When COVID-19 broke out all over the world, an international debate about the wearing of face coverings also broke out. Some people believe that wearing masks will slow the spread of infection and that the masks are critical to containing the virus until there is a vaccine. Others believe masks do no good and represent an infringement on our civil liberties. Others believe that masks probably have some impact on stemming infection and that there is little downside to wearing them. Personally, I believe they do have an impact. I believe that we are seeing the positive results of wearing them in places that have mandated wearing masks in public. I wear my mask, not intending any political statement, but simply because I want to do everything I can to give us all more safety, peace of mind, and freedom.
For people who are not completely convinced of the public health advantages of wearing a mask when venturing out into the big wide world, I have compiled a list of ten other benefits that may be more compelling.
You save a lot of money on lipstick.
When worn with sunglasses, you can make faces at people without them knowing it.
You can have a bad hair day and people will just assume it is the mask.
You can buy a whole wardrobe of them and use them as fashion accessories.
You can talk with your mouth full and no one knows the difference.
You can rent out space on your mouth for advertising.
There is now finally something you can buy at Brighton Collectibles that actually costs less than the “free” $25 gift card they send you for your birthday (okay… that one is a little esoteric, but, as someone who routinely ends up using her $25 birthday credit to buy something that costs over $200, it is a considerable benefit for me).
Orthodontia may become a thing of the past.
You have an excuse when you meet someone in the grocery store and can’t remember his or her name (as in, “oh silly me; I didn’t recognize you with the mask on!”)
You can take Tink-ering to a whole new level.
What benefits of wearing a mask have you discovered? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can leave me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
When Max moved in with me in 2002, we had a talk about keeping our relationship lively. Before we cohabitated, we lived about an hour away from each other, with traffic. We got together for a date every Saturday. It was the highlight of the week for both of us. When he moved in with me, I wanted to make sure we still had that special dedicated time to have fun together. I made him agree that, even if we were living in the same home, we would still have a date at least once a week. I am happy to say that we have kept that agreement, almost without fail. Since my retirement, we’ve even upped the ante and have spend two days a week doing something fun together. Since the COVID-19 invasion, this has been a little more challenging, but we’ve managed to pull off some form of a date a couple of times a week even during the pandemic.
However, when I talked to Max about my need for a weekly date way back in 2002, getting a COVID-19 test together was not exactly what I had in mind.
The other day, we set out on an admittedly low-key date day. We went to Starbucks and sat in the café. We chatted, sipped our beverages and shared a slice of pumpkin bread. It is still kind of a thrill to be inside the Starbucks, so I suppose that, in itself, might qualify for a date. We had even more exciting plans, however. Our original schedule involved going to Home Depot to return a towel bar and then wander the tiny, not-quite-a-mall in our town. Whoo-hoo!
When we got to the Home Depot, Max spotted a white tent-like structure in the parking lot. We wondered what it was and drove around it to investigate. It turns out that it was a pop-up COVID-19 testing facility. Max suggested we get tested. I was not quite on board because I could not think of any reason we would be at risk. As far as we knew, none of the people with whom we are in contact has the virus. Neither of us has any symptoms. The infection rate in our county has been decreasing. Still, I could not think of any reason not to get tested, so I agreed to undergo the procedure to please Max.
The operation was efficient. A masked and shielded greeter registered us and explained the processing and results procedures. There was one person ahead of us getting tested when we arrived. Max took the first turn and the technician ushered me in right after finishing with Max, before I had a chance to even ask him what it was like.
As a public service, I am going to tell you what it is like. It is like having a tiny eggbeater pushed up your nose into your brain for ten seconds in each nostril. I am glad I only have two nostrils.
I would not say it hurt exactly. “Pain” seems too strong a word. It was more that it was such a weird sensation than that it actually hurt. It is sort of like the eyeball, nose, and ear equivalent of chewing on aluminum foil. My eyes certainly watered and I felt my face doing some weird contortions, like when you taste something extremely sour. I later found out that there is sometimes a problem with testers who want to make the test more comfortable so they end up not going far enough up the nostril to get a valid specimen. I do not think my technician had that problem. That night, I looked it up on the internet. Apparently, if your eyes water, that is a sign that the technician is performing the test correctly because the process puts pressure on the tear ducts. Gold star, COVID-19 tester outside of Home Depot.
