The first inkling something was going on happened a week before the entire San Francisco Bay Area began its shelter-in-place order. My wife and I stopped by Trader Joe’s to just pick up a few things. The place was packed (not unusual); entire aisles were completely wiped out (very unusual).
We realized then things were going to be different.
As a born and bred Hoosier, I’ve watched from afar as the state moved closer to the shelter order. We’ve lived in the Bay Area for nearly a decade now, and needless to say, we’ve never seen anything like this. I’m expecting this will be true for my home state, too.
We are now entering our second week of shelter in place. “We” is my wife, Christi, and our daughters, Amelia and Ellen. Both Christi and I are working from home. Both girls are now taking their college courses online, having been sent home from schools on opposite ends of California. That’s a lot of adults (still kids to me) in a limited space and all needing some semblance of privacy throughout the day. Here are few things we’ve learned:
Stick to your daily routine. Get up at the normal time. Go to bed at the normal time. As much fun as working in your pajamas may be for a day or two, it gets depressing fast.
Set up a schedule every day of who has calls or classes and at what time. Someone is bound to need privacy for either a call or class, so plan ahead for comfort. Also, be mindful of using WiFi for something like streaming a movie when your kid has a class.
Get outside if at all possible. We’ve found a walk around the block is really good to break up the cabin fever. In our neighborhood, people are definitely keeping their social distance. If someone is approaching us on the sidewalk, one of us will move to the street so we can pass safely. It seems people are more apt to say hello and ask how you are doing than before (the Left Coast is different than the Midwest when it comes to saying “hello” as you pass someone).
Plan virtual dinners or happy hours. It’s really important to have other voices at the table. It’s hard to talk about something other than current events, but we’ve tried.
We’ve started a nightly rotation of who gets to pick what we watch at night on TV. We’re asking that everyone at least try to watch before someone goes to their room.
Get creative with your cooking. Like most people, we tend to fall into ruts for recipe selection. We’re using this time to try out something new with the myriad of weird stuff we bought. (We didn’t hoard, but when the shelves are bare, you get less selective. See the next bullet point).
Probably too late for this, but please don’t hoard food or toilet paper. There will be plenty if everyone just buys like normal. That ship sailed way too early here. The grocery stores are still well-stocked, but not with all-important toilet paper. There is still tons of fresh fruits and vegetables (keep that in mind with your new recipe approach).
Most of all, be patient. Take a deep breath before responding to something one of the kids (or you) do that is annoying. We talked about all the things we wanted to do around the house, but we realized family and work come first, so be patient with those tasks.
We live near two very busy interstates. When we walk through the neighborhood, we usually hear the low roar of traffic. I take it as a good sign when we walk and don’t hear it (although we do worry that the traffic reporters on TV and radio are at risk, since they have nothing to report in what is one of the most-congested areas in the country). People are taking it seriously here, and early indications are it’s working.
Stay inside, social distance when you go out, and don’t forget to wash those hands.
Norm Shaw was born in Seymour and grew up in Indianapolis. He and his family now live in the San Francisco area.