The Social Distance Dance by
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Safety precautions for going out.

Yes, life has changed for all of us. Statement of fact and gross understatement. Many doctor appointments scheduled for late March or mid-April, now rescheduled for June (who knows if they will even happen then). The few that happen are now via FaceTime or just phone calls. Important questions answered via email (of course one of my eyelids has acted up, not quite in the same way as last summer, but a big, uncomfortable swelling at the corner of a lower lid, probably a stye. It took a day to get a response from my eye doctor, who I THOUGHT would call in two prescriptions that day).

But no…he didn’t; he didn’t answer my follow-up message through the hospital messaging system for almost 20 hours ( I had to call his assistant to prod him). Meanwhile, I had my “annual physical” over the phone with my new internist, who, later in the afternoon, intervened and called in a MUCH less expensive prescription, because I knew I’d never hear back from my eye doctor again. Ridiculous!

Important neurologist appointment postponed, so now I am headachy again. That hospital  converted its orthopedic floor to a COVID emergency floor, and, though I checked a few weeks before my appointment and was told they planned to continue seeing patients, I was called a week later and postponed to June, messing up not only this appointment, since I get treated on a quarterly basis, but up-ending the entire calendar of treatments. I’ve had migraines for decades, so Botoxing the back of my head offers me tremendous relief (I honestly can’t stand having my forehead frozen; ironic as that may be). I am once again relying on a very potent, expensive drug to treat the too-frequent headaches. In the years since starting the Botox treatment, I needed to take far less of that medication.

Hair salons closed. As one friend posted on Facebook, “Soon everyone will know the true color of our hair. But no one will be able to see it!”

I have never been a user of Purell; I believe we need a few germs so we can develop our own natural immunities and I am not in a position where I come into contact with lots of people on a daily basis, not having held a job in over 30 years. By the time I tried to source some, even a few weeks before the actual orders to shut down occurred in Massachusetts, none could be found in any local store I tried. Finally, one of the websites I use to purchase cosmetics offered a sanitizer spray: 99% alcohol with some peppermint, tangerine and aloe. I purchased three bottles.

I still venture out, masked and gloved, to the grocery store and drug store when I need to. I had never heard of Instacart until the first time I went to Wegman’s (local grocery store), downstairs from my long-shuttered gym. I didn’t notice the socially-distant line and started to just walk in; was asked if I was from Instacart…um, no…then go to the back of that LONG line! Inside the store, it was something of a free-for-all as we danced the “social-distance dance”…your turn in the aisle, no yours, I back up, we “do-si-do”. It took 45 minutes to check out, that line was distanced as well and we were called individually to open check-out lanes, put our purchases on the belt, but stayed back until it was time to pay. Then the cashier stepped back, we swiped our card, the receipt was placed on the counter, we pick it up and away we go. Only one door to the store is open and the person controlling the line has a counter, allowing one person in for every person who leaves. Forget about Senior hours. I’ve discovered that 11am on Wednesday or Thursday is the best time to shop.

The stories in the newspaper abound with tales of people staying up all night, hitting “refresh”, trying to score an Instacart appointment, as we are almost out of the COVID-19 surge in Massachusetts. I only go out when I need to and then spray everything with that sanitizer.

Though I stocked up on non-perishable food at the beginning of the lock-down, Dan is undeterred and orders in from a few local restaurants almost every night (though or favorite one is barely staying afloat, and open fewer hours with each passing week). I still try to eat healthy (not as easy) and I exercise daily.

As I saw my gym time coming to an end, I bought a mat, a Pilates circle and a few sets of hand weights so I could do my own workout. We’ve always had a good treadmill in our finished basement, so a few days a week, I go for a trot on that. During the third week of March, my favorite instructor, the incredible Josie Gardiner, who teaches Core Synergy twice a week at my gym, showed up at a North Shore studio, virtually, on Zoom. She teaches her class, for a small fee, twice a week. My gym membership is frozen for the duration, so I am thrilled to have this available. In fact, for slightly more, I can take any class available at that studio, and I’ve found others at this studio that I like as well, so in addition to my own workouts, I’ve added to my repertoire. I’ve never seen myself from the back before (NOT happy with the view; remind me not to wear horizontal stripes), but here I am, taking Josie’s class via Zoom. She will have 40-60+ people Zooming along at any one time, from all over the world. She has a large following. I am using Shakespeare for my yoga block. Poetic, right?