The people at the testing site told us that we could set up an account on their website and would be able to access our results in 2-5 days. Less than 48 hours later, their website revealed that we both tested negative. Yay, us.
The other thing that the people at the testing site told us is that you should get tested every fourteen days if you are out and about in the world. Yeah, no. That’s not happening.
What is your idea of a romantic date? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at email@example.com.
In my blog piece, Golden Hearts, I mentioned how sad I am that the Tokyo Summer Olympic Games had to be postponed because of the worldwide spread of the coronavirus. I said that I love the Olympics for the sports, but even more for the stories. I feel strongly that the Olympic athletes give us a shining example of what excellence looks like. The Olympians show us how the pursuit of excellence in peace can bring a brighter, more hopeful perspective to the world. It makes my heart hurt to think of those wonderful athletes and excellence creators who will miss what might be their only opportunity to compete in an Olympic games. I decided I would do some internet-trawling to learn some of their stories.
I looked at the Team USA website and randomly chose just a few athletes to research. What I learned touched me heart. I am sure that I could and will find similar stories no matter where my mouse chose to click. Let me tell you about some of the people I met.
Abdi is a long-distance runner, specializing in the 10,000 meter and marathon races. He is also 43 years old, the oldest man to ever qualify for the USA Olympic running team. He was born in Somalia and educated in the United States, becoming a citizen in the year 2000. He spent his high school and college years clothed in competitive running. I am sure that, as an immigrant from a third world country, he faced many physical, economic, and emotional challenges as he grew into the person he was destined to become. He would have been competing in his 5th Olympics this year in Tokyo. Given his age, he may very well not be competing when the Tokyo games open next year. One could say that at least he got the chance to be an Olympian four other times, but I am sure that having to say good-bye to your Olympic so abruptly is gut-wrenching. As a retiree, I know the satisfaction in leaving a career on my own terms. It is much more difficult and disorienting when one is forced out because of circumstances beyond his control.
Alexis would have been a first-time Olympian this year. She is an infielder for Team USA Women’s Softball. At 21, she will likely still be able to compete in Tokyo next year. Life is uncertain, however, and athletes can never be sure that an injury or bright up-and-comer will not scuttle them off the field. Alexis seems to have entered the “family business.” Her grandmother, Shelia Cornell-Douty, was a two-time Olympic gold medalist playing first base for Team USA. Alexis is from Hesperia, California. When I lived in California, I often drove past Hesperia on my way to Las Vegas. The locals refer to it as “Desperia” because it is so podunk and removed from the exciting rhythms of modern urban life. Coming from a small town, inspired by the excellence of her grandmother, and nurturing her God-given gifts, Alexis is following her own star.
Gil plays baseball. He was also meant to be a first time Olympian this year. At age 32, his opportunity to participate next year in Tokyo is a little more tenuous than Alexis’s chance. I have hope for Gil, however. His bio reflects a person who has a tremendous amount of family support, which seems to have instilled a deep commitment in him. He describes himself as “motivated, dedicated, and loyal.” He is the kind of person who may be able to let disappointment soak into him and allow it to make him stronger. I certainly hope so. When asked what it meant to him to represent the United States in the Olympics, Gil said, “Getting to represent the best country in the world is like no other feeling out there. It’s an honor and a privilege to wear those three letters across my chest.” How can you not love having someone like that represent you?
Laura represents an American breakthrough in a sport where we did not previously have much of a presence- rhythmic gymnastics. Many of us look forward to cheering the USA’s artistic gymnasts towards victory each Olympics. However, rhythmic gymnastics is lesser known, and the United States has not been a realistic contender in the past. Until recently. Laura was the first rhythmic gymnast from the United States to medal in the sport in either a junior or senior Olympics. She won the bronze medal at the 2014 junior Olympic games. Despite the time, energy, and focus she put into her sport, Laura also graduated from high school as a National Merit Scholarship and committed to Yale University.
