The Lockdown Diaries: Enlightenment

by Janice Nigro

I’ve been doing my part during the lockdown. Staying indoors for most of my days. Fooling myself that I am doing some exercise in 500 square feet of space. Working on my projects. It’s kind of business as usual for me. Marketing, writing, and editing. Although it’s harder for me to remember what day it is. As long as I have my stash of emergency chocolate, all is good.

The thing I miss most is walking outdoors at will. I still go out once in a while, but now it’s calculated. If it’s raining or has been raining, I figure it’s safest to go then. Less people, and during or after nature’s way of washing all the bad stuff away. I dress up with my homemade face mask and gloves, waving hello to the other robots as we focus on our task to remain a safe distance away.

The beaches and the strand are now closed. So I take an alley street. I realize just how many dogs people have in my community. Not that I don’t like dogs, but there is a high concentration because of how close the homes are built to each other. I’m surprised we don’t have more viral spread here in my beach community considering that you can almost ask for the person in the next house over to pass the salt.

Most people are now wearing masks. Cyclists also. They could be riding on the main streets because no cars are there, but there they are in the alley street. I walk instead sometimes along the main street or even in the main street. There is no traffic, but my biggest worry is having some dumb accident that will land me in the hospital. It’s another good excuse for staying inside right now.

I went out into the courtyard of my apartment building one night during lockdown and three young people from my apartment complex were standing outside. One insisted several times that she could pick up my groceries if I needed anything.

I was grateful and then I wondered, what exactly does she mean by that? Does my gray hair have something to do with her offer to get groceries for me? It’s been bugging me for the last 24 hours. Well what else do I have to think about?

I go to the grocery around eight in the evening. I do my grocery shopping myself, otherwise I would have no reason to leave. I have my secret ways of arriving at the grocery store to minimize contact with people.

I think I won’t be able to get much at that time of night, but it makes more sense to go then when I’m sure there won’t be a crowd or a line. I thought we had supersized everything so we didn’t have to shop so often. Now people are standing in line to stock up on supersized items.

Fresh produce has been a good bet. I’m not sure I understand why because I can’t get a can of soup. Food isn’t the problem in the USA. I snagged myself three jars of yogurt one night which didn’t even exist on the shelves the week before. I still could get a roasted chicken and a fresh loaf of bread which under normal circumstances would be impossible to find at that time of night.

I do need hand soap. I went to the aisle but all that was left were the signs saying one per family. Are stores still behind on the supply? Or do people just buy soap one per family every time they go to the store?

As I pondered that thought, a man asked me (from the appropriate social distance) if I knew where the soap aisle was. I said, “You are standing in it. There just isn’t any soap.” He looked surprised. Neither of us had a satisfying answer.

I wear an old pair of gloves when I go out. This is a great idea except that it isn’t that cold out in LA. But it’s better than using disposable gloves which I for sure do not need. I’ve seen other resourceful people out there doing the same. I saw a mother with two young boys out walking her dogs one morning. The youngest was wearing a pair of bright blue gloves that looked a little too big for him.

I miss my walks on the beach. I’m loosely connected with the people I meet there every day. Meaning I don’t have their phone numbers or emails. I used to see them every day. But now I don’t know how most of them are doing.

I can’t even go to visit family living just two miles up the street, an easy 40 minute walk. I’d like to go visit places that used to be bustling with people, like the airport, to have a look without all the traffic, but I’d have to take the bus. The bus on the average day is a petri dish. Now I’m sure I don’t want to be on it. But wouldn’t it be fun to drive through LAX without all the traffic? More than ever, I wish I had a car. I would finally be able to drive in LA without all the stress.

I went up to Seattle for a long weekend at the end of January. Right when Trump issued the first ban against travel from China. I wondered then if I should go. I had my heart set on seeing some friends who were visiting the USA from Tasmania. It was an opportunity I couldn’t miss. I reasoned that California had probably just as many travelers coming from Asia who could have brought the pathogen. In fact, some believe the virus had made early rounds in California already during the fall and the end of last year.

The first patient had already recovered in Seattle by the time I got there. Some physician friends told me the press mobbed the hospital to get the story. I told them, isn’t it ironic that the press crowded around the hospital to get the grim story of a possibly highly contagious disease? Now they cause hysteria AND carry the disease.

We are all TV stars now. I’ve been on Zoom a lot, for an online class I’ve been taking. The teacher should have her own channel when this is over. She is an entertainer, a motivator. But the sense that the world is in some ways smaller than it used to be has been on my mind for years.

One day I had a mega Facetime call with my sister’s family. It crossed a couple of time zones and three states. I didn’t know my phone could do what it was doing. Facetime was zooming in and out on the people who were speaking. All the kids are in school on the internet. At first they all liked it, but then they realized it meant that they couldn’t hang out with each other. No one has been sick, including several health care workers. Some thought their kids will not go back to school in the fall unless there is a vaccine or a treatment.

Some things don’t make sense to me. Why there are no paper products in my grocery store. That I’ve even read a short history of toilet paper in the Wall Street Journal. That I’ve learned more about bats than that they are the only flying mammal. That I’m still not completely moved into my new apartment even after nearly three weeks of lockdown. That construction is an essential business so the noise that goes with the remodeling next door hasn’t quit. That I have an excuse to watch all the how to videos I want. That anything that takes time doesn’t take too much time today. That some people got the apocalypse they have been hoping for.

When 9/11 happened, I was on a hike on cliff high above the Mediterranean. I had taken six weeks to travel in Europe during a transition period into a new job at the university I had been working at. I had met a couple of Italian guys on the hike. I didn’t speak their language well, and they didn’t speak mine well. We got along somehow and had a glorious day with a spectacular view of the world to ourselves. We were oblivious to the news circling the world in those moments we laughed trying to make ourselves understand each other.

I could never have been more grateful in my life for taking the time to feed my dreams, my soul, as I sat in my hotel room alone that night watching the news appearing before me like special effects in a movie. Now too, I think about all that I have done. My accomplishments at work and who I have known. My friends are on several different continents as a result of my nomadic, searching for something life.

I’m sad for many things too. But I’m hopeful and looking forward to the unexpected changes that I believe will come. I know that each of us in our own way, if we can, is doing just that.

 

©Janice Marie Nigro/janikiInk.com

Looking for a scientific editor or writer? Contact Janice Nigro at Janice Nigro Ink. I have published in Cell, Science, and Nature, and articles I have edited have appeared in Cancer Research, Clinical Cancer ResearchPLoSONE, the Journal of Surgical Oncology, and Oncotarget.

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