Thursday March 12th, 2020, 2pm, The Watergate Hotel in Downtown Washington, D.C.:
I was helping to run the Sea Grant Association semi-annual conference, with representatives of Sea Grant programs from all over the United States. We were practicing social distancing and using tubs of sanitizer, taking all of the (then) suggested safety protocols to protect against the Coronavirus that seemed to be popping up at an alarming rate in various parts of the country.
We get word that, starting Monday, the University of Maryland (our parent institution) is shutting down due to safety concerns. At about 3pm, we hear that someone in the building next to ours had tested positive for the virus. We are told we can come in to get any items we need from the office on Friday to be able to work remote for the foreseeable future.
…and just that fast, COVID-19, had effectively shut down our day-to-day lives. Three months later, our office is still working remote. Masks are a part of everyday life whenever going *anywhere*. Restaurants (having been forced to close due to state-mandated lockdowns) and some just gave up and shut down for good. People, losing their livelihood, because their positions were all non-essential customer-facing jobs, like waitresses, house cleaners, Uber Drivers, etc…
Cathy (my wife and best friend of almost 27 years) and I are very lucky in that our positions can be done remote—so we have been gainfully employed this whole time. In fact, because we don’t go out to eat as much as we did and don’t commute into College Park or Washington D.C., we are able to save more than we were before. We take walks together more than were ever did before. Because there are so many people crowding the park paths, we’ve taken to walking in the local cemetery, which has over 8 miles of paved path. After a month and a half of pandemic-feasting, we’ve gone on diets and lost a combined 18 pounds.
We have a wonderful 13 year old son that has handled this situation pretty well. It’s a little difficult for him, in that he’s at the age where friends are important. Although he interacts with them regularly online, he’s starting to miss seeing them in person. He and his friends have been cup stacking, speed cubing, and even taken up Minecraft again—all over FaceTime!
One of the types of stores that were able to stay open during the lockdown were home improvement stores, so we’ve taken time and money to remodel and paint a room in our house to convert to a reading room (ourselves!). I’ve continued to finish up an enclosed pantry that I started work on in August (I’m still not done). Life for us is actually not that bad.
Things are humming along in this new apocalyptic world, and then a video started to circulate of a man named George Floyd being slowly strangled to death. He was being pinned to the ground for nine minutes by one police officer (while 3 others were looking on). America, not otherwise occupied with it’s normal banal life of shopping, restaurant-going, and other life distractions, clung onto this and started seeing what has been happening to one race in front of our eyes, in what seems, forever.
Massive protests, some rioting, and police brutality, caught on TV for everyone to see, and in real life for those that participated. This was the one time Cathy and I took a chance with COVID-19 and participated in the first Black Lives Matter march in Frederick. It was well worth it—and I’ll do it again. More than 2 weeks later, we have not shown any symptoms, so it seems masks and some rain helped.
So much change, so suddenly. With our jobs, I count ourselves very lucky. I’m interested in seeing how others are managing in this chaotic world!