The owner of the studio, PJ, demonstrates the moves in the background. PJ is also a wonderful trainer and I learn more and more from her. In addition to taking a Sunday morning class from her on a regular basis, I took an excellent class on posture with exercises that I’ve incorporated into my own workout. I particularly like “neural flossing”. While it is an excellent exercise, I love saying it!

Zoom exercise class with Josie

Dan walks outside when the weather is fine. He ran into too many people while walking around the Chestnut Hill reservoir, so found other routes to take. And he still has his fancy bike up on the smart trainer with Zwift, so goes on rides through various virtual locations. He was recovering from a hamstring, pulled before the lockdown (of course, came back too soon and pulled it again).  Since he’s been retired for 18 years, we are used to being home together, but this is A LOT of togetherness. He works on large jigsaw puzzles, on-line crossword puzzles, and watches old movies, taped from the Turner Classic Movie channel. He’s going through a WWII streak, and has been on film noir for a while.

I am not complaining. I know I am one of the lucky ones; to live in a house large enough that we each have space for ourselves and be able to get away from each other. We are not trying to work from home, teach young children, live our lives, get groceries, worry how to pay the bills, worry about losing our jobs, or where our next meal will come from. Or on the front lines, going out each day to care for others who may be sick. Those people have my deep admiration. Yes we are lucky.

We check in with our kids often; one in London, which is about 10 days ahead of us in the global pandemic, and also has a leader who didn’t shut down the country early enough, then paid a heavy price, getting sick himself. Now Boris is a believer. My other child is in San Jose, which was also an early hot spot. They are both working from home, have been for some time and will likely continue to do so. I worry more about child #2, in total isolation, which is very difficult. London son has a lovely girlfriend.

The lockdown has given me time to actually call friends and family, knowing that everyone will be home (if they aren’t out walking dogs, grocery shopping or also on the phone with other relatives). So that is a bright spot.

I am not in a panic about the pandemic, per se, though there is no end in sight to social distancing and our lives, even as the restrictions life, will be so different. I am in a panic about the president’s increasingly irresponsible and irrational response to the pandemic (how many of his “faithful” drank the Clorox, I wonder). I never listened to his daily bullshit, er “briefings”, which, mercifully, morphed into something else, after his last episode playing TV doctor. We’ve never watched any cable news. We watch CBS at 6:30pm, read the Boston Globe and parts of the New York Times on-line. I subscribe to several very good daily Coronavirus briefing emails. I get what I need to know from that. I truly fear for our country with the person we have in charge “leading” us through this.

I am in awe of the great health care workers around the globe who put themselves at risk every day for the welfare of others. Because there are so many fewer cars on the road, pollution is way down. That is fantastic. One might think it would make everyone a believer in the science of climate change, but now there are dangerous (and politically-backed) idiots in the streets, not social distancing, without protective face masks on, demanding their “liberty”. They want the country to be “opened” up so they can go back to work…and kill us all. No appreciation for how the virus spreads or the continued need to remain apart. If these demonstrations were, indeed, spontaneous, I would have a tad more sympathy for them, but they are not. They are well-funded by cynical groups that originally began the Tea Party movement, the Koch Brothers, and other Right Wing groups who want to re-elect the Orange monster, and don’t care a whit about people’s lives and livelihoods. I have genuine sympathy for people’s need to work to earn a living. Brandishing guns and Confederate flags in the streets, calling for “liberation” just isn’t the right message. I have cousins in Detroit who are nurses. One was hospitalized with the virus for 10 days, another, who works in nuclear medicine, just lost his job. They have no sympathy with the demonstrators in East Lansing.

