Our pandemic-style winter of discontent

It’s cold.

Really cold.

And it’s cold in the midst of a pandemic.

So everyone’s trying to cope. Sometimes not an easy challenge.

Kathy is ultra-protective of me. She regularly reminds me I’m missing half of my right lung, and that makes me particularly vulnerable, or “brittle” (to quote a popular term) to the dangers of COVID-19.

Therefore I’m not allowed to go into any stores or restaurants. I can drive her there, but she goes inside while I stay in the car, keeping it running with the temperature cranked up to 78 or 80. 

Even that’s not always safe.

I was parked at a convenience store the other day while Kathy was inside. I didn’t have a mask on because I was alone in the car. A man I didn’t recognize walked in front of the car, spotted me, waved vigorously, came over and knocked on the car window, motioning me to roll it down.

He wasn’t wearing a mask either.

I fumbled to pull my mask off the gear shift column, where I keep it, but couldn’t do it fast enough — he kept knocking on the window. So I rolled the window down and leaned away from it. Darned if he didn’t nearly stick his head all the way inside, to tell me he recognized me from the newspaper office many years ago.

Maybe if I’d been wearing my mask while sitting behind the wheel he wouldn’t have spotted me. I told Kathy about the episode when she got back in the car, and she was not happy with him, and I don’t think with me either.

He was trying to be friendly, and I understood that. I don’t bear him any ill will. But I’m always a little startled to note that even now, a year after the onset of the pandemic, there are still people who don’t realize that when they’re maskless and up close they’re putting other people at risk, particularly if one of the other people might happen to be almost 80 and missing half a lung.

I do go to my coffee group most mornings. We sit in a very large meeting room, at least 10 feet from each of us. We’re all older (that’s a euphemism for old), and some of us don’t hear so well. Between that, and the noise of the room’s furnaces, we have to sort of shout to tell our jokes and lies. Those of us who are Hawkeye fans currently have the edge on the Cyclone and Husker fans, but that hasn’t always been the case in the past, and likely won’t be in the future. 

It’s a pleasure to get out of the house once a day to join friends for coffee. Other than that it’s mostly a regimen of TV, writing my column, napping, reading and covering meetings for the paper, mostly by Zoom but sometimes in person. 

The big event for us the past month was accompanying the high school choir for their winter concert. The piano in the magnificent new performing arts center at the new school is the reconditioned seven-foot Steinway concert grand that had been moldering in a side room for years at the old school. Thanks to a Community Foundation grant it was completely renovated, and is now pure joy to play. Kathy turned pages for me. I’m grateful to director Dave Heupel and the choir for letting me sit in for practices and the concert. It made the winter more bearable.

Until a few months ago, some folks at the public meetings I attend wore masks, and some didn’t. But after the county board of supervisors adopted a resolution that required people to wear masks in Greene County when they go out in public, nearly everyone masks up now. That’s a good thing, as evidenced by the sharp drop in COVID cases in the county. At one point a few weeks ago Greene County had the lowest positivity rate in the state. 

Back to the cold:

Those of us who wear glasses find it particularly annoying. In cold weather, when I exhale my breath floats upward under my mask to fog my glasses immediately. 

The other morning, I parked on the north side of the courthouse and headed up the sidewalk to cover the semiweekly board of supervisors meeting. By the time I reached the building door my glasses were completely opaque, and I sort of felt my way up the stairs to the boardroom. 

At the top of the stairs I was met by a silhouette of someone, and I automatically said “hi.” He replied, “Hi, Dad.” It was son David, whom I of course couldn’t begin to identify through my steamed-over specs.

This past Monday morning I went through the same drill — drove downtown, parked on the north side of the courthouse, walked up to the door and up the stairs to the meeting, half-blind. 

But I had forgot it was Presidents’ Day. There was no supervisor meeting.

I didn’t catch on until I was about 15 feet from the boardroom door and finally noticed it was closed. I had to go back home and admit to Kathy what I had done. She was kind enough to just smile. I went back on Tuesday morning for the actual meeting, the day I had written in my desk calendar for the event some time back.

I’ve brought in a good-sized bunch of logs for our fireplace. But it’s too cold for a fire. At these temperatures, our fireplace draws more heat from the room and up the chimney than it gives out into the room. Maybe this weekend, after the outside air warms above freezing.

But things are looking up. We got our first vaccine shots on Tuesday last week. In a few weeks we’ll get our second shots, wait a couple of weeks for them to take hold and then start to plan for more out-of-house activities. 

May you find ways to pass the days of winter, and the pandemic, with patience and perseverance.

Spring is only about a month away (officially).

Contact Us

Jefferson Bee & Herald
Address: 200 N. Wilson St.
Jefferson, IA 50129

Phone:(515) 386-4161