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"Quarantine is boring!" And other truths - O4/30/2020

Lest anyone think from my last post that I believe quarantine is the most fun since summer camp, I wanted to write a little about what has been difficult for me about the last couple of months. The COVID-19 quarantine - or lockdown, shutdown, shelter-in-place, voluntary isolation, whatever you want to call it - has affected people differently depending on their situation at the start of the virus, and depending on where they lived. My friends in New York and California had a stay-at-home order much sooner than we did in Arizona - ours was not issued until April 1, and there were numerous exceptions allowing us to leave home. If you lived with family or a partner, you weren't going to be isolating alone - you were "quaranteaming" as people have begun calling it. And if you had children, life was made doubly difficult by the fact that you needed to home-school them. But I live alone, and I have no kids, just my one pug, Clara. So my situation was a little different.

My first inkling that this was not going to be business as usual came during the first week of March. The virus was still not really on my radar. I was still blissfully ignorant and not expecting to be impacted here in the remote desert. Tucson's citywide annual garage sale was scheduled for the first weekend in April, and I had gathered up a lot of stuff from my apartment that I wanted to sell. I loaded it all up in my trunk, and headed down to a tire center in South Tucson, about 20 miles from my home, to get a ticket and seller's permit. I didn't even think to call before I went. But when I got there, the manager informed me it had been cancelled. "Surely they'll reschedule?" I asked. He shrugged and said, "Maybe." He gave me a ticket to hold on to, and I shook my head, thinking it was silly.

The next week, the state announced that schools would be closed for the next two weeks. As a substitute teacher, I was a little upset but not too alarmed. One of the weeks was spring break, anyway, so it was only one more week. But in one more week, the exponential growth in cases in the USA had begun, and the governor announced first that schools would be closed until the end of April, and then until the end of the school year (normally in late May). So I would lose about $200 a week in part-time income. Although this is only about one-fourth of my income, it was still a significant drop. So I started looking for another job to start right away.

I should stop and point out that I had another job at the time, as a caregiver for a company called Senior Helpers. We were considered "essential workers," so were exempt from the stay-at-home order in Arizona. The other jobs available to me, given that I am disabled with Lupus and only able to work part-time, included store re-stocking and merchandising, and delivery driving for companies like UberEats and DoorDash. I ended up taking a part-time job as a merchandiser serving grocery stores, and giving up my caregiver job. Unfortunately, the merchandising job required heavy lifting, and included daily exposure to customers who more often than not were not wearing masks or obeying "social distancing" rules (staying six feet away). And I came down with something that seemed a lot like COVID after one week on the job.

I had several symptoms of the virus: daily low-grade fever, sore throat, chest pain, exhaustion. I am also over 60 and suffer from several underlying health conditions including asthma. I spoke to my doctor about it (in a "tele-medicine" visit that took place over the phone, another sign o' the times), and while he didn't recommend I get tested, he did tell me to self-quarantine for 14 days or until I had no symptoms for 72 hours. My symptoms went away after 10 days, and when I was asymptomatic for three days, I took a job as a delivery driver for DoorDash. I haven't returned to either of my other jobs. "Delivery driver" for restaurant food is apparently another "essential" function. I wear a mask and gloves and only work for three hours a shift. I can set my own schedule, and so far I'm averaging $18 an hour, which is quite a bit more hourly than I was being paid before. I still don't know if I had COVID. Not being able to get tested was infuriating, but the only place I found that would test me wanted to charge me $189, and I can't afford that.

As I mentioned, I live alone, so I haven't had to deal with the stress of being cooped up with family members for weeks, and I haven't had to worry about home-schooling. A neighbor and I do daily text check-ins, but I haven't had any visitors to my home in two months. Dating is out of the question. I haven't hugged anyone since February. I brushed against a guy in the grocery store last week and almost had an orgasm. I really miss touch! And although I have a great streaming set-up at home (Roku, with Hulu, HBO, Netflix, and Amazon), and have found plenty of good TV to watch, I do get tired of talking to the screen. I've become addicted to Solitaire and Scrabble on my phone, to the point that my thumbs and wrists are sore. I'm reading a lot, and relying on Facebook more than ever to stay in touch. But it does get boring, and lonely. Thank God for my pug, but she can't talk, and she's half-deaf now, so she's not that great of a listener, either.

Clara and I have had a daily ritual since we've lived in Tucson of going out to lunch in the car (usually McDonald's, because Diet Coke), and then to the dog park. In the past we would also do a little shopping at my favorite book or secondhand store, go to the drugstore, and maybe go for a drive out into the desert to enjoy the scenery and take pictures. We still go out every day, but we can't go shopping (we do drive through at McDonald's and Walgreen's if necessary), and we haven't left the city limits since February. Our regular dog park is closed, and although we have located one that is still open, there is usually no other small dogs there, at least not when we go. So it is lonelier than it used to be. I've been trying to have groceries delivered, but many items are out of stock or take several days to arrive. Since I've recovered I've gone to the grocery store once, masked and gloved, and stocked up as much as possible.

So, for me, the quarantine has been scary, financially, although I'm doing okay now; boring, because I'm alone, and you do get tired of TV, books, and online games after a while; lonely, especially without being able to visit or touch anyone else; laughable, due to my position in three "essential" jobs which basically allowed me to ignore the stay-at-home order; annoying, because of the lack of testing available; uncomfortable, because of the need to wear a mask (they are hot and scratchy); inconvenient, because of the inability to shop for what you need, when you need it; and worrisome, because who knows when (and how) it's going to end? I've been having vivid "quarantine dreams" about tidal waves and collapsing houses, indicative of stress and worry about the possible collapse of our world as we know it. As it stands today, Governor Ducey of Arizona has extended the stay-at-home order til May 15th, but some businesses will be allowed to open on a limited basis starting May 1. Some restaurants will be opening next week with limited seating. And everyone is still advised to wear a mask when they go out.

For now, I'm going to keep on doing my essential job as a DoorDash driver, wearing my mask and gloves and avoiding social situations as much as possible. But I am going on a date next week, because life is short! I'll keep my distance though.

What have been the hardest things about the quarantine for you? How have you been coping?

#COVID-19 #quarantine #essentialworker

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