These are just a few of the stories we can tell of our Olympians Deferred. What jumps out to me is not simply excellence in athletic ability; what stands out to me is excellence of intelligence, excellence of commitment, and excellence of character.
Do you have a favorite Olympian or Olympic moment? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is what we heard from everyone as we walked towards our destination. People waved. People smiled. People cried out, “we missed you!” You would have thought we were heroes returning from some war instead of crazed Disney fans returning to our happy place in the middle of a worldwide pandemic.
Yes, despite the fact the COVID-19 infection is still plucking away at our world, Max and I trotted ourselves out to the Magic Kingdom for a special, limited capacity passholder preview event before the park officially reopened. It was not so much that we couldn’t stand to go another season without a Disney fix that prompted this act of recklessness. It was more that it seemed like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see and feel what an uncrowded Disney park is like. As Disney reopened, they were severely limiting the number of people in the park. They did not publicize the number, but experts estimated the park would be operating at only about 25% of capacity. I have lived in the shadow of Disney parks all my life. Even with this wealth of experience and wisdom under my belt, I could not conceive of what 25% capacity would feel like. Short of having to fight an army of fire-breathing and vomit-spewing dragons to get in, there was not much that was going to stop me from experiencing a desolate Disney ghost town.
To further convince me that I should risk a potentially fatal disease or lifelong lung damage to go to Disney for this soft reopening, the fates decreed I should go. I have been a Disney passholder for nearly five years. In all that time, I have NEVER attended any of the special passholder events. I have never been one of the chosen few to receive the email invitation and respond within the first few minutes before the event reaches capacity. It is sort of like having to be the fourteenth caller when a radio station is giving away concert tickets. Odds are, it is never going to happen. A couple of weeks before this event, I was sitting at the car dealership waiting for an oil change. Bored, I was checking my phone lethargically. Coincidentally, I saw an email inviting me to register for the passholder preview event. I did not believe for a minute that I was going to be able to claim a space for Max and I because prior experience has taught me that, if you take an breath between the time the email goes out and the time you try to book a reservation, you are going to miss out. Just for giggles and because I had nothing else to do, I followed the link to register. To my utter amazement, I was able to sign us up for a day of Disney with a side of hand sanitizer.
We did think about whether going was an acceptable risk. There is so much drama in the media telling us that the Florida coronavirus numbers are climbing out of control. As I have said in prior posts, I have not felt particularly scared during this pandemic. On the other hand, I absolutely want to be responsible. I do not want to do anything that will put other people at risk, especially as I am doing volunteer work which does put me in brief contact with older, immune-compromised individuals. I decided to take a deeper dive into the numbers to analyze whether things are getting worse, better, or staying about the same. I looked at the Florida coronavirus infection rate for the middle of April. At that time, approximately 1% off the population had tested positive for the coronavirus. Today, the percentage is 1.92%, so there has been an increase. On the other hand, the percentage is still low, despite more testing and several months of reopened commerce in Florida. It has been around the 1.9% rate for several weeks. Less than 1/10th of 1% of Floridians have been sick enough to be hospitalized. In Orange County, where most of Disney is located, the percentage infected is about the same, but the daily infection rate amongst those being tested has been declining. For several weeks, the percentage of positive results of people tested has been below 10%. Additionally, ½ of 1% of all Orange County residents have been hospitalized.
Now, numbers are one thing. Depending upon what you look at and how you look at it, they can often tell you whatever you want to hear. I will not say that the virus is not a safety consideration. However, it did seem that the risk was reasonable for me.
Then, there is another factor… the pixie dust prescription. Disney has a whole lot to lose if they contribute to the spread of death and destruction. Disney also has a corporate culture that is about excellence and innovation. Disney also has a staff that is well-trained and resilient. Frankly, one of my motivating factors for wanting to go was to see the creative ways Disney employed to manage the risk while still spinning the magic.
So we decided to go, evaluate what we saw, and leave the second we felt uncomfortable.
