Allyson Johnson

Pieces of my Mind

Archive for the month “March, 2021”

Life in a Covid-19 Hotspot: On the Road Again!

You’re going to Texas? Disbelieving intonations in the voices of the friends in my writing group. Underlying unsaid: that place with the Neanderthal governor who is letting people take off their masks and hold wild parties. After all these months of care, are you nuts? My children disapprove but are too loving to say so. After not having seen them for almost a year, I’m visiting my brother and my oldest friend. At least they have both been vaccinated, but not my brother’s much younger wife, nor his 12 year old son. At least with my friend I will be camping outside most of the time. At least with my brother we will spend much of our time outside at my nephew’s Little League games.

At any rate, here I am on an airplane. Traffic to the airport was minimal, carryon bags avoided check-in lines, security was only minimally delayed due to 6 foot separation requirements (scrupulously observed through security, I observed, but not in the long queues at Starbuck’s and Chick-fil-a once I was in the terminal.) The one inconvenience: many of the water stations were boarded up: it was a long walk from security (Opposite gate 22) to the nearest water station (opposite gate 18) and back to departure gate 23.

Once on the plane, I received help from a masked guy in front of me to heft my carryon into the overhead, tucked my backpack under the seat in front of my window seat, after stuffing my water bottle into the incapacious pocket in front of me (no airline magazines, I note.) Adjusted my double face masks, made sure my hearing aids had not become dislodged, eye-smiled at the young woman who took the aisle seat (no center seats filled). She had beautiful eyes with unbelievably long lashes. They might even be real. If you are going to be masked, it helps to have knockout eyes.

Not as much banter as usual from the Southwest attendants. They flashed a card showing my options for beverage. Declined. Later passed by with a tray of pretzels. Declined.

Up over San Jose, sprawling in its patchwork of green space, industrial parks, cookie cutter suburbs and apartment complexes, limited-height skyscrapers constraining as always its ambitions to be recognized as one of the country’s Top 10 cities. San Jose is always pedestrian Martha to San Francisco’s passionate Mary – which makes Oakland what? Maybe Lazarus, come back from the dead. Then over the snowy Sierras, past a big lake which must be Mono Lake, then down into desert country, a lengthy river cutting canyons through aridity until it is abruptly stopped at a dam. Seems there is enough to water snaking through the landscape for people who need it, but we know every drop will be claimed by multiple stakeholders.

The inner window of the plane is plastic. The outer window has a little circle of ice crystals surrounding a tiny peg which somehow must attach the outer tempered class. Same thing on the window just behind me. I wonder how that works. Tiny ice crystals flake off from the circle and stay scattered within4 “.

Outside a layer of cloud, lumpy where a thunderhead is trying to break through. Seat belt sign is on. I break out my neck pillow, my second magazine. Back in thetravel groove, as if I’d never left it.

The New Normal is Already Sneaking Up

(Victor J. Blue/The New York Times)

Lots of talk has been generated over the past months about how our lives have been permanently changed because of the pandemic, and what the “New Normal” will look like. But if you consider the pandemic as one of the many consequences of climate change, then in many ways the” New Normal” is already here.

I used to let the water run while I brushed my teeth.  Now I just wet the brush.  I used to pour soapy water from the dishpan down the drain.  Now I carry it outside and dump it on whichever plant looks thirstiest.  I used to soak in a hot bath.  Now I take 2-minute showers.  That’s the “New Normal” after five years of drought.

Formerly, in our bedroom suburb, the tallest building in town was the movie theater.  Now the movie theatre is gone, but we have several three-story buildings.  A few of them have trees growing on the roof.  A five-story building is planned. That’s the “New Normal” for smart land use.

Once upon a time, my aunt from Southern California would come up to visit in the summer so she could get away from the constant whirr of air conditioners.  She would have been dismayed when my husband added air conditioning to our home several summers ago.  But where we used to have “an occasional day over 90” we now get “an occasional week or two in the 90’s”. That’s the “New Normal.”

But it’s not just climate that has wrought change.

I used to get a chunk of suet from the meat counter to put on top of my chuck roast to tenderize it and to generate more pan juices for the gravy.  Now if I eat beef at all, it’s the leanest cuts, and if I have to chew longer, it’s probably good for my gums. Low cholesterol is the “New Normal.”

Re-reading a classic chlldren’s book from the 1950’s, my eyes widen as the mother sends her 9-year-old daughter to an art class in the community center, sending  along her 4-year-old  also with instructions “Let your sister play in the sandbox in the park while you are in art class.”  In our New Normal, this lack of parental supervision would be deemed at best irresponsible, at worst criminally neglectful. 

When I was a child I used to ride my bicycle all over town.  I felt as free as a bird, choosing my own road, my own speed, my own stops.  As long as I was home by dinner time, no one worried.   Now if I see a child riding a bicycle to school, one of the parents will be alongside.  More security, less freedom.  That’s the “New Normal.”

(Did you notice how carefully I avoided using a gender specific pronoun in the above sentence?  That’s the “New Normal” too.)

The changes brought about by the pandemic maybe will happen faster than those listed above.  The comfort comes from knowing that however new they seem at first, with the passage of time they will just be normal.

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