Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Time For The Powers-That-Be To Live Like The Rest Of Us


[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published May 27, 2020] ©2020

Pandemics have always been a part of my family story.  While a lot of people are hearing about the 1918 “Spanish Flu” for the first time, my grandmother, gravely ill with it, gave birth to my mother on November 1, 1918, the week of the highest number of deaths worldwide: 55,000.  Yes, in a week. Miraculously, my grandmother was not one of them. But she was so debilitated by the flu that she was unable to care for her new baby for the first few months of my mother’s life.

I’ve already written several times about my siblings and I contracting polio in August of 1955 – four months after Jonas Salk’s jubilant April 12 announcement of a vaccine that would prevent it. It took a while for enough vaccine to be manufactured - there were some serious glitches along the way - and to reach the populace. Not soon enough for those of us in our small town, alas. So imagine getting COVID-19 vaccine to 327 million people who all wanted it yesterday.

Now, I realize that this pandemic situation basically caught the world off-guard but now, several months into it, but I continue to be puzzled at some of the inherently non-sensical ideas that those in positions of authority inflict on – or propose to inflict on - the general public. 

Let’s start with hair salons.  First off, where’s Anthony Fauci’s pony tail?  Why doesn’t Gavin Newsom resemble a scruffy wombat?  Because someone is cutting their hair.  (Don’t even try to suggest it’s their wives.)  Meanwhile, the word “Roots” will no longer evoke the saga of Kunte Kinte but that of women’s hair during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

I have read some truly idiotic proposals about the reopening of hair salons including that they should not be opened again “until there is a vaccine.” (See paragraph two, above.) By that time, everyone except top government officials will look like extras from “Planet of the Apes.”

Suggestions for reopening hair salons assert that blow drying will have to be a thing of the past.  Only a guy would say this.  Do they think that women’s coifs just dry naturally looking like that?  Allegedly, the blow dryer could blast corona cooties into the air around the salon where customers would start dropping like IRA balances. My stylist washes my hair twice for more than two minutes each time - way more than the 20 seconds recommended for hands.  My hair is so clean you could eat off it.  Not that I’d want you to, since then I’d need to wash it again.  So it’s hard to imagine how many COVID critters could really be flying around. 

And if we’re going to get on the subject of blasting air, what about all those blow dryers for barely-washed hands in windowless public restrooms?  Given this logic, you’d be lucky to escape a bathroom visit with your instantly-contaminated life.

Moving right along in the Stupidity Sweepstakes was the CDC’s April 27 pronouncement that people should “avoid contact with your pet, including petting, snuggling, being kissed or licked, and sharing food or bedding.”  Sure, and explain that to Mr. Barkles. Pets were probably the single most positive factor in keeping people from total despair in recent months, yet based on pretty much zero cases of kitty-to-human infection, the CDC recommended people shun their beloved animals.  Even dogs are supposed to keep social distance from other dogs.  Fortunately, not much more has been said about this.  Just as there is a waiting period for people to buy guns, persons in positions of health or governmental authority should have a required three-day speech delay while their synapses catch up with them.  

And then there was this whole business with one-way shopping aisles. It's like the COVID Police meet nightly and say, "How else can we provoke the general public, never mind grocery store managers, with rules that are unlikely to help but will just annoy the sh-t out of everyone?”  But then, I’m just mad because I accidentally walked past the spaghetti sauce and we had to have pasta with plain parmesan cheese on it.  It made me very grumpy.

There are so many candidates for this column that it's hard to choose.  But our Vice President, named to lead the U.S. response to the coronavirus outbreak, was apparently the only person in America who didn't know you need a mask to enter a hospital. Was he worried, "Does this mask make me look fat?" He then maintained that because he is regularly tested, he didn't think he needed one.  Yeah, just try getting past Gelson's cart kid with that one!

When the people who are allegedly managing this crisis are showing up perfectly coiffed, aren't staying home, and don't want to annoy themselves with uncomfortable masks, they undermine their credibility.  I'm still complying, but in spite of them, not because of them. 

Meanwhile, next week:  With everyone having to wear masks, where is the bailout for the lipstick industry??? Inquiring minds want to know.

 This table actually used to be used for mail.