We approached the entrance to the parking lot, excited and wary. The line to get into the parking lot was a bit of a struggle. I am not completely sure what was causing the delay, but I think it was due to the additional time it took to park the cars socially distant from each other. What was kind of interesting about the socially distant parking is that Disney came up with a way to do the social distancing without having people park further away than they would need to if the cars were traditionally spaced. I noticed when we left that the attendants must have shifted the flow of traffic to fill in the spots left between the earlier guests’ cars.
Once we got into the parking lot, everything was smooth and comfortable. Directed by smiling, waving, and welcoming cast members, we boarded the ferry to go over to the park. There were clear social distancing markers on the floor of the boat to indicate where to stand. Everyone was wearing masks. The cast members had masks AND face shields. When we disembarked, we stood in a fast-moving line so that only one party at a time could exit the ferry. Later, when we were going back to the parking lot on the monorail, cast members permitted only one party on each monorail car.
The first thing we noticed at the entrance to the Magic Kingdom was that there was no line. For any of you who have been to the MK, you know that it is a bit of an ordeal. Wait to get entry to the parking lot, park your car, take a tram to the transportation center, wait in line for bag check, wait in line for either ferry or monorail, wait in line to get into the park. Even though there are always multiple turnstiles available to enter the park, there are lines at every one of them if you get there anywhere near park opening time. On passholder preview day, THERE WAS NO WAIT.
And no people. At least, that is the way it seemed when we stepped foot on Main Street. It was almost spooky. There was almost no sign of life. Max really, really likes getting Starbucks when we go anywhere for a day trip. He is happily content to do pretty much anything I want for the rest of the day, but he really does want that latte first thing in the morning when we are on an adventure. He will forgo it if we have something critical that we must get to first, but the morning Starbucks truly is important to him. He does not ask for much, so I suck it up and factor waiting in the huge lines at Disney Starbucks locations as part of my plan for the day. On passholder preview day, there was no line. I think there were two people in the coffee shop. By the time I recovered from the shock and awe of this phenomenon, he had his coffee and we were on our way.
Such was the order of the day. We walked on to virtually every ride. I rode the Seven Dwarves Mine Train for the first time, with a 20-minute wait. The wait for Splash Mountain was similar. The queues on the other rides… oh wait, there were no queues.
From a safety point of view, it was amazing. Except for a few cast members and Max, I doubt I got closer than 10 feet to anyone the entire day. I think they expanded the space between social distancing markers to allow for antsy children and for large parties. There were a couple of times when I had to inch forward off my spot to peek ahead to see if I was supposed to move. The people in front of me were so far away, I could not see where they were! There was hand sanitizer at the entrance and exit of each ride. The cast members employed huge industrial containers of disinfectant attached to their backs to periodically spray all the ride cars. With ride vehicles designed for more than one party, they sometimes had one party in the first row and one in the back row if there were several rows in between. Usually, it was just one party for vehicle.
From a magic point of view, my reaction was a little more mixed. To be completely honest, there was an initial sense of weirdness and forced gaiety. Having so few fellow revelers did result in a slightly less festive atmosphere. Many of the eating and shopping dining venues were still closed. There were no Mickey-shaped pretzels to be had. The absence of shows and parades did seem sort of “less than.” On the other hand, having such short waits was uber magical. The seemingly genuine and extremely vocal welcomes from the cast members made me feel “especially special.”
As the day wore on, I found the magic. Every now and again, there was a pop-up presentation- a group of dancers, huge parade float carrying a character, or streetcar of singers. I cannot call them “parades,” because the very nature of a “parade” suggests more than one exhibit, one following behind another. These were more like parade snapshots- one band, one drill team, one float. The most magical moment of the day was when we ran across Tinker Bell riding atop a giant treasure chest around the circle at the end of Main Street. Because there were so few people, she could identify individuals standing below, smiling at her. She noticed my quarantined Tink shirt and pointed at me. She laughed, waved, and blew kisses to me. I walked beside the float all around the circle. It was like Tink and I had our very own parade.
It may not have been a personal, side-by-side visit with my Pixie Princess, but it was a new and different kind of magic.
Have you done anything wild and unpredictable as the world starts to reopen? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at email@example.com