Last week, my daughter called to tell me that she had probably been exposed and she was on her way to get a COVID test. Fear concentrates the mind wonderfully, somebody said once, but mine just started spinning and it hasn’t really stopped yet, although we now know that actually, she wasn’t exposed, or at least not by the person who supposedly was the vector. Although, of course, she might still have been exposed: my daughter has been back at work at a restaurant along with so many people as the economy reopens and the hospitals fill up. She will get her test results* back this week and I will get mine as well: I’m going to be tested tomorrow morning. I am scared. I am panicked, actually, but I’m not sure whether the panic is coming from the COVID test** or from the upcoming surgery – FOUR DAYS OUT AND COUNTING – or because I am so damn worried about my daughter and my son, both out there working service jobs in this new and unforgiving world.
Speaking of unforgiving, in any other nation I think Trump and his cabinet and his family would be in prison right now where they belong. Or possibly marched through the streets, tarred, feathered, strung up barbarically, hung at high noon – I know, I don’t endorse that sort of thing normally, BUT. Almost every other single nation in the world has managed to control this pandemic but not only has the US not controlled it, nor done anything to mitigate the effects, nor marshaled an effective defense much less come up with a coherent plan or guidance, they have actively encouraged it becoming a political football and now we have a complete breakdown in public health. This should never have been allowed. There is nothing, absolutely nothing, political in this: wearing a mask can save your life and other people’s lives. It’s really fucking simple and straightforward. But it has become the latest casualty of the culture wars and, well, that’s all she wrote. Yesterday, at the grocery store, hardly anyone was wearing masks. I watched a family – mother, father, little girl – move from aisle to aisle. “I love you!” said the mom, poking the little girl in the stomach as she giggled. And it was all I could do not to turn and say, “Really? Do you? Then why aren’t you wearing a mask? Who is going to take care of her when you die from this? How can you take this risk?” May the best immune system win, indeed.
Meanwhile, as the country continues reopening apace despite skyrocketing COVID numbers, here
we are at the end of June. Father’s Day always brings up a lot of conflicting emotions for me and this year particularly, since in just a few days it will be 20 years since my father died. My dad was basically Don Draper from Mad Men (and I can’t watch that show.) He was a white upper middle class man who fought in WWII, which, I believe, left him with a lifetime of undiagnosed and untreated PTSD and then became a successful businessman in the postwar economy. He would not, I keep thinking, recognize this America. Our relationship was not wonderful but he was a complicated and smart man. I keep remembering a fight we had once when I said something slighting about the USA and he furiously told me it was the best country on earth. And you know, for him it actually was. It has not been so kind to his children and there are a multitude of reasons for that but a big one is that the country really has changed. The US has indeed always been a cesspit of racism and destruction but, for a little while there in the middle of the 20th century, it was possible for many people, particularly white people, to live and do well. While I obviously do not know, I think that had a pandemic come along in the 50s, people would probably have worn masks. It is the kernel of truth in the Maga madness: it is true that up until the 90s or so you could support a whole family on one paycheck. You could buy a house. You could send your children to college and they would not be burdened with a lifetime of debt. That this was true is of course due partly to the legacy of FDR and the new deal, partly to strong unions and very largely to a progressive and sane tax policy that charged rich people and corporations a righteous 70% of their income. Maga people never want to talk about that. And it is all over now, just a remnant of decaying memory: in the before times, when you could sort of live okay without working five jobs which expose you daily to a deadly disease that could have been controlled and was not. Reagan started the destruction and Trump is finishing it and I have no hope left for the USA.
HOWEVER! In other plague related depressing news! The supermarket is weirdly denuded again. For a while there it was as if things were back to normal at old Fred Meyer but now? Nope, the canned soups are gone, there are warnings of limits by the chickens and the powers that be have apparently decided that the best thing to do is fill up empty shelves with potato chips. There is apparently no shortage of potato chips. So the paper aisle is 1/4 giant overpriced things of paper towels, POTATO CHIPS!, some random toilet paper, POTATO CHIPS!, fancy paper napkins and, inexplicably, wooden matches, POTATO CHIPS! It makes for a more interesting shopping experience. And I bought a bag of potato chips, even though I can’t eat them. Yet.
