It was around mid-March that things started getting weird. Just prior to that Rick and I went to meet some newish friends at PF Chang’s at the mall for happy hour. As we entered the restaurant, buzzing with normal activity, Rick totally sprang something on me.
“Whatever you do, don’t hug him,” he told me.
But Mehran had already spotted us and was waving at us from the far end of the bar, and with a big smile he opened his arms wide to greet us. Next thing I knew I was engulfed in a big bear hug and there was nothing I could do. Then he turned to Rick, who tried to ward him off but they just ended up doing half-embrace, and a sort of awkward handshake. Later when Mina joined us, I gave in and we hugged like long lost friends, though I’d only met her once before. If we were going to succumb to the coronavirus when it had only just made headlines, well, I suppose that was our fate..
Turns out they were the last people we were to hug for a very long time.
A few days later, we went to our friends Gary and Cathy’s house for dinner. Cathy is a touchy feely person and a warm hugger but when we showed up at their door, she backed off. “Sorry, no hugs,” she said. I tried to hide my dismay because I felt a little like a bat, full of diseases. But admittedly, I could’ve been an asymptomatic carrier, considering I’d so carelessly hugged Mehran and Mina at PF Chang’s. “Virtual hug!” we all said, smiling bravely. All night we chatted like always, but Rick and I stayed on our own sofa on the other side of the coffee table. There were no hugs when we left either and it began to dawn on me how things really had changed.
The following week, engagements were canceled with a frenzy. Lunch with Duncan, a get-together with my writing friends. I was wondering what would happen with our dinner plans with Mike and Jeri when I got a text from Jeri. It was the stay at home order that Governor Newsom had just released. “So I guess we’d be breaking the law to have dinner at your place tomorrow?” I texted. “Yep,” was the cryptic reply.
In reality the first coronavirus cases had appeared in the US in mid-January, nearly two months before, and by February people were starting to die. By the time we got the orders from Newsom March 17, there were over 4200 cases and 75 deaths in the U.S.
Just like that we had creeped into the middle of a pandemic, and hadn’t even known it.
Bailey had plans to fly home for her Spring Break on March 21st but we decided it was safer to meet her halfway in a little ghost town about an hour north of Sacramento. When she arrived late in the afternoon in the parking lot of our hotel with her two cats and a trunkful of paraphernalia, I nearly dragged her out of the driver’s seat. “We can hug!” I declared. “We can hug!” I saw the hesitation in her face for a fraction of a second, but she didn’t have a choice. Rick may be high risk for this thing, but it was a risk I was willing to take.
It’s actually been nice since the pandemic began because we’ve gotten to spend the past two months with our daughter. She’s fun to be around and almost always has a positive disposition. She decided to spend a month in California because all her lectures went online anyway and she could do everything in the backyard in her bathing suit. We caravanned back to Oregon in mid-April because for one thing she had to water her plants, and we stayed ourselves for a couple of weeks. When it was time to return to California, she decided to come back with us. She couldn’t meet up with her friends anyway, and besides Bailey wanted to get a blow-up pool for our backyard. So our now-29-year-old lounges in her in her kiddie pool while she attends her lectures.
Aside from the loud weird baby talk she constantly uses with her cats and our dog, Rick and I are pretty amazed by how much our daughter has matured. I overheard her asking questions one day after a lecture using very long medical terminology. Because I have no idea what she’s saying, I figured it means she’s really catching on. Bailey was a handful when she was a little tike, but I’m learning to appreciate her confidence and drive, and particularly her willingness NOT to put up with B.S. This in particular will definitely serve her well in her practice.
We saw her gumption in action recently when we had a run in with the woman who owns the condo above us. She doesn’t live there, but her unemployed son and a roommate does, both of whom have always been quiet and respectful. “Marika,” which is not her real name but I’ll use it for convenience, called Rick and gave him an earful. She was angry because Rick had arranged a tree-trimmer to prune two eucalyptus trees that were threatening to block our view. Unfortunately, the guys just lopped off the tops and it didn’t look so good. Coincidently, the very next day we heard the loud buzz of tree trimmers pruning all the trees below us. The lady upstairs called Rick again, even madder now, because she suspected he was the one responsible. Yeah, like he would actually pay thousands of dollars to prune the grove of trees that belonged to the apartments below us. (Heck if we’d just waited a day, we would have save two hundred bucks.)
But Marika, apparently, couldn’t get over the tree thing. Here’s what happened: It was a very warm evening and I was in the kitchen making dinner, and suddenly I realized this hothead woman was on her deck above, hosing the dirt off into our yard and soaking our patio furniture. I was aghast she would do such a thing, so I ran outside and tried to get her attention. She continued to spray our furniture and splattering me as well, so I gave up and went to get Rick. He came out and yelled loudly, “Marika! MARIKA! WHAT ARE AR YOU DOING?” and she finally responded, her voice dripping with anger, “Didn’t you get my text… DICK?” Rick had a few choice words of his own, so she turned the hose on him, drenching his head from above.
When Bailey came from her room and saw both me and her dad dripping wet, she ran outside to assess the situation. “Oh my God,” she said. “I’m going to spray her back!” I had followed her outside and saw my daughter reach for our hose. “Oh, I don’t know if we should!” I said, half-thinking we should. “I just don’t think…” But Bailey was already cranking the knob to full strength and pointing the hose upward where the woman stood above us. Her aim was perfect, and with the squeeze of the nozzle she blasted the woman full force in the face.
“Oh, oh… that feels good,” I heard Marika giggle from above, and then she directed her weapon toward Bailey, who was also giggling, and proceeded to drenched my daughter. It all happened so fast, but then it was over just like that. (Actually it DID feel kind of refreshing, getting all wet on such a sizzling hot day. ) So We went inside and I finished making dinner, then we sat down to eat. “I got her right in the face,” Bailey said laughing. “You DID?” I asked, excited at the thought. I sort of remembered, but it was such a blur, everything happening so fast. “Yeah, and it was on full blast.” Bailey had a look of satisfaction on her face, but I still felt somewhat traumatized.
The thing is, we’re all on edge these days, and with good reason. It’s such a confusing, discombobulating time, and it’s testing all of us. But we were already going crazy and people were already so at odds. Maybe this is a big reset button. Maybe we just have to get back to kindness. There has to be some common courtesy and respect, our society depends on it.
Take for instance the issue of wearing a mask. Nobody likes it, it’s foreign and uncomfortable. But you wear it for the community, out of respect and concern for others, for those that are at higher risk, and for the nurses and doctors and ambulance drivers dealing with this every day. (On the flip side, don’t expect others to wear masks outdoors. That’s expecting too much. It’s YOUR responsibility to keep your distance.)
Of course there are ignorant people who don’t care about others and who aren’t informed. They’ll refuse to wear a mask – little old ladies and vulnerable daddies be damned! Besides it’s all a big lie, a conspiracy! And some people are angry, so very angry! So they deny the facts and blame the wrong people. Like the president of the United States saying we beat it, it’s over! And like people that spray their neighbors with a hose.
I have to admit, I took great pleasure in imagining the scenario in slow motion, the shocked look in the woman’s eyes as she got blasted in the face, the force of the water spraying her hair up to the sky. I replayed it over and over in my mind, like a day dream, smiling each time.
If it happens again, I have a plan this time. I’ll keep an umbrella outside, under which I can hide, and then I’ll crank it up like a fire hose and blast that woman away.
I’m just very proud of my daughter. She took action. She did what she had to protect her family. You fight fire with fire and water with water.
I think she deserves a really big hug!