And of course, the man in the White House is relaxing the EPA emission standards, so pollution will be worse when all the cars are back on the roads. And that puts lungs at risk for the virus. This mentality truly offends me. He held up much-needed stimulus checks by a few days to get his signature on them, something that has NEVER been done before (not even in 2008 in the Bush administration), and is not clear if it is even legal to politicize the IRS in such a way. In fact, a bi-partisan trio of prominent lawyers claims it was an illegal campaign ploy and just called for a special prosecutor to look into the matter.

His vanity knows no bounds, his insecurity is pathological. When we need real leadership, there is a void (many Governors are doing great jobs, but Federal coordination would be helpful in coordinating testing, getting supplies where needed and the like). His minions only care about holding onto their power and their pocketbooks (and yes, ours has been hurt in this downturn too). He makes stuff up as he goes, he looks as shallow and stupid as he really is. That is what puts me in a panic.

And that we might not really be able to hold a free and fair election in November. That is the stuff of my nightmares.



Profile photo of Betsy Pfau Betsy Pfau
Retired from software sales long ago, two grown children. Theater major in college. Singer still, arts lover, involved in art museums locally (Greater Boston area). Originally from Detroit area.

Tags: hand sanitizer, FaceTime, Zoom
Characterizations: been there, well written


  1. Betsy, feeling your existential pain, and sorry to hear about your migraines.
    I was a sufferer too for years, thankfully not very often, perhaps once every 3-4 months or so, but they were awful.
    I had been told they can cease with hormonal changes and in fact mine ceased with menopause.

    Just yesterday by chance I read about a new migraine med, will email you the article. Stay safe!

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      Thank you, Dana. I know many women whose migraines diminished after menopause, but I was not one of them. Glad you were! I have many triggers, but mine are not food or alcohol-triggered (unless I drink to excess, which I don’t do). More like a broken night sleep, sun on my head (I always wear a hat), humidity, change in barometric pressure; I’m sort of like the person whose knees feel the weather, only for me, it’s my head. So I like my air-conditioned house and need to keep it clean. You stay safe too!

  2. John Shutkin says:

    Thank you for your comprehensive review of your life — and, to a great extent, all of our lives these days. It sure does resonate. And your medical ills underscore one of the “cascading” effects of the pandemic: the fact that non-COVID19 ills must fall to the back of the line in almost all situations. (I have a routine semi-annual physical, rescheduled from March, on the calendar for two weeks from now. I’m pretty sure it will be pushed off again.) More generally, your story does a terrific job of detailing in how many ways our lives have been upended of late.

    And thank you, too, for addressing the elephant in the room: Trump and everything that is horrible about him and those surrounding and supporting him. I will not post my own diatribe here but every day I remind myself that we are one day closer to the end of this pandemic and one day closer to the end of Trump. At least the latter has an effective (if hopeful) date to it.

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      John, the phrase “we are all in this together” has become trite, but is true. As you point out, for most of us writing on Retrospect, our experiences are similar, even if we cope in somewhat different ways.

      I can only hope your words are prophetic and there will be an end-date to this administration. His unfitness for office has become abundantly obvious, but self-interests override everything else (look at how McConnell blocked Obama’s judicial appointments, but is calling the Senate back on Monday NOT to work on more relief for this pandemic, but to appoint more judges, some of whom the Bar Association have said are NOT QUALIFIED for the bench! OUTRAGEOUS, but in keeping with his desire to reshape the judiciary for a generation).

  3. Marian says:

    Betsy, I can relate to most of what you described, and ironically, I’d never had a stye until about a month ago and had to deal with it with some phone coaching. Sorry dreadfully about your migraines. I was one of the lucky ones that had them greatly reduced after menopause, and I found my food triggers by my early 20s. I have mixed feelings about working right now, because mentally I’m just not as productive as usual, so I hope we all give each other a break.