****************IN OTHER OTHER NEWS BECAUSE A DAY OR SO HAS PASSED***************
I got my COVID test today. I went into the hospital affiliated Urgent Care, conveniently located next to the hospital, as I had been instructed to do. The Urgent Care is kind of wild, in that they make everyone sit down six feet away from the receptionist and sort of shout their answers back and forth.
“And what are you here for?”
“Well I fell down the goddamn stairs and I’m pretty sure I broke a damn rib or somethin’! And my last time I saw somebody they said my blood pressure was 190 over somethin’! You got somebody here can check that?”
As I sat there I learned things. It turns out that COVID tests are sent off to a lab for processing. It also turns out that that lab is having trouble – their machines are broken (look, don’t you eavesdrop at the doctor’s office too?) and they’re having trouble fixing them and everybody who got their tests done at the end of last week is going to have to have them done again. This does not, you know, inspire joy in one’s heart when one is sitting in a chair in a mask playing word games on one’s phone.
“And what are you here for?”
“Well I knew it was probably stupid to borrow his glasses but I did and now I think I have pinkeye.”
“Look,” said the super nice nurse with the totally gorgeous glitter eyeshadow, “I’m trying to get it authorized so you can get the special test that comes back in an hour or two. But we don’t have a lot of them so I’m on the phone with my boss and she’s on the phone with the head of the hospital, and anyway, can you come back in an hour or two? I’ll call you when I know anything.”
Several hours later, after I had a long phone conversation about my medical history with another hospital person –
“Do you have an advance directive?”
“Uh. . . no. . . . I guess I should?”
And in which it transpired that I am probably the only person who has ever not had anesthesia by my advanced age, Eyeshadow Nurse called back. “I’ve got you authorized!” she said, “And you can come back any time.”
So I went back, which, by the way, took some SERIOUS GUTS, because I have now convinced myself that the postnasal drip and endless sore throat I have had in flareups since probably 2016 or so is actually COVID and that if I tested positive they would probably disappear me. And also, the test was going to hurt. It did in fact hurt. It is seriously no fun. I banged my heels on the table like an angry little kid; I couldn’t help it. But it was mercifully brief and afterwards I talked to the nurse practitioner about my toe, which I whanged into the steel table in the kitchen last night because, you know, my life is not complicated enough. She offered to X ray it and I talked myself out of it quickly. I can move it. It hurts like hell when I walk on it, but, whatever.
Anyway, now I am home. I limped Harvey around the block; I have a glass of wine; I have not yet heard from the hospital about the results of the test and I am going, in the absence of news, to assume it was negative and I will be having an operation on Friday. I’m still scared, but what the hell. I’m deep in the grasp of the medical/industrial complex now and all I can do is hope I float to the top by Friday afternoon.
Hey! If I do shuffle off this mortal coil, while what I really want is a Viking funeral, and after that a green burial, I suspect all that would be too hard on my kids, who will be having a rough time anyway as they attempt to shuffle through decades worth of half finished artwork and paperback science fiction novels. So cremate me, toss half my ashes in the Pacific and the other half in the Atlantic and I loved you all. Throw a goddamn party and have a raging hangover in my honor.
- She got a bag of schwag when she got her test! It had stickers and badges and helpful pamphlets and I think a t-shirt and I am just in awe: corona schwag, covid collectibles, truly we have jumped the entire fucking shark now, as a country, as a people and as a zeitgeist.
- I doubt I have COVID but as soon as I think about it I panic and am convinced that I do. I have a sore throat, but realistically I have sort of had a sore throat for months, possibly years. I have headaches, but I always have headaches. And I don’t have any other symptoms but I am afraid, afraid of the disease, afraid of having it and having passed it along, afraid of the test, which I know is going to be horrible, and just, oh gods, so afraid. My anxiety is basically stratospheric right now; I am a walking, breathing panic attack. No wonder I can’t sleep.