Options and Avocados
March 18, 2020 – Arlington, Washington
On a food shopping expedition a couple of days ago, I noticed that many of Walmart’s shelves had been stripped bare. People were hoarding the non-perishable stuff like dried goods and canned food, and the “essentials” like milk and butter. There weren’t a lot of shoppers and, with the exception of one elderly and obviously sick man, no one wore a mask, not even the disabled folks driving around in motorized shopping carts. I tried to honor the six-foot distance rule, but at times it was hard. While I was picking out avocados, a middle-aged man approached me and wanted to chat.
“Trying to find a ripe one?”
My first instinct was to walk away, but I didn’t want to be rude.
“Yeah. They’re either way over-ripe or hard as a rock.” I smiled and slowly walked off.
But we don’t have it bad here yet. My daughter Lia and her husband live in Italy and every day I check up on her to see how it’s going. They live in the country and don’t need to go into work, so it’s an opportunity for them to stay home and work in the garden. As of yesterday there was one confirmed coronavirus case in Palombara-Sabina, the town closest to their home. Most cases are in the north, but it’s slowly creeping down to Lazio, the province where Rome is located. Hopefully it won’t spread as fast there as it did in the north since people have been isolated for some time now.
But trying to regulate Italians is like trying to teach a cat not to chase mice. It’s strictly against the law now to leave your home in Italy unless you’re performing an essential task like purchasing food or buying prescription drugs. So far, at least 40,000 people have been cited for violations. Ironically, tobacco stores are on the list of essential places, so they remain open. Bars, which are everywhere in Italy are supposed to be closed. Though they primarily sell coffee and sandwiches, they sell some liquor as well, and it’s not unusual to see old men sneak a shot of grappa into their morning espresso. The bar near Lia’s house is still open. They got around the law by claiming they were a tobacco store, of sorts (they sell packs of cigarettes).
Food shopping in Italy is a complicated process now. Only one person from each family is allowed into the supermarket. If you happen to be the designated shopper, you must fill out a form stating where you’re going and confirming you have no coronavirus symptoms. As you enter the store, you’re given hand sanitizer and a pair of disposable gloves. Only a limited number of people are allowed into the supermarket at a time and no hoarding is permitted.
Everyone in Italy wears masks, but that wasn’t true at the beginning of the outbreak. I don’t understand why we’re being discouraged from wearing them here. “Only wear them if you’re sick”, we’re told. But it’s become increasingly obvious that the virus can be transmitted by those who have few or no symptoms. Given the fact that we don’t have adequate testing facilities to test, I think it would be better to err on the side of caution. I’m wearing mine.
While the coronavirus scare continues to disrupt normal life here, it has given me the quiet time I need to rest and get my head together. I cancelled my trip up to Canada, and my trip to Italy has been postponed until September. Hawaii is coming up in May, but that trip could be cancelled as well. In the meantime, I’ve been staying out here in the country with friends, only going out for necessities, though I’m starting to feel “cabin fever”.
A couple of weeks ago, I decided to re-activate my POF (Plenty of Fish) account, though I’m not sure I’m ready to deal with it yet. There was a reason I took myself offline over a year ago—too many scammers. It’s hard enough just getting responses when you’re my age, never mind having to filter through each one. Some are obviously “cut and paste” messages. They’ve sent them to every possible prospect, hoping to get a reply. Then there are the men who lie about their age—yes, men do that too. On the third date with a man I’d met in Hawaii, he finally confessed.
“Sorry I didn’t tell you earlier, but I’m actually 69. I’m older than you, not younger.” He’d chopped five years off his age, but I couldn’t understand why. It was an ominous indication of his self-absorbed personality, and the relationship didn’t last long after that.
This time, I hoped things would be different. I got some interesting messages, one from a doctor who lived on Hawaii’s Big Island. When he heard I’d be back in Hawaii soon, he was interested in meeting up. He had a Facebook profile with lots of friends, so seemed like a legitimate person. But the more we messaged, the stranger things got. Instead of asking me questions about myself, all he wanted to talk about was the coronavirus. Ok, I thought to myself. He’s a doctor, so it’s natural that he’s concerned. But his statements were odd for a doctor, and they all centered around drinking too many fluids. If you were unfortunate enough to contract the virus, he said, and you drank too much water, you’d be “drownded”. The extra fluids would get sucked into your lungs, causing ARDS, which he defined as Adult Respiratory Distress Syndrome, though the “Adult” is actually “Acute.” What kind of a doctor was this guy? He went on to say that we all drank too much water, that we didn’t need nearly as much as doctors recommended. It was a conspiracy propagated by the bottled water industry to encourage us to drink more than necessary. After that incident, I went back in and disabled my online dating profile. Who knows, maybe I’ll try again some time.
This morning I talked to my neighbor Ed in Arizona. He sounded a bit sad and I can see why. His daughter has gone back to the East coast to visit. Though they don’t always get along, I think he’s feeling lonely. Normally his house is full of visitors, but now with the coronavirus scare, they’re staying away. I haven’t heard from Brent since our last heated exchange, but no contact is better than negative contact. I’m doing fine without him and every day gets easier.