All of us have been profoundly effected by the reality of living in a pandemic. Elizabeth, my daughter provided a guest post of how this has effected her situation living in Seattle.
My husband, our dog, and I live in 640 square feet- one-bedroom condominium in a busy, but residential Seattle neighborhood. My husband has been working in our living room since early March. As King County’s Covid-19 numbers fluctuate, we do not know when he will return to his office. My office has always been in our bedroom closet. We both take care to not step in video meetings and conference calls. And my husband takes special care to be quiet when I record a podcast. Thankfully, we have a patio which gives us a chance to shout hello to our neighbors in their patios and I planted our puppy a little garden so she could lie on plants between trips to the park. Still sometimes it feels tight. There is always another mess to clean, another meal to prepare with both of us home. Still, with so many unemployed or struggling for any number of reasons, we are lucky.
I wander between sadness and feeling lucky that I don’t have to choose my health over work
For myself, and many Seattleites, Covid-19 is a real threat. It doesn’t matter if we, personally, are not in a vulnerable population. Too many of us knew the butcher from the next neighborhood over who died of Covid19 in March. There was a favorite local restaurateur who, along with her husband, died from Covid19. A month ago, we were sent a courtesy message when someone in the next building contracted the disease. Due to privacy concerns, we don’t know who it was or what happened to them. Hopefully, they recovered.
We wear non-medical cloth masks within our building. There is no more small talk in the elevators because we ride elevators alone or take the stairs. We duck into alcoves so people can pass us in the corridors. There is always the noise of other people, but we rarely see anyone.
In public, we wear masks as we try to watch the cues, ropes, or tape marks on the floors to remain distant. Anger simmers under the surface due to long lines or out of stock items. I have heard people curse at masked store clerks standing behind acrylic barriers. Most often, the next person in line says please after every sentence along with several thank yous as if they might negate the harm.
When I am running multiple errands, I use hand sanitizer between stops. Many stores have set up temporary handwash stations at the front door. I always use them. I stopped taking the bus, I drive if I have to go somewhere not within walking distance.
Though legally not required to wear a mask outside, most sidewalks are too narrow to pass without entering another person’s space, so I do. I wish others would. I put an extension on my dog’s leash so she may say hello to other dogs at the parks, keeping the other dog owners and me at least 12 feet away from each other. I even wear a mask to grab our weekly takeout dinner from a Doordash driver. Only people who want their dinner stolen from the front stoop would say yes to a no-contact delivery.
I also wash my hands as soon as I return home. After all, I have touched door handles, hit buttons. that others touched. And most often change my clothing unless I am returning outside.
Though I have mostly avoided crowds, I have been to a few Black Lives Matter rallies and marches. The goal to end police brutality and eradicate systematic racism is worth the risk of joining the crowd. It goes without saying, I wore a mask. However, the organizers also gave away masks, face shields, and hand sanitizer. At one event, it was pouring. My umbrella helped people to stay even further from me.
Yes, wearing a mask can be uncomfortable. My face gets hot, walking in sunny weather. Stepping inside from the wind or rain always causes my glasses to fog, but it doesn’t matter. We wear masks to protect each other.
It doesn’t matter that Washington State is opening up: I live near people with Covid. There is no way to know who is infected, so I won’t visit my family. I won’t chance bringing unknown germs to my grandmother, my parents, or siblings or their children. My writing group meets via Zoom.
Still, the Seattle Freeze has shifted somewhat in the pandemic. While there is the constant stress of other people, most people have seemed friendlier on their daily walks. Some of this is forced since we cannot see each other’s facial expressions. Hellos have become in a higher, affable pitch. There are nods when people pass each other. When we do stop the chance to talk, there is talk of our dogs, of course. And afterwards there is talk of a better, kinder, more equitable future after the pandemic passes.
Elizabeth Guizzetti is Sheila’s eldest daughter and lives in Seattle with her husband and dog. She is an author, illustrator, and podcaster—though more regularly writes about vampires and aliens rather than real life. You can find her work at http://elizabethguizzetti.com