Thursday, April 30, 2020

Stay At Home America Diary

A lot has happened in March & April, I felt I should document the sequence of events we went through these 2 months in a post. Would be a great time-capsule to look back at, when things have improved. This pandemic induced stay-at-homes & shelter-in -place are unprecedented days, in peace-time. It's not like World Wars 1 & 2. Yet it's like them. And since this ties the entire world together, its like a WW3 where world fights an invisible enemy, really really invisible killer - COVID-19. But I will write my experience in Minnesota, USA, where I lived.

For someone with no foresight, things looked casual in March as well. Pandemic had not been declared & the contagious disease was happening in far east. I would scoff during office gossip, "Nah this is over-reaction. Things can never change." By 10-Mar, MN had 3-5 cases, mostly people who had traveled & were back home last month. That week, all of us got 2 days of work from home (WFH) for a trail basis.

On 12-Mar-2020 Thurs evening, I went with my kids to Sams Club, to pick up the eye-glasses we had ordered. The car traffic were snaking back to 3-4 roads, and parking lot looked full like never before. Once inside, I only went to pickup glasses,but spent most of the time staring at the crowd inside. They were all well-behaved and safely distanced like MN people usually are. But their carts were full and some were lugging 2 carts. The more I looked at them, the more contagious it got to me. I got into the mix with my kids and join the hoarders. Picked a cart & went hunting for milk & other staple supplies. Had heard the rumor about TP hoarding and here never even found where they are stocked. No rice. Looking at others carts, they were stocking up cereal & other canned foods. So I did the same. Once I was out, the fever did not recede. So I went to Walmart, Indians store & Cub Foods as well. To buy the stuff I usually buy. My poor kids, who tagged along. Ran into my acquaintances who were doing the same. The more we talked, the more fervor it brought. Throughout I was messaging in our US Family WhatsApp group, so the shopping madness spread there as well. After 4-5 hours of shopping, things calmed down when we went home. I still did not have TP, but I did not care about it. We have bidet-spray-guns !

I went again in the weekend. TP & meat Racks were really empty. I had only only seen internet pictures till then.

My husband came back on Friday from Tennessee, where he was for the week on work. For the first time, I physically restrained kids from hugging him right away. Had to explain on high-pitch, that he needed to discard his clothes and take a full clean shower.

Friday school turned out to be the last time this school year.  Governor announced stay-at-home order. Schools announced closure on Monday & office allowed us WFH. Schools were closed for 2 weeks. Each day we envisioned how we would travel for the Spring break, with all precautions. By the end of it, the flights were cancelled & refund issued. We even talked through about driving. Now its amazing thinking how optimist we were.

In these 2 weeks, schools formulated the e-learning plan and rolled it out. Next week was a regular Spring break week. And 5-Apr onward all 4 of us were rolling into remote work & learning mode. School picked one day and arranged for parents to pickup school books, iPads & supplies; all arranged with proper social distancing. I share these memes, not as disrespect to teachers. But just to show how hard they are trying and how much we parents are lacking. The 2nd one actually happened to me. I let my kids do their school work on their iPads, while I was buried under my responsibilities (office, cooking, etc). And then in the forth week, my little ones teacher pestered us for a meeting with all 3 of us. After few hits & misses, we had a zoom meeting, where she walked us to through the weekly syllabus, where it is shared and where R can submit his work. And turns out, he had not submitted anything all 3 weeks ! Big revelation. So the next week I stuck with the kid to finish his backlog from 3 weeks and the current week. It is hard ! Makes me appreciate all teachers hard work, in case I loose track of it frequently. With all respect, hats off to the teachers & all of the school workers.

Community pitched in as time went by. Social media is blessing to know & learn. For all its negativeness, it's a great tool to know, be inspired to actually do something we can.
So many individuals I knew were making cloth-masks and donating.
Hindu Society MNIAM & Fit n Fab FB group stitched masks and donated other PPE to medical community in MN and did food donation drives.
Many families are posting Heart cutouts on their windows. I have seen in the neighborhood too. It is cheering. I was waiting for warmer weather to take the Diwali lights out. Now I am leaving them there for lighting on dark nights. Seriously, some times it get so deary, these things matter.

