The Lockdown Diaries: Week 7

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by Janice Nigro

Wow, April 2020 is one for the books. Suddenly, it is May and already 06 May 2020. Cinco de Mayo has passed. So has the deadline for lifting lockdown. Funny how 30 April has just sneaked past us.

Life is not so different for me, especially as a freelance writer and editor. My morning routine, walks on the beach, has been disrupted. I’ve replaced them with an evening walk on the street, but this is not the same as walking on the sand with my eyes out into the Pacific. I’m trying to use some of my walk time taking a Zoom yoga class since I don’t have to go anywhere to do it. I’m not a natural at it – I can’t believe I can stand up and walk based on my sense of balance in the class – but I’m sweating like crazy by the end and my “ahms” are sore (as they say in New Jersey) so my body must be doing something.

I have more time to speak or Facetime with friends. I’ve had phone calls interrupted by other phone calls which never happens to me. The other residents in my complex are stuck here too. I look forward to hearing the French couple over lunch on their balcony or another neighbor speaking Portuguese with her family. A little bit of the outside world in my own small complex of ten apartments.

Still no plan for how we will get out, at least not in California. Things are so strange I’m wondering if I have to schedule a grocery store date to meet up with family who lives just up the street.

The longer this goes on, the harder it will be for people to go back to work as they knew it. Not that people don’t want to work. It’s that people might not want to work as they did before. Workers in Los Angeles might rethink the three hours of traffic they endure to get to work and back home again. Who wants to do that? They might rather like being their own boss even if they are working for someone from home. Or they’ve come up with their own version of a side gig that is no longer a side gig during lockdown. While many might have to endure the pain and very real consequences of job loss, some might have given birth to a new form of working life.

Most of all I find it a bit strange to have the luxury of what might just be another form of a holiday with room service for several weeks while others are suffering.

Some people are energized by this lockdown. Unfortunately it doesn’t seem to be our politicians. It’s easier to keep us under lockdown than to come up with a plan for how people can go back to their lives safely or with a minor level of risk.

People write about grief, grief we have for losing life as we knew it. Many of us before now filled some of our time with mindless travel to reach our jobs, to take our kids somewhere, or to just get coffee. Now we have the stress of how to fill this time. Figuring out what to do with your extra time is hard. And even then, many are complaining that they are not getting the work done that they thought they would get done.

The natives are restless even in California. I’ve even committed a crime. My crime? I walked out onto the beach. I had to view a natural phenomenon we don’t often see here in Los Angeles, the bioluminescence of the red tide. During the day, you can see the red tide which colors the water brown. At night under the moonlight, the algae start their show. With movement, the waves, a boat, or even a surfer, blue sparks appear and ripple through a wave from one end to the other until it rolls to its end on the sand.

It’s like watching fireworks. A grand explosion and flickering lights burning out as the waves lose their energy. You don’t know when it’s going to happen with each wave, which makes photographing the phenomenon frustrating. I think like when I’m diving, sometimes it’s best just to look and forget about the camera.

You don’t have to see it to know it’s here. The ocean has a new scent originating from both life and death within the red tide.

Each night people run out to the beach to swim, surf, take photos to immerse themselves in the phenomenon. And maybe get fined. One night I watched as the police cruised up and down the beach to keep people off the beach. People ran, like cockroaches do from the light. They waited until the police left and then went back out.

Many rules I understand during lockdown. This one I don’t. You cannot be on the beach where it’s easy to maintain physical distance, but you can go to the grocery store where it’s not that easy to maintain physical distance. The alley street I walk on most of the time has become just a different location that isn’t the beach where people congregate. Runners, walkers and cyclists cram into even less space or learn to avoid each other like uptight robots abruptly changing direction when they sense obstacles ahead.

Some people are wearing their masks. Just as many are not. Using a mask is a simple change to make. I think we can get used to it until treatments and vaccines are available.

I’m working hard on guiding my writing career to where I might want it to be. Each article, each blog post, each edit is another experiment. Some are failures. Some are surprise successes. I’m still saying to myself, I’ll see where this goes. Coronavirus has given me insight into the unique perspective I have as a scientist in the world. Maybe I’ve known for a long time it’s the voice that I have, to help people understand the biology of things and the life of scientists. But I didn’t see it until there was a pandemic. I didn’t see that there might be a hunger for the knowledge I have outside of academia.

Or maybe I just didn’t want to write about the topic I had been writing about my whole life (cancer) any longer.

It makes me think about disruptions. It’s a theme running through all aspects of life in the USA right now. We don’t like disruptions. We don’t like them to show us that a different way of thinking about things or being might be better for us. We don’t like to know that we might not want to fight them. It’s work though, work that is fraught with mistakes and disappointment and adjustment, but as long as the end goal is understood, disruption can lead us to a new place. Just like a hypothesis at the lab bench.

 

Good luck this week, stay away from crowds and relax while you’re cocooning. Oh, and Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers out there.

 

©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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