 Five-year-old grandson getting ready for a walk

Ten-year-old granddaughter communing with nature






Monday, May 11, 2020

It Was Such Bad Timing


[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published May 13, 2020] ©2020

Last year, I wrote about my husband, Olof, taking up sourdough bread making as a retirement project.  So when pandemic incarceration hit, Olof wasn’t all that distressed to have yet more excuses to wallow in yeastdom. Nightly he was glued to YouTube videos for sourdough English muffins, crackers, and even naan besides his usual boules and ciabattas.

But then disaster struck. In late March, the control panel on our stove suddenly, without warning, exhibited the Black Screen of Death, followed by “Error message F2 E1”. We flipped the circuit breaker to no avail. Olof advised letting it sit overnight to see if it “fixed itself.”  I was stunned.  I’m usually the one who maintains that electronics have an emotional life and can be cajoled into functionality if properly entreated, while Olof, whose degree in reactor physics is from Cal Tech, rolls his eyes and expounds on the certainties of circuitry.  “Olof,” I said, “I think you’ve been married to me for too long.”

The next morning, the stove was still as dead as the night before, but worse, had developed a truly annoying intermittent beep. Honestly, in the middle of the night I wanted to take a sledge hammer to it.  Fortunately for it, we do not own a sledge hammer. Unfortunately, the circuit breaker is also attached to fridge so we couldn’t just flip it off.

Now, we have several appliance repair people that we’ve used over the years but none would come to the house. I mean, you’d think this was an essential service.  It is, but not essential enough for the essentialees to want to risk coronavirus. I was pretty sure the problem was the oven control panel since we’d had this problem once before but it turns out the Whirlpool factory, from whence oven control panels come, was closed until further notice. 

Fortunately, we own both a crockpot and a microwave so there would be sources of warm food.  But the idea of not having a stove for potentially months put Olof into full yeast-deprivation depression.  We decided to just go buy a new stove. 

Alas, Home Depot’s options were back-ordered into the next millennium. 

Our other usual appliance emporium was now only accepting on-line orders – you couldn’t go into the store itself – and were not installing.  They would deliver your large kitchen appliance to your garage (we don’t have one), or alternatively  “curbside” which, translated into English means “in the street.”  Where a car could hit it.  And certainly not improving the functionality of the appliance especially if it is now on the next block. 

Then there's the more-than-minor problem about getting this curbside appliance into our home which includes a long walkway and several steps.  We're both pushing 73. My husband had a heart attack two years ago. So the two of us wrassling a heavy appliance box from the street into our house might not be an exercise that we would survive. We would, of course, instruct our children to sue the appliance place for premeditated wrongful, elder-abusive death.

OK, so let's assume that we were actually able to get the new stove into our house and into our kitchen. It's a gas stove. Gas stoves are connected by means of something called "gas lines."  I can just see getting the whole thing installed only to turn it on and blow up the house.  And ourselves. It just seems that the appliance company ought to be a tad more concerned about the liability in expecting people to install their own major appliances.  COVID-19 will eventually go away but personal injury lawyers are forever.

But then my pool guy (it is a testament to the times when your pool guy is telling you how to get your stove fixed) Scott told me that any part I needed for anything was available on the internet if I had the model number. He cautioned me to make sure I wasn't buying an aftermarket or "refurbished" part, but a new one. 

$400 and expedited shipping later, a brand-new oven control panel arrived at our home from a non-Amazon site, and I had actually incentivized someone to come and install it.  But when he did, it turned out that while it was the correct control panel for our stove, that wasn’t what the problem was.  

The repair guy said he would to see if he could find the required part for us. But who knew how long that would take. However, he was able to disconnect the homicidally-annoying beep.  I spent 1.5 hours on hold with the company I got the control panel from trying to get approval to return it. At the mailing place, they were only allowing one person in the store at a time even though it was pouring.  Does weather-related pneumonia count as a COVID-collateral death?

Two slow cooker weeks later, the appliance guy came back with the part.  Our stove came back to life after more than a month. Five minutes later, Olof was baking garlic rosemary crackers.  

It’s given us perspective. Our worst fear is no longer coronavirus.  It’s our appliances breaking. 

 Uh-oh

Our daughter-in-law presciently gave us a slow cooker
several Christmases ago.  It saw a LOT of action.

After almost five weeks, Olof's Artisanal Boule Bakery was back in action.

