�Ơ This is my third post in a 5 part series, Remembrances of Covid. Click here to check out the second one.
Sometime in June my employer was really pushing to have employees come back to the office beginning mid-July. I made plans to return back to Madison to enjoy the summer with my soon to be girlfriend Margaret, and to start returning to the office.
In my return to Madison, I recall feeling secluded once more, as now pretty much everything was shut down, we all wore masks, and no one was really living at home besides Bedania and I.
Bedania and I had a lot of fun hanging, paddle boarding and talking about life and our goals. She recently made the decision to make a leap of faith and move to North Carolina with her sister, and I put in my 1 month notice at Epic. I couldn’t bring myself to come back into the office after how the treated me.
Sure enough, national news (CBS I believe) began to report on Epic’s decision to bring employees back to the office, despite the county’s “remote work” policy–employees should work remotely where possible. There’s a few hilarious interactions between Anna from CBS and the newly hired “Chief Administrative Officer” from Epic in the videos below.
With Epic pushing back the departure date to return to the office, and my frantically trying to buy a house during this time, I attempted to postpone my departure. Unfortunately I stepped on too many toes by pushing back against some of the company-wide policies at the start of the pandemic and I was not permitted to stay longer. My last day with Epic was July 17th.
Working from my home was isolating, and I intended to move back to Cincinnati with my parents following the expiration of my lease on August 15th, so I was selling much of my items on Facebook Marketplace. These encounters were always awkward as people (and I) didn’t really know how to approach a home whether to wear a mask etc.. Personally, I was fine if people didn’t, but just to play it safe and make them feel comfortable, I always answered the door with my mask on.
Margaret and I spent a lot of time together this summer, and I dedicated a fair amount of time restoring my friend Stephen’s canoe, Sandy, which we took out on the water a bunch that summer:
Hanging with Margaret was really nice during this time, as we had a really good connection and enjoyed spending time together, something that’s super critical when there are no cultural or social outings to attend.
It seemed that all of the sports leagues in Madison were shuttered, with the exception of one of my volleyball leagues, at the German pub in town. A number of the teams backed out and that threw the league into disarray, but overall, I really, really appreciate Essen Haus staying open and allowing us a social outing that summer.
They strongly recommended (in writing) people wear masks during play, but the majority of the players (~80%) did not. I think this also was very emblematic of my experience with Covid, where in writing, either for legal purposes or for social justice points, people and organizations made very strong statements about wearing masks, but then when it came to one’s own protection, folks were less concerned about the virus.
During this time in Madison, I remember going through an Aldi, and an older gentleman berating a store employee or manager for not enforcing that another store patron wear his mask. “It might seem cool, but it’s dangerous. Enforce it, or I’ll call the health inspector” was roughly the gist of what he communicated.
I moved out of the house I had been living in for more than 5 years in the middle of August, and at the very last minute my friend and former roommate Rob had a room for me to rent from him, so my parents and I moved my essentials to Rob’s house, and the rest to their storage unit in Cincinnati.
From there, I flew to Sacramento where I met with Tyler Visagie, and the two of us began a month long road trip through the Southwest. The origin of the trip was to help Tyler pick up his car from a vineyard in Sacramento where he left it, and move to Austin, Texas to lay down some roots.
We really made the most of the trip, seeing a number of national parks (described in the post above) and seeing whole swaths of the country that I had never previously visited (Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico).
Traveling through California, Nevada, Arizona, west Texas, was an incredibly eye opening experience.
I’ll leave most of the non-Covid topics for other posts, but in short, my biggest memory was the appreciation for our beautiful country, and just how much remains to be seen and discovered by me, here, on our soil.
I also found it interesting to see how, and if cultural wearing of masks changed throughout the country.
At this time, Facebook was all ablaze with social justice warriors and others exclaiming the need for masks:
- “wear your masks”
- “don’t use N95s share those with the essential workers”
- general shaming of people not wearing masks
often times these posts would be written as if no one around the author wore masks at all, but yet in driving through nearly 7 states, I pretty much saw masks being worn everywhere–from downtown of Las Vegas to rural towns throughout Arizona.
There were definitely some differences–in California you couldn’t eat inside restaurants, so we needed to find places with outdoor seating (also there were wildfires everywhere, so it could be hard to breathe).
In just a few restaurants did I see someone get up from a table without putting a mask on to go to the restroom, and those were really in the more rural towns, but typically even there, nearly every patron would show to the grocery store or restaurant clad in a face mask.
After one particularly aggressive comment from a relative of mine lambasting or demeaning people for not wearing masks, I felt compelled to speak up in defense of Americans, who I felt had complied very well with the recommendations–data I looked up stated that more than 83% of Americans wore masks at that time.
Another rumination I had during this road trip occurred to me when I met my Great Aunt Iris in a small West Texas town. Tyler and I showed up with our masks on, and she told us to,
take those damn things off, I hate those things!
with gusto, in a very positive and welcoming way. One of the central arguments expressed for wearing masks was to protect the elderly, who were put through the same isolation and suffering that I felt during my time in Madison.
Clearly great aunt Iris didn’t care for that approach, she had dined with her friends earlier in the day, and then wanted to meet and hug us, young men that just traveled through half the country amidst the pandemic, without our masks on. I genuinely think that if you were to ask the elderly population that many of them would have risked death for a more social experience in 2020.
I wish that in some ways, our society was more a republic, where we had policy votes and voted on various social policies, rather than politicians who often feel out of touch or in the very least are taking the most politically advantageous move, which isn’t always in the best interest of the country.
On the media
I want to take a special moment to comment on the media during the pandemic, and express how horrible I think they have been to our country. My friend Tyler (and I applaud him for this diligence) very closely followed the articles and statistics published by the Tampa Bay Times (where he was living before moving to Austin). The Tampa Bay Times (like all other publications) would routinely publish the “highest” number or “scariest” statistic they could find. This often would be without context. For instance, “5,000 cases of Covid have been diagnosed in Tampa Bay”. The reader doesn’t have any context if that is a high or a low number relative to the population. Similarly there’s no denominator here, so while 5,000 sounds like a high number, if the population of the Tampa Bay county is 2,000,000, that’s .25% of the population. Any number that proved the pandemic not very dangerous, like a survivability rate of 99%, was rarely discussed on television. I remember how frustrated I was when I realized that the average age of the Covid deaths in Ohio was ~82.
An 82 year old isn’t working, so going into the office isn’t going to kill an 92 year old. And yet every story was about tragedy and how certain policies should have been enacted etc. etc.. I don’t think once did I hear a positive piece on the administration if it wasn’t a provided by Fox News. And yet Americans were doing well wearing masks and following social distancing guidelines (for the most part).
2020-2021 Winter of Covid
What’s worse than a global pandemic? A global pandemic in a Wisconsin winter, where the sun sets at 3:30 PM.