Carol H’s Review: Life has become wildly unprecedented in these COVID days. Fearless narrator Cheryl leads the way in sharing how she meets them, nonetheless, with her trademark zest for living and creative aplomb!
I finally received my second dose of the Pfizer vaccine. I felt a general achiness the next morning, a welcome sign that my system was gearing up to combat any similar organisms. “Now what?” I thought. COVID cases have been declining in the county where I reside and though the weekend seems to always bring a surge in new cases, it’s been a smaller surge each week. Now I’m being told we are falling short of the number of people needed to receive the vaccine in order to gain a herd immunity, even though the free-beer-with-vaccination campaign appears to be having a modicum of success. From the news I’ve been watching, it looks as if officials are trying to make the jab as convenient as possible, encouraging folks to stop by for one while at the ball game or the laundromat. I’m pretty sure mobile trucks are next: Free tacos with your next vaccination!
After my first shot I felt the need to get out more, into the warmer spring air to see people in the flesh and shake off the pandemic winter dust. My favorite Meetup group, FIKA (those coffee fiends), has been meeting in parks and open-air restaurants on a regular basis since April. My husband and I wandered over to our neighborhood park to meet and greet some regulars and even some new people. I wasn’t yet “in the clear” as far as the expanse of time needed after the shot to gain some protection. I spent much of my time telling people this and moving my chair further and further from the group. Whether we are convening at a coffee house or an outdoor venue, FIKA’s main activity is chatting and I wished to chat at a six-foot distance until such a time as I felt more confident.
“Well, I’ve had the vaccine,” one woman told me, as if her protection protected me. This might be the case, but I didn’t know her, so I nudged my lawn chair further away rather than verbally scorn her for not providing me with a complete list of the places she’d recently been and people whose breathy expulsions she’d inhaled. The gall of these fully-vaccinated senior citizens, speaking directly to my face! I should have donned a mask, but I chose to speak to someone else who also was fully vaccinated but knew me well enough not to get too close…even outside.
Later my man informed me that before I’d even received my second dose, we were going to entertain out-of-town guests for one day—entirely outside. Since they were to arrive nearly three weeks after my first vaccine dose, I felt more comfortable being outside with a couple of known-to-be-sensible people at a time. The mask mandate for outdoors had been lifted; outside was good! It was time to round that isolation corner and move out into the greater world. We went to the local arboretum.
Our dog Mindy, whose meet and greet activities have been as curtailed as our own, came along in the car to pick up our friends Alan and Lynne at their hotel. We tried to stuff that excited mutt into the wayback of our vehicle, but she was having none of that, doing her level best to communicate that she too needed closer human contact. Against my better judgement, I allowed her to sit on the backseat with me and Lynne. Lynne, having a dog of the same size and appearance, made heartfelt overtures at friendship. Mindy rudely snapped at her. It was going to be a long day if this mostly homebound pooch could not display a few social niceties. We all ambled around the arboretum in search of the azaleas and enjoyed the bonsai display. The dog never once lunged or barked at anyone, an accomplishment which instilled a modicum of pride in her exasperated owners.
If a momentous occasion can be defined as a turning point or seemingly novel experience, then having lunch at a restaurant certainly fit the term. Other than having a glass of wine in the outdoor garden of a neighborhood wine bar with other out-of-town friends, we have not eaten at a restaurant since last March! Alan and Lynne’s visit during a warm and sunny weekend, well after my first vaccination and my husband’s second, was the golden moment we had been waiting for. As we drove around the area where our chosen restaurant was located, we were immediately reminded how daunting it is to find a parking space in Asheville. “We’re back,” we thought.
Upon our arrival at the Mexican restaurant, we were instructed by a sign to read another sign. The other sign gave us instructions on viewing the menu and ordering online! WTF! I might as well have stayed at home. Truthfully, none of us knew how to complete these directions. We could seat ourselves on the outdoor patio, which was the only instruction I actually understood. I knew this method of ordering food was meant to be a means of lowering the risk of infection, but I’d had enough of online ordering and refused to do it while I was sitting on the patio of an actual restaurant.
I flagged down a server and explained our incompetency. She gave me one menu to take to our table and asked us to place our order at the outdoor bar. Whew! She handled our distress so professionally, I knew she must have encountered our type (60-something old farts with no clue as to scanning, etc.) numerous times throughout her working hours. We verbally placed our lunch order at the bar. We ate outside at a respectable distance from other patrons. Mindy behaved magnificently. She even made nice with our friends, seemingly seeking atonement for her previous bad-doggy transgressions.
Our visiting day continued with an evening at home in our own backyard. We enjoyed a cheese board on the deck and some bubbly brought by our guests. There was much to be toasted on this fine spring day. We ordered take-out for dinner and relaxed by the firepit as we caught up with these friends we had not seen in ages. Our first emergence into the wider world, despite a few minor hitches, went splendidly. It felt like a momentous occasion, a first in what we hoped would be a line-up of somewhat normal-like social activities to be actualized over the coming summer.
As the weather warms and more people get their vaccinations, I see a migration from the comfort and safety of our homes into the larger social world taking place. Those of us who prudently kept our distance from others during the worst months of contagion were also among the first to take the shot and forge ahead, adopting whatever methods were necessary to keep protecting ourselves and others. It’s being called the new normal. So, whether you wish to shoot out your front door like a cannon ball, ready to crash head-first into the social scene or you want to timidly scratch away at your cocoon, emergence is finally here. It’s not exactly that hug-everyone-you-know time, but I certainly do cherish those elbow-to-elbow greetings we’ve adopted in its place. I hope to see you soon!
We’re back. Almost. Sort of.
Guest Editor Carol H. is delighted to see the one-way traffic arrows finally gone from the grocery store aisles. Her shopping time has been reduced by eliminating the need to countlessly retrace her steps as navigation was never one of her gifts. Her writing and editing gifts, however, are holding strong.