Ottawa, April 9, 2020, Maundy Thursday or the Thursday of Mysteries
Since early March, when the Covid-19 pandemic starting to have a local effect, I’ve been writing long posts on my personal Facebook page. For various reasons, which aren’t even clear to me yet, I’ve decided to move these posts over to my good old literary blog, which doesn’t see much action and also which allows me to moderate comments, something I find FB is sorely missing.
I don’t know who will read this, if anyone, but it’s my way of keeping a bit of a diary during all of this. We each have different values, experiences, and priorities, and our opinions will be determined by a combination of those.
My intent is to be real, to witness what I observe, to share what I experience, with a dash of defiance, and probably way too much opinion. It would be good if I could find reasons to be uplifting. We’ll see.
In the Christian calendar tonight was the night of the Last Supper. For many, whether it be for Passover or Easter, this is a time of family gathering. My family is Charles and my dear friends. Charles and I don’t do anything special for these holidays, but I am thinking about all of you, those who do gather with family to break bread and share stories. I hope you will find ways to gather, even if it’s just virtual. And if you’re alone at this time, I’m around via e-mail or FB messenger to chat with. I may not get back to you in a hurry, but I will respond. Please tell me how you’re doing, what’s bugging you, share your concerns and fears, some happy thoughts as well, if you have them.
This morning I walked to Massine’s to do our weekly grocery shop. For the past few weeks, the store, like other grocery stores, has been limiting the number of people allowed in to ensure we are able to practice physical distancing. This means a wait outside for a few minutes. It’s a bit odd, but I have no problem with this practice. The line up was only a few people because of the rain, I suspect.
It’s weird as fuck being in the store. The first time I was so nervous, I was shaking. I do just enough of a shop for the week that I can carry on my back, so I use the self check out. They’re only using every other check out, part of the physical distancing attempts.
Increasingly people are wearing masks. This is a personal decision. I can’t wear them because of my claustrophobia, which started when I was in ICU in 2009 and on a ventilator, and restrained so as not to pull out the various lines that were attached to my body. I don’t remember any of that experience, but because of it, my claustrophobia is so great that I can’t wear scarves in winter or anything that covers my nose and mouth. I continue to practice physical distancing and wash my hands to the lyrics of Leonard Cohen et al.
If you have to go to the store, and you feel comfortable wearing a cloth, non-medical mask, please do so, but practice good hygiene, wash your hands before handling the mask, tie it at the back, keep away from the mouth and nose area, when you take it off, it has to stay off until you wash it. I’ve seen a few people walking around with these masks dangling and not on their faces so they can smoke or talk on the phone. Don’t use the mask as an excuse not to maintain the proper distance. This is something I also observe on occasion. The mask won’t protect you but it will keep your Covid-19 couties away from others, a bit anyway. If it makes you feel less anxious to wear one, then wear it.
Somerset Street is fairly empty except for a few cars, some construction workers and pedestrians coming back from the grocery store. It has been my observation, so far, that women tend to give a wide berth when encountering someone, trying to obey the physical distancing requirement, whereas men often do not. We know that just walking past someone isn’t enough to get Covid-19, so I don’t worry too much about it.
Charles has a healthy attitude to all of this, having gone through the H1N1 pandemic while I was in hospital in 2009. He understands that he can only deal with what he can control and can’t worry about the rest. I’m learning a lot from him. Our time together is always so full of love and joy. On occasion when my anxiety slips out sideways, I can snap at him, which makes me feel terrible. We talk it out and I have a good cry on his shoulder.
I imagine for many of you, who are working from home with a spouse or other family member, who are having to be with your kids all the time, and for those of you who are worried about money, who have lost income and stability...that this time is particularly tough. I’m thinking of you.
I try not to worry about him. It’s difficult. He has to work because his company delivers pharmaceuticals to pharmacies and is therefore essential. He takes the bus and train to work and because of the homebound bus’s unreliable oten has to take an Uber home. He tells me the drivers are super cautious, so that’s a bit of a relief. I’m grasping at straws here.
This is where I really see the class differences in ways that I hadn’t noticed before. We are told to stay at home, except retail workers, food delivery drivers, health care workers and others, many are in minimum wage jobs that serve the public have to work. We are told to maintain a 2-metre distance from one another and we are not allowed to gather in groups of 5 or more, except that many essential workers have to take public transit. The bus my husband takes to travel to and from his office has had more than five people on it regularly, and OC Transpo hasn’t done anything to increase the frequency of these buses. All it has done is protect the driver by cordoning off the front area, which is reasonable, but this causes more crowding in the back, especially those poorly designed Nova buses, and if you’re not going to have more frequent buses, you are going to have some crowding on some routes, especially in areas where industrial workers are. Neither OC Transpo or Ottawa Public Health has addressed this issue in any way. They’ve offered no guidelines to drivers or passengers who take transit
I have spoken in earlier posts, so I won’t repeat it here, the cognitive dissonance I feel when I hear stay home at all costs out of our government leaders’ mouths. This isn’t what’s happening, and it can’t happen as long as people need drugs and food. We rely on each other. The bulk of the advice for preventing the spread of Covid-19 applies to those who have houses and cars and can work from home.. It’s tiresome to keep hearing it. Apartment dwellers have to do the laundry in shared facilities, take the elevator and put out their recycling in common areas shared with others. Some disabled people are not able to practice physical distancing from their care workers, for example. People who live on the street can’t wash hands frequently. Racialized individuals and the impoverished are already subject to profiling, giving bylaw officers extra powers doesn’t make their lives any easier.
The City has given bylaw officers the power to fine people for disobeying physical distancing in public. The worst cases are the fines for those whose first language isn’t English or French and don’t understand the info. I do think we need to get the info across and ensure that people are doing as much as they can to practice physical distancing, but these bylaw officers should be part of an awareness campaign and not thuggery.
To that end, I made a Google sheet called “advice for the rest of us” which attempts to gather and share guidelines and resources for those who aren’t home owners who drive everywhere they go and can store enough food to last for a long time.
So far I have references for the following groups: 2slgbtq+, addicts, artists, delivery, healthcare workers, mental health, quarantined/isolated, renters, seniors, vulnerable people (deaf/disabled/visually impaired/neurodiverse), women, workers, and also some general resources, and a section called how you can help. I’m trying to add to it when I find more info. I’m still missing a lot. If you do go to the sheet and have a resource or group that is missing, please e-mail me at amanda at amandaearl dot com with the info.
I am very fortunate. For now, my husband is able to continue earning his salary, which gives us financial stability (for now,) we have our health (for now), food and shelter (for now). This is more than a lot of people have. My anxiety level can get fairly high, what helps is trying to help others, whether it be through financial donations to groups such as those listed in the sheet or by doing meditation, avoiding the news and social media and talking directly with friends via e-mail or FB Messenger. I am not one for the phone. I find the telephone anxious-making.
I hope that you are coping with all this. It seems this is not a short-term crisis but a long-term way of life (for now). I am trying to figure out how to live in the moment, how to keep calm and rational and how to give as much of myself as I can to helping those in need.
I don’t know when I will reach out again, but watch this space! or ignore, as you require 😊