Adam Truman                                                                                      Kara Hobli

When the weather turned warm in April, everyone was outside. Really everyone. All the day long, we would see people running, jogging & walking at all times of the day. Dog-walkers just had to get out. I would go to the nearest trail and it was teaming with families, every single time. It was like eve people who had never walked outside before in their life, even they were out there. This meme has never been truer.

Another noticeable change in the neighborhood - everyone buying new outdoor sports equipment. Many installed Play-area stuff for toddler & young kids, since most public ones were closed. Tweens & teens were rolling out in rollerblades & bikes. Perfect to get-together as well as maintain distance. Many pitched badminton nets on their driveways, while many played tennis across the road between opposite house. No hack for swim-pools yet.

Then on warm days there are driveway parties. People get-together on driveway, standing or sitting 2 feet apart. Birthdays are celebrated with large signs or placards on the grass and guest dropping off with gifts & wishes. Most drive-by parades made news. People are still figuring out how to celebrate Graduation ceremonies & parties this summer - it being a crucial milestone for students here.

The weeks that followed were a blur of WhatsApp calls with family & friends. Office meetings / conference calls. Kids school assignments, zoom meetings & homework. Cooking thousand snacks & a day. And forwarding memes about all this. I logged the new normal in my previous post.

Sleep schedule went for a toss. As long we turned up for the earliest call, it was ok to roll out of bed at anytime. All alarms were permanently deleted. Not hearing those alarm-tunes, first thing in the mornings, was a great feeling. But being grungy from over-sleeping was not.

We cooked like it was a festival. Well we couldn't party with friends, so we might as well cook for our-self. And we snacked, like we had never learnt that clean eating meant being away from junk.

Grocery shopping meant stocking the freezer with ice-cream boxes - as many as we could. And no restrictions on kids. AT the peak, they were eating maybe 3-4 ice-creams a day.

Hedge Humor
This constant eating combined with grocery-store dread - has this emotion ever happened before ? The places which my stress-relievers, where I felt most welcome, my quiet-spots - Cub Foods, India Bazar, Target, Hyvees, Lunds & Bylerys. Uff, the agony of having to stay away from them !
Once we went through the first round of snack supplies, we had to go there again, didn't we? And we did. But the emotions were so different. That dis-trust of any other human closeby. That dread of them thinking the same of me. Not being able to show my smile to the regular workers & cashier - smile being behind the mask.

Once this was normalized, grocery shopping became as expedition. Get the demand list from everyone, and triple-check right before leaving home. Armed with mask & gloves. Being still cold, I could wear my long-winter-jacket without shame. When in the store, it was an exercise in precision in in & out. Refer to paper notes, not phone (to prevent exposure to phone); straight to the aisle, pick item needed, bill & out. Once home, throw every single garment, mask & gloves in the washer & jump into shower. Leave the bags (lingering virus) to dry out (except ice-cream & milk). Stocking the fridge came a while later; versus the old efficient self, who first put things where they belonged.

Bad side of humanity did raise its face in America, because covidiots exist everywhere.
Toilet Paper hoarders were a real thing. Major head-palm.
Violent protest marches to reopen shops, where the slogans were worded to show irreverence to the magnitude of the contagions power and promote conspiracy of democrat governors to destroy the economy.
Only part I would agree about the need of support for small business and creative solutions for them to continue to be open. Wanting to open hair-dressers and cruises is such a brat-ish demand. But workers in those industry need support in other ways.

As someone said, being part of major historical event is not as cool as it sounded. It's better in history books. But its not like war and world is so much better place in 2020.
We don't know what the future will hold ? How human interactions will change ? We can only do our current duty for now.

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