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      Marian, I’ve never had a stye either! Mine started about an hour after Seder ended, the night Passover began. Last summer I had these clogged oil glands on my eyelids that weren’t as bad. They are called chalazia. I dealt with them for over two months (warm compresses four times a day…it takes a lot of time!), but this time I took an oral antibiotic and an eye drop that was both antibiotic and steroid in combination. So the swelling and pain have gone down, but isn’t gone, and my internist said 6-8 warm compresses/day! For months!

      It is interesting how different migraines are for different people. I have been on a cocktail of medications for years that have helped, but the Botox has really tamped them down. It has been a long time since I’ve had one so bad that I just wanted to shoot myself (thankfully), but I still get headachy without the Botox on-board. Lack of hormones didn’t change that for me at all.

      Though I’m not “working”, I still have projects to do. Right now I’m in the midst of something for the Rose Art Museum at Brandeis and I’ve had to really get psyched to make phone calls. And, in discussions with the Development Director, who IS working, she says SHE isn’t getting as much done either. My London son says he is putting in more hours, but isn’t necessarily more productive. I think we are all adrift.

  4. Suzy says:

    Betsy, so sorry about all your medical travails, which get pushed to the back of the line because of covid. I’m having a problem with my feet, which I mentioned in passing in my story, and the “video visit” I had with my doctor was weird, but better than nothing. She wants me to have a blood test and an x-ray, which I would easily do in normal times, but now I’m not that thrilled about going to the lab and the x-ray place. I suppose I’ll put on a mask and do it, but I’ve been putting it off, hoping my feet would recover by themselves. Hah!

    The political points you make are all exactly right, of course. It’s hard not to think about how different all this would have been with Hillary in the White House. Now we have to concentrate on winning in November!

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      Suzy, I feel your pain! I’m going in on Monday for the lab work associated with my annual physical but the office is now only open for a few hours a day and they are only allowing one person in at a time (we joined a concierge practice last October, which is why the internist why so helpful with the prescriptions). I will be given a mask as soon as I enter the office and have to wash my hands before and after the work is done (actually, we have to wear masks in MA in public now anyway), so I am not concerned about this appointment.

      I agree, our country would have been so much better off if we had a competent leader right now, but we must invest our efforts toward a blue sweep in November!

  5. Laurie Levy says:

    This is a highly relatable description of what life has become for so many of us, Betsy. And I totally agree with your political assessment. My family in Michigan love Governor Whitmer and my cynical side thinks these demonstrations are far from grass roots uprisings. As soon as she made Biden’s short list for VP, the orange one has been after “that woman.” Who asked the demonstrators to bring their gums and assault weapons to the party?

  6. Paraphrasing your title, Betsy, I think you’ve come up with a new craze…the “social dis-dance.” You just stand in place, shake your head, and hold up your hands in resignation while singing “Shame, shame, shame, shame on you”…and a standing O for your rant on the monster in the white house. November is coming, but not fast enough. I shudder to think about your last sentence.

    Thanks for sharing such a comprehensive review…we can all relate but of course that doesn’t make it easier. Be well, stay safe!

  7. Dorothy Rice says:

    Wonderful report, Betsy. There was so much I could relate too. Among other things, I too am a migraine sufferer – though it’s gotten somewhat better since retirement. My daughter unfortunately inherited this from me and hers are much worse – she is now on a once a month injection that seems to be helping with severity quite a bit.

    And wow, I am so impressed with your exercise routines! I haven’t been doing much but walking (we have two very energetic little dogs), some major spring cleaning and yard work. I just haven’t been able to get into anything more organized (not that I was able to before the quarantine either!).

    And yes, perhaps even scarier than the health threat from the virus is the president’s continued insensitivity – and even more than that! that the “faithful” seem to take no notice, even when he babbles utter, and potentially dangerous, nonsense.

    Thanks so much for the great piece.

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      Thank you, Dorothy. It is always interesting to hear from a fellow migraine sufferer. Glad yours have diminished and your daughter has found relief from injections.

      I agree, I hope that we all could believe in the science and stay safe!

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