was lucky that I could even get a test.
A lot of people have helped me adjust to this bizarre reality we now inhabit. And I want them to know that am grateful from the very bottom of my heart.
For the folks I notified at the beginning of the week, I am deeply sorry for any distress this may have caused. As we all cope with this bizarre and uncertain time, let’s remember to be especially kind to one another. We’re all in this together.