Will ‘normal’ (whatever that is) ever feel the same

By David Hampshire

One evening last week, I took advantage of the clear skies to take a walk around Friday Harbor. The stars were spectacular. Venus glowed near the Pleiades on the western horizon. But I was also struck by how quiet the town was. The sidewalks were empty. I saw only a handful of cars on the street and most of those just as taillights in the distance. It was eerie.

How quickly all this has happened! On Feb. 25, when I flew in from Utah, the coronavirus was, for me at least, just a dark cloud on the horizon. Since then it has taken over our lives. It dominates every news broadcast and every conversation on the street among people now standing six feet apart.

I wonder, when things return to “normal” (whatever that is), what is going to stick with us. What will it teach us about our relationships and our values? My guess is that psychologists and sociologists will be writing about this for years.

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Our hearts go out to all the small-business owners and their employees who are taking a huge hit while this is going on. I see there’s a board outside the Marketplace listing the restaurants that are taking to-go orders and their hours. My partner Lynne and I are doing our best to take advantage of that, even if it isn’t the same as sitting around a table with friends.

I imagine that Christi Napier’s around-town food delivery service, “You Buy, I’ll Fly,” is doing a booming business these days. If you place a grocery order or a restaurant order through her website, Christi will pick it up and take it to your house for a small fee.

Speaking of local businesses, how does Gov. Inslee determine what stays open and what closes? On March 23, he ordered the closure of “all businesses except for essential businesses.” Well, what constitutes an essential business? Do the Bud Hut and the Dispensary qualify? Some would argue that with the Palace Theater and other forms of entertainment shut down, getting a buzz going, eating some take-out food at home and laughing at a mindless comedy on HBO are essential in helping them take their minds off all this virus stuff.

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Yes, we seniors are in the high-risk group for this virus. And yes, those of us with money in the stock market have taken losses. But we also have something that many people in the workforce can’t count on these days – a steady income, thanks to Social Security and, for some people, pensions. For that I am grateful. And I finally really grasp the meaning of the “security’” in Social Security.

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A few years back, we started hearing that, if you are going to cough or sneeze and you don’t have a tissue handy, you don’t use your hand. Instead, you raise your arm and cough into your elbow. So all the germs collect there. But after this virus took over, instead of shaking hands or even bumping fists, people started bumping elbows. Where the germs are. What’s up with that?

Now we’re being told to practice “social distancing” by standing six feet apart from one another. Well, I’ m one of those seventy-somethings whose hearing ain’t what it used to be. So, if you meet me walking around the gravel pit, remember to SHOUT. Maybe I’ll get a T-shirt with that written on it.

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With all the great weather we’ve been having (at this writing, at least), Lynne and I have been traveling around the island to some of our favorite hiking/walking and picnic spots. On March 19, the vernal equinox this year, we drove over to English Camp and walked along the Bell Point trail to Westcott Bay. On the way home we took West Side Road and pulled off at an overlook to watch the sunset. As I walked down toward the shore, I saw a man seated on a rocky outcrop with his two dogs. He later explained that they were 12-year old Aussies he had recently rescued. As I approached, one of the dogs jumped up and let me know, quite clearly, that I had come close enough.

“I don’t have to worry about social distancing with these two,” he shouted.

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When it comes to keeping things tidy, I’m pretty close to the bottom of the pond. Every flat surface attracts stuff the same way my sink attracts dirty dishes. To me, “tidying up” means stacking the stuff in piles. If I’m not expecting company, I don’t even bother to do that.

Anyway, these days, who’s expecting company? Not I. So you can imagine what my place is going to look like when this is over. Well, maybe you can’t. But if you’re planning to stop by after that, bring an avalanche beacon with you.

Actually, it’s a little more complicated than that. In Friday Harbor, I share a small one-bedroom place with Lynne. It’s not my place I’m trashing. It’s hers. So far she has tolerated the unruly jumble on the coffee table, but now I’m starting to encroach on the dining table as well. If you see me sitting with the laptop outside on the patio, you’ll know I’ve pushed things too far.

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One of my favorite ways to escape the problems of the real world is by watching sports on television. So I’ve been going through withdrawal lately. But I’m not desperate enough to watch reruns of the 2016 NCAA basketball tournament. Not yet, anyway.

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For a while now, I’ve had a song stuck in my head. It’s the old Oak Ridge Boys song “Elvira.” Only now, in my head, it keeps coming up as “El Virus.” Is that what the Spanish call COVID-19?