Some Random Pandemic Thoughts by
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I have started this story numerous times, each with a different focus. Seems there is enough material for many stories!  Instead, I’ll just react to the prompt questions and see where the thoughts lead.  My exposure to the biomedical field as a bioscience writer has colored my entire experience of this crisis, and has made it scarier and more reassuring at the same time. So, the pandemic is both pandemonium and panacea.

Once the shutdown happened, a friend phoned me asking when I thought we'd be released from it. "June," I replied without hesitation. I so wanted to be wrong, but the data guided me.

A reluctant Cassandra

My pandemic awareness started before most of the rest of the country. As early as mid February, I started becoming concerned about the spread of the virus and what measures would be taken to contain it. (We didn’t know at that time that the first US death had already occurred just miles from my house in Santa Clara county). I decided to go through with my cataract surgery on February 20 and was glad I took that minor risk, because that procedure would have been impossible by March.

During the first week of March, I thought I’d better visit my mother in her senior residence an hour away, because I sensed, scientifically and intuitively, that a shutdown was coming. Once the shutdown happened, a friend phoned me asking when I thought we’d be released from it. “June,” I replied without hesitation. I so wanted to be wrong, but the data guided me.

Centrifuges everywhere

After about three weeks of adjustment, doing reorganizing, housecleaning, reading, coming up with a system for strategic shopping, and learning Zoom, I got an email from a senior marketing manager whom I worked with in my last full-time job. She had joined a very large biomedical company and come up with a plan to reorganize and rewrite their entire website, and she thought of me as one of a team of contract writers. Since everyone was stuck at home, this was an excellent time to do a large project. It would be a boon to our finances. And, we’d possibly be freeing up company employees to be deployed to all the Covid-19 work that was happening. Our age was no longer a factor in these strange times, and we were used to working from home anyway. In no time we formed a “baby boomer brigade” and were on the job.

So, I am now writing about centrifuges (that’s one in the photo) and related lab equipment, which I learned about in the 1970s at my first full-time marketing writing job. Talk about full circle … It’s rewarding but a very different experience from the 1970s and from my first four weeks at home. I see centrifuges on my computer screen and on TV during the news about the virus, so it’s hard to escape from the discipline of work. Given my background, I spend a lot of time answering questions such as “How good are the current antibody tests?” (pretty bad) and “Who can I believe?” (generally, Dr. Fauci).

Business and shopping attire 

My mode of dress has been very odd. If I have a business video conference, I’ll make sure to put on a nice top, possibly a scarf, and earrings. Pants, though not always sweatpants, are comfortable. My back dislikes very flat shoes, so often I’ll wear my “office” shoes with small heels, and thin socks instead of stockings. In the mirror I look like a cross between a circus clown and a bag lady. If I need to go shopping, I change my shoes to running shoes and add a washable sweater or jacket, and of course, a mask.

The good and the bad

Good:  a large house, although before the virus I’d wanted to downsize. I have a separate office, room to be by myself, and a pretty, private patio for the outdoors.

Bad:  sometimes I really do need that space when times are tense between my sweetheart and me. And, it’s a lot to keep clean, especially in these times. Then again, I could be cooped up more people.

Good: I enjoy the quiet outside and the solitude inside most of the time. As an introvert, I can deal with these circumstances better than some of my extroverted friends. I’ve always had to be dragged to events involving large crowds and even dislike going to a movie theater, so no loss for me.

Bad: “Zoom fatigue” is very real, and worse for introverts. If I have more than two per day, I end up staring into space and babbling incoherently by dinner. I think extroverts are better able to deal with this.

Good:  I keep reading that everyone is gaining weight, but I’ve lost four pounds in six weeks. Eating in, cooking good food, doing regular walks and a yoga class (this Zoom doesn’t count for fatigue), and doing all the housecleaning have contributed. In some ways I feel healthier than before the pandemic.

Bad: Now that I’m working a lot more, I’d really like my house cleaner back, and I’m sure she’d like the work.

First in, last out

Here in Santa Clara county we hunkered down before anyone else in the country, with the possible exception of Washington state, and no one is in a hurry to lift restrictions. Rightly so. My biggest concern is that, because we are considered vulnerable (and my sweetheart is very high risk), that as seniors we will continue to face restrictions after everyone else is “free to go.”  My mother turns 92 this month, and I’d really like to see her in person, but that won’t happen for quite a while. What I miss the most is going to the library!

On a more positive note, I’m relatively content with staying put because we wouldn’t be traveling, and who wants to eat in a restaurant with waitstaff in masks and gloves anyway? Zoom yoga is almost as good as a real class, and there is no traffic when trying to get there. When there is a vaccine, and ultimately there will be a vaccine, we will go back to some sort of post-coronavirus normal, but I hope we can keep all the good things that we have learned from it.

Profile photo of Marian Marian
I have recently retired from a marketing and technical writing and editing career and am thoroughly enjoying writing for myself and others.


Characterizations: been there, right on!, well written

Comments

  1. Oh, Mare…despite the circumstances, I love this look at the pandemic from your biomedical point of view, and I love the sadly poetic nomenclature you chose in calling yourself a “reluctant Cassandra.” I also love the humorous description of your attire!

    I’m with you not only as a fellow introvert but also in that I’m definitely suffering from Zoom fatigue at this point and am already beginning to back off in my participation. Oddly enough, I too have lost weight, not sure why or how as I wasn’t trying to.

