There’s a Difference

I feel the pressure building up again, so I’m going to inflict another rant on y’all before the steam starts spraying out of my ears. Thanks for your patience.

Damn it, people, “stay at home” means you remain in your house.

It’s that simple.

Yes, I know the directives have exceptions. Here in California, the exceptions are to go shopping for essentials and for exercise.

I’m fine with anyone who goes for a walk, a jog, a bike ride, or other exercise. Solo or with someone they live with. Go for it. I won’t even complain if you take your mask off, as long as you’re actually in motion–keep it on if you’re doing stationary exercises, or face my wrath.

But apparently there are way, way too many people who are unclear on what constitutes “essentials”.

A few hints:

Buying groceries is essential. Having a sit-down meal in (or outside) a restaurant is not. Take-out is fine–no worse, epidemiologically speaking than grocery shopping–as long as you take it home to eat.

Shopping for a computer, cell phone, or tablet so you can work, go to school, stay in touch with family and friends, and, yes, entertain yourself is essential. Shopping for any of the above because your old one is the wrong color, weighs a couple of ounces more than the latest model, or has a small scratch on the back is not essential.

Entertainment media you can take home–books, movies, video games (yes, even video game consoles)–are essential; we don’t want anyone assaulting family members just to break up the monotony. Outside entertainment–movies, sporting events, concerts–not essential. Note that I’m not drawing a distinction between indoor and outdoor events. Yes, the risk is lower outdoors, but the constant vigilance required to stay six feet away from all the yahoos who won’t wear a mask outside is going to ruin your enjoyment of the event. Drive-in theaters? If everyone stayed in their car with the windows closed and the engine off, maybe safe enough–but essential? No.

Buying a new freezer? Depends. If you don’t have one or it doesn’t work, essential. If you want a second one to store the groceries you’re hoarding, not essential. And rethink your priorities if you accumulated a six-month supply of ground beef.

Getting the picture?

Think about it this way: remember “shelter in place” and how much you enjoyed that?* If we don’t stop breaking curfews and going out for non-essentials, we’re going find ourselves back in Shelterinplaceland.

* Man, March seems like a long time ago!

Viruses don’t care how stir-crazy you are.

Vaccines are not cures, nor are they 100% effective, and they won’t be universally available for months yet.

If it helps any, try pretending it’s a earthquake drill, like we had in school, back when we had schools. A very, very protracted drill.

Duck and cover!

(Note: duck is not essential–but it is available from many grocery and restaurant delivery services.)

Making Do With Uncertainty

It’s the uncertainty that gets me. I’ve seen “the foreseeable future” and “until at least” so much I’ve started mentally adding them to everything I read.

“Thank you for your order of three hundred twenty seven rolls of toilet paper. Your expected delivery date is until at least May 20. We hope you enjoy your toilet paper for the foreseeable future.”

Not that we’re actually hoarding toilet paper. We’ve got enough for a couple of weeks, and if we can’t get more when that runs out, we’ll cope. Paper towels. Newspaper. Too bad Sears doesn’t publish a mail order catalog anymore–though I suppose if they did, it would be on glossy paper, rendering useless for the traditional repurposing.

I sort of understand why people feel compelled to horde toilet paper in a crisis. It has so many uses beyond the obvious. And it’s not like it spoils. You can get away with buying a six month supply–or a six year supply, for that matter.

But other aisles in the supermarket are just as empty, and some of those make no sense to me at all? Why are people hoarding bread? How much bread do you need for two weeks of isolation? And how are you going to keep it from spoiling? I mean, sure, you can freeze it, but if your freezer is full of bread, where are you going to put the other perishables?

(For the record, we generally go through three loaves of bread in two weeks’ dinners. And another not-quite-one-loaf of sandwich bread for those peanut butter and something-or-other lunches. Which seems like a lot, now that I’ve written it down, but even if everyone else shopping at our local supermarket goes through that much, it shouldn’t amount to enough to totally empty the shelves.)

Other uncertainties.

Perhaps you’ve heard that most of the Bay Area is under a “Shelter in Place” order. Everyone is supposed to stay home as much as possible. Don’t go out unless you’re going to one of the essential businesses.

Reasonable, but “essential” is a rather ambiguous term. Apparently that category includes restaurants, but only for take-out. I’ve been told by fairly reliable sources that it includes businesses that help make it possible for people to work from home. But if that’s true, why will Apple not be able to reopen its stores in the affected counties until the order is lifted*?

* Which will not be until at least April 7. See? As I said, it keeps sneaking in!

Hardware stores are apparently essential. I guess that makes sense. As long as you’re stuck at home, you might as well do some of those little jobs around the house you’ve been putting off. Replace that faucet, those cracked electrical outlet plates, and the leaky toilet in the mother-in-law unit*. In a rare sign of good planning by a government, plumbers, electricians, and other such professionals are still able to come to our homes to repair the repairs we botch. Assuming we’re willing to let them in, of course.

* Haven’t you heard? Every home in the Bay Area has a MiL unit now. Not for our mothers-in-law; we rent ’em out. That’s how we solved the housing crisis.

Come to think of it, we’re being told to remain at least six feet away from other people if we have to go out. How’s that going to work at the grocery store or the doctor’s office?

Medical professionals are, of course, remaining open, but the public is being asked to cancel any non-urgent or non-essential appointments. More ambiguity. As it happens, I had an appointment yesterday to have blood drawn for some lab work. So I called the lab to ask if I should come in.

“It’s entirely up to you,” I was told. “We’re open, but you have to decide if it can wait.”

Hardly a decision I really want to make in the absence of professional advice, but in the spirit of coping, I did go and have a hole poked in my arm.

However, I decided to wait on the test results before deciding if I should cancel my appointment next week to discuss the results. If everything is normal, why risk the exposure of a face to face visit?

It may not be at the “London during the Blitz” level of making do, but it seems appropriate to this era.