John Davis: Coping In Big Horn Basin During Paranoid COVID-19 Blues

in John Davis/Column

By John Davis, Worland

WORLAND – My wife and I are settling into the norms of the coronavirus life for older folks.  “Older” here means 60, which is the age usually given by medical authorities beyond which a person is more subject to drastic consequences if infected by the virus.

So, people my age are descending into a kind of self-protective cocoon, making sure we have minimal social contacts, minimal close interactions of any type with other human beings, and, in general, engaging in a kind of personal quarantine.

It’s surprising how much our lives have changed in a very short time.  All of us, of course, have established routines for eating, for shopping, for sleeping, for visiting friends, for visiting our doctors, etc.  And our new regimen has required that we change all of it.

There are, of course, certain activities that are essential, such as getting food at our one grocery store.  I heard one commentator note, however, that this is probably the most dangerous thing that old folks do, because they’re exposed to so many other people.  So, I’ve tried to limit the grocery store visits to no more than one per week and at favorable times. 

The “favorable times” part has proven more complicated than I thought, however, as the grocery store changed its hours and a lot of people in the town are obviously trying to do their grocery shopping when the store has the least number of patrons.  Last time I was at the grocery store my plans backfired, as I selected a time when a lot of other folks had the same clever idea, and we all encountered something of a crush of people.

All this is accompanied by a big dose of paranoia, knowing the severe consequences that can follow from being infected by the coronavirus.  So, there’s lots of hand-washing in between activities.  I bought apples and oranges here the other day and then wondered whether I should wash the fruit with soap and water, as well as my hands. I decided to do both. 

And then in my last bridge session (which is likely to be the last one for a good long time), I loaned a scorekeeper a stainless-steel pen.  Then I found myself worrying if the pen held the virus, and ended up sanitizing the pen and washing my hands once again.  And feeling vaguely foolish about all this.  Who washes his hands after loaning a friend a pen?  Then I encountered the quandary of whether to wash my hands after using the gas dispenser at a self-service filling station.

And on another occasion, I gave a clerk at a restaurant my credit card, which she used and swiped and returned to me.  But once again, I found myself wondering about how to protect myself:  Did I need to sanitize the card as well as wash my hands? 

The worst thing of all is the isolation from friends, some of whom I’ve known almost my entire life and whom I normally enjoy immensely.  Perhaps the most painful experiences have been when I see an old friend across a room and want to go talk to him or her, but know that it wouldn’t be prudent.  So, I just sheepishly waive from a distance.  Our lives have become so much more lonely; empty of touching, chatting, and laughing with those we care about.

Things would be better if we could all confidently look forward to a specific time when all this will go away, but when I read the various news stories about the pandemic, the only clear conclusions I can come to is that we don’t know and won’t know for some time when our burden will be lifted.     

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