    I was especially struck by your concern re our “vulnerability” as I’m also noticing people hinting at our continued restrictions while others will be less restricted. I’m sure we’ll be hearing a lot more about that in the days to come.

    Thank you for this story, and for your work on the front lines behind the scenes (that’s gotta be an oxymoron!). I’m hanging on the words in your last paragraph, “and ultimately there will be a vaccine.” From your mouth…well, you know the rest. May you and yours stay safe and well!

    • Marian says:

      Thank you, Barb. It’s disturbing because I’m concerned that older people will be singled out because of their vulnerability. However, I’ve been hearing about some younger people I know who have been very sick, but fortunately recovered. A vaccine will take some time, but the odds are good that it will be developed. Let’s just hope it can be deployed. There might be drugs developed that could help, but it’s a vaccine that will help us get our lives back.

  2. Marian, so good to hear about your biomedical project – constructive, important and remunerative!

    You, our Retro friend BB, and another friend I was in touch with today say introverts may be finding quarantine easier. I guess I’d identify as extroverted, and in fact I am finding it hard.
    And in fact I’ve lost weight – the only silver lining – so go figure!
    Stay safe!

    • Marian says:

      Dana, we Retrospecters are the only ones I know losing weight. That is a silver lining for sure. I do feel for the extroverts who must be stir-crazier than I right now. However, I expect some understanding back about being Zoom-fatigued!

      • M, I’m not Zoom-fatigued yet but so
        far had only two Zoom book clubs, 2 Zoom cocktails with friends, a wonderful visit with family friends abroad, my husband had 2 Zoom doc appts, and we have more Zooms planned.

        But I miss the real world, theatre and restaurants and changes-of-scene. So please get your biomedical buddies to work hard at that vaccine!

        • Marian says:

          I miss the theater as well, Dana. There is something about a live performance … My biomedical buddies, and folks whom I just know by name and reputation, are incredibly dedicated and hardworking–even more impressive for trying to do lab work with social distancing. Now if only our political leaders had 1/10th the dedication, we’d be in much better shape.

  3. Suzy says:

    Marian, I can relate to your opening comment about starting numerous times with different focuses (foci?). There ARE so many different stories one could tell about this whole pandemic situation. Thank you for giving us your biomedical point of view, it was very helpful. Also, I laughed out loud at the idea of you looking like a cross between a circus clown and a bag lady! I’m sure you haven’t looked any stranger than anyone else. I know I’m taking this opportunity to wear all the old logo t-shirts that I stopped wearing years ago but didn’t have the heart to throw out. So that’s a plus! I have actually gained weight, I think, but I’m not weighing myself because I don’t want to know. I’m looking forward to the post-coronavirus normal that you talk about, and hoping it doesn’t take too long to get here.

    • Marian says:

      Suzy, good luck with your next foray to the lab. It is an unsettling feeling. I love your wearing the old logo t-shirts, because that’s what I’ve been wearing when I clean house–especially the ones from work or professional groups that are “unisex” sized, and don’t fit my curves right. I have one from the American Association for the Advancement of Science that is now particularly appropriate. It has a drawing of a cell and a phone on it with the word “cellfie” next to it. I got it for free, given that the humor fell flat.

  4. Laurie Levy says:

    I loved how you balanced the good and bad aspects of sheltering in place, Marian. Like you, I’m kind of a homebody and don’t miss large gatherings a bit. On the other hand, I find myself also suffering from “Zoom fatigue.” Good that your work -from-home skills are coming in handy. We need Cassandras like you who are actually knowledgable about what lies ahead.

    • Marian says:

      I hope people listen to all the Cassandras out there, Laurie. There is your namesake, a science writer named Laurie Garrett, who predicted this 10 years ago. Her books are likely too depressing to read right now.

  5. Betsy Pfau says:

    Marian, this was such a helpful story in so many ways, particularly giving us your insights from your professional background. I think I need to learn to better edit, as I just spewed everything in my story!

    As others have mentioned, your clothing description is wonderful. We are all choosing to be as comfortable as possible these days. I find I’m only wearing workout clothing or a sweat suit. I have to go a doctor’s office today (only one person allowed in at a time) for some lab work and will put on a bra for the first time since Passover!

    And I think it is great that you landed this big contract now and can safely work from home. As you know, I have a child in San Jose, so I follow the region closely. Stay safe and be well.

    • Marian says:

      Thank you, Betsy. I could go on for hours about the virus, but need a break like everyone else. I’m in my “business” attire today and put on foundation because it helps moisturize my skin, and I feel better. Good luck at the doctor’s office. Dick’s daughter is a doctor northeast of Sacramento and they will start seeing patients one at a time today as well.

  6. Dorothy Rice says:

    Marion, I loved this. Your positives and negatives jive quite closely with mine. I am an introvert and this extra time at home (without feeling like I have to make excuses for not wanting to go out) has been kind of nice. I do miss my grandkids, and like you the library, but not a whole lot else! And yes, Zoom, it is fatiguing! Such a strain to worry about facial expression and weird tics (who knew I had so many!).

    • Marian says:

      Dorothy, I try not to look at myself too much on Zoom, very distressing. There are so many interesting events on it that there aren’t enough hours in a day. I have noticed that a lot business meeting participants have gone to audio, but I am hesitant because I am afraid my attention will wander.

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