11.720 Eastquarter 4 EE (Earth Epic Calendar),
Soundtrack in my head: The Allman Brothers Band, “Blue Sky”
I don’t even know where to begin when talking about my new home called Coronavirus Limbo.
Coincidentally it looks a lot like the studio apartment that I’ve lived in by myself for almost a year. But there’s living in my apartment, and then there’s living in Coronavirus Limbo, Wisconsin. Outwardly, they look very similar, but inwardly, they feel very different.
Living in Coronavirus Limbo is a lot like living in an alternate dimension removed from space and time. My connection to reality is only through looking out at a mostly empty street outside my window, and my phone, laptop, and Internet. And I’m not quite sure how real the last three items on my list are.
Last thing I remember is my growing concern over the possibility that I might catch the coronavirus. At my age, and with my health conditions, I realized I could be more vulnerable to complications from COVID-19 than most people. Especially with taxicab driving being one of my jobs. In this job, I often transport passengers to and from hospitals and clinics.
So on Friday, March 13, I decided to wear a mask to protect myself while driving my cab. And boy, am I glad I ever did. The very first passenger I picked up was from a clinic. It didn’t take very long for me to realize that he was sick as a dog. He was not only coughing, but moaning. Seeing him as sick as he was, I realized that they probably made him wear a mask to keep others from getting sick, but that he took it off upon leaving the clinic. Probably because it was more important to him to avoid the inconvenience of wearing a mask even for a ten-minute ride than to keep someone else from catching what he had. As a cab driver, I frequently encounter situations where that happens. It’s almost as if cab drivers aren’t people in their eyes. I have nothing but contempt for such people.
The rest of the passengers were extremely understanding about the mask, both Friday and the following Monday. Except Monday I had only five rides in eight hours. My normal daily total from the day was 50% below normal. The streets were strangely empty. The previous week, the University of Wisconsin announced that after spring break, classes were moving online. They closed the dormitories. And then, over the weekend, it was announced that all elementary schools would be closed.
My commission take ended up being less than minimum wage on Monday. I realized there really was no point in my continuing to put myself at risk while driving a cab. My company changed its policies so that we would not be punished for staying as protection from the coronavirus. The sudden drop of business at Union Cab finally led to layoffs this week, of which I am one. The layoffs are intended to be temporary, and intended to let us collect unemployment. Meanwhile, I’ve moved my therapy clients online, and so my business in that area continues unabated.
So that’s when I entered this new dimension, and now it’s Day 10 of my Exile in Coronavirus Limbo. I only step out of my apartment to do laundry, check the mail, and buy groceries. And I wear a mask every time I step outside my apartment, just in case I might share less than six feet of social distancing in an elevator, in the laundry room, and grocery store.
As a lifelong asthmatic, I know some things about masks and N95 masks. I understand why the CDC and WHO tell people not to wear masks and insist that they don’t work. There is a shortage of masks mostly because 90% of them are manufactured outside the United States, and a large chunk of those are manufactured in China. And yes, there has been a run on, and some hoarding, of masks. And it’s true that the flimsy earloop surgical masks given out at clinics are better for keeping the wearer from spreading their germs, and that a lot of people don’t know how to properly wear N95 masks, and it’s for this reason they say that they don’t work. It’s also true that masks are never 100% effective, and it’s far safer to isolate oneself.
But a little bit of logical thinking will get anyone with half a brain to wonder how it’s possible that 1) masks won’t work and at the same time 2) healthcare workers desperately need these masks. Furthermore, telling people whose lives might be endangered by COVID-19 that masks don’t work is, frankly, a crime IMHO. I gave some extra masks to a couple of friends who would be at the same level of risk or worse if they were to catch the coronavirus. One of them was—very understandably—confused by the government’s claim that they don’t work until I explained it to her. She’s now quite grateful to have a mask to protect her.
It needs to be noted that our mask crisis would likely not be a problem if it weren’t for companies outsourcing their manufacturing to other countries, and the President Clinton granting China “most favored nation” status in 1994 and making this status permanent in 2000. Now the New York Times reported that China has been hoarding masks.
But enough about that. After all, I am now in a dimension beyond space and time, into a dimension of sound, a dimension of sight, a dimension of mind. It is known as Coronavirus Limbo, WI. And Rod Serling is nowhere to be found.