 In a frenzy of newly-functioning-stove baking, he made his first ever 
sourdough English muffins

Garlic rosemary crackers were in progress before
the repair guy even reached his truck

Monday, May 4, 2020

Grocery Shopping In The Time Of Covid


[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published May 6, 2020] ©2020

Let me say up front that I am hardly a germaphobe. (One look at my house would convince you.)   But the one thing I’ve never liked touching during flu season – or at all during the current pandemic – is the payment keypad and wand at grocery stores and pharmacies.  At the pharmacy, even if you pay cash, you still have to use the wand to sign that you picked up your meds.  You  can’t help but reflect every time you touch those things that you might as well have shaken hands with the last 100 COVID-carrying or influenza-afflicted people in that line. 

I know there is food delivery but I feel bad for making other people assume my risk. Besides, I’m old so nobody cares if I die except…except…  Anyway, so before leaving for the supermarket, I try to map out my anti-contamination plan like it’s a major offensive. This is not a project for sissies.  

Step 1:  Wash hands before leaving house.

Step 2: Have Lysol and alcohol wipes, latex gloves, trash bag, and mask on passenger seat at the ready.

Step 3:  Before getting out of the car at store, put on latex gloves and mask.  Put cash in pocket if using so don’t have to touch wallet, along with 3 alcohol wipes in a sandwich bag and my debit card in right pocket ready for action. 

Step 4: Get allegedly-sanitized cart from high school kid who seems to just be spritzing liquid Kovid Kill in the general direction of the handle and slapping it a few times with a rag that probably harbors more coronavirus than New York City. His dead eyes say, “I will never complain about school again.” Enter store if no wait.  Otherwise get in socially-distanced line.  

Step 5:  Uh-oh.  Glasses are fogging up!  Worse, nose is starting to run from seasonal allergies from so much rain.  Use sleeve to de-fog glasses as much as possible. Try to snort snot back in nose.  #fail

Step 6:  Hit paper products aisle first.  Empty, but hope springs eternal. 

Step 7: Cell phone rings.  Do not answer it!  Even if it’s the call you’ve been waiting two days for, from the repair guy who you’re hoping you can bribe with serious cash to come fix your broken stove. 

Step 8: But dang!  Really need the stove!  Stick gloved hand into purse and pull out now-contaminated phone.  It’s not the stove guy. You’ve just risked COVID-19 to answer a spam call in Mandarin.

Step 9: Get in socially-distanced line to pay for the 1/3 of the items on your list that they actually had.  Clerk, wondering how he/she managed to end up in the second most dangerous job in America, grabs a wipe and does a harried swipe of keypad. We both know that thing has “respirator” written all over it.

Step 10:  Show time! Focus!  Remove debit card from right pocket and stick in icky nasty keypad machine.  Type in pin number, hit Enter.  Machine says to Remove Card.

Step 11:  Like you’re falling for that? Your gloved hands have just touched the key pad and are now awash in COVID cooties.  

Step 12: Quickly strip off gloves inside out and stuff in left pocket.  Remove alcohol wipes from baggy in right pocket.  Remove and swab debit card, hoping wipes won’t deactivate the magnetic strip because the bank is basically closed until further notice.  Drop card in purse. Quickly wipe now-bare hands with the second wipe then grocery cart handle with third. Stuff both wipes back in baggy and put back in right pocket.

Step 13:  Exit store, throwing away baggies from right pocket and gloves from left pocket trying to touch only the insides of the gloves.  Unload groceries into car trunk and return cart with elbows.

Step 14:  Enter car.  Take Lysol wipes and wipe down steering wheel and gear shift, and alcohol wipes to do hands again. Clean Lysol wipes dispenser with Lysol wipes.

Step 15: Oy gevalt!  You answered your phone in the store!  Put on new gloves, carefully remove phone from interior of purse that is now probably a coronavirus factory and clean with alcohol wipes. Dispose of gloves and wipes in trash bag on passenger seat. 
 
Step 16:  Wash hands thoroughly again as soon as you get home.  Swab appropriate groceries with Lysol wipes keeping in mind recent news story that Poison Control Centers have had a 20% increase in calls from people poisoning themselves using toxic chemicals to disinfect their groceries.  Wonder at people who would eat lettuce soaked in Chlorox.  #Darwin.
 
Step 17. Wipe down counters with Lysol wipes and do doorknobs just for good measure.  Have complete paranoid attack of what you’ve touched that you don’t even realize.  

Step 18:  Pour glass of wine even though it is only 11 o’clock in the morning. 

Gloved, masked, Lysoled, Alcohol wiped and ready for grocery shopping
Absent:  Grocery list. They won't have anything I want anyway.