COVID No. 8: When You Have to See a Man About a Cat

AS MONDAYS GO, today was a doozy in the 215.

A drenching, daylong rain turned our backyard into swampland, and chilly temperatures imparted a nasty rawness that made outdoor activity a dreadful prospect. Schools, it was announced, would be closed for another two weeks — and, my goodness, of course it’s going to be longer than that. The governor put the entire region under a stay-at-home order — no going out unless it’s life-sustainingly necessary.

You really can’t get much more Monday than that.

But there was also a moment that helped reframe things.

This afternoon, I was attending a Zoom meeting in our home office. Out of my peripheral vision, I saw one of the cats slip inside the ajar doorway, and my interior voice said, “Goddammit.”

Oh, have I not mentioned that both of the cats’ litter boxes sit less than 10 feet from where I was perched, laptop open in front of me, WITH VIDEO ENABLED?

I shot a glance at the “You” thumbnail on my screen and breathed a discreet sigh of relief when I saw that nothing below my shoulders was visible in the frame. Still — when you’re trying to be professional in these most business casual of times, hearing the telltale scritch scritch scritch of paws against plastic makes you feel a couple rungs below the guy whose toddler and infant bounded into the room, on camera, as he was delivering punditry on live television.

All the same, I couldn’t help but laugh to myself. Life goes on, and we all need to take care of the most urgent of matters, whether we have two legs or four.

We’re all doing our best, all making it up as we go. And, come on, if Sawyer or Shadow were teleconferencing in my bathroom, I wouldn’t let that stop me if nature called. | DL

COVID-19 No. 6: You Mean We Have to Create Another New Structure?

HAVING SPENT THE BETTER PART of a workweek building a new daily structure to adhere to — all the more fun while onboarding at a new job — I’m now faced, as most of us are, with figuring out what Saturdays and Sundays are going to look like for the foreseeable future.

No trips to the dry cleaner.

No hanging out in coffee shops.

No browsing through bookstores.

No dinners out with friends.

No walking through the mall.

No ballgames to watch.

No Sunday-night visits to a favorite watering hole to conclude the weekend with a great friend, good beer, and the world’s best wings.

Hell, I probably won’t even be going to the supermarket for a couple of weeks. We stocked up a couple of weekends ago in anticipation of being housebound for a while.

As if we weren’t all making it up as we go along anyway, our viral lockdown has layered a whole new swath of What do we do now? onto our lives.

For me, I’m guessing that Saturdays and Sundays will include more reading and writing, more walking, more board games, more phone calls and texting sessions, more online shopping, more hanging out on the deck (thank goodness warmer weather is nearly here), more Wii and Xbox, more movies, more catches and soccer in the backyard. A lot of museums are opening up their digital collections to greater access, so I’ll probably check them out. And I have all kinds of work stuff I need to start learning.

How about you? What are you up to this weekend? | DL

Running to Stand Still, or Why I Thrilled to Be Outside in 20-Degree Weather This Morning

NEVER IN MY LIFE did I imagine that I would ever turn into one of those people who get antsy when they haven’t run for a few days.

But last winter, not long into the new year, recognizing that my sloth wasn’t doing me any favors, I downloaded a couch-to-5K app and began training. A back injury a few years prior had forced me to give up running, but time and a few well-placed spinal injections of steroids had me feeling better. It was time to try again.

I followed the couch-to-5K program rigorously, and two months after starting, I was running three miles. Over the spring and summer and autumn and into the current winter, I tried to get out every other day; I haven’t gotten there yet, but it’s been frequent enough for me to enjoy the benefits.

Up until yesterday, 2018 was brutally, dangerously cold in Greater Philadelphia (as you may have heard). I ran New Year’s Eve and then had to skip nine straight days.

And I found myself — yep — one of those people who get antsy when they haven’t run for a few days.

Finally, this morning, came enough warmth — well, more like “warmth”; it was about 20 when I got up — to lace ’em up and hit the road. It was glorious. My legs felt fine and my wind was great. It wasn’t until I got home that I noticed a hint of achiness in my quads, the result, I suspect, of nine days of inactivity.

They’re still a touch sore, six hours later. But it’s a soreness that hurts so good. | DL

H-2-Uh-Oh, or How a Water Situation Got Me Thinking About Others

YESTERDAY MORNING, with temperatures in the single digits (which I hate), we woke up to diminished water pressure from every faucet. The water was coming out at about 60 percents, so the kitchen sink, bathroom facilities, and showers were still usable. But that’s the kind of thing you don’t mess around with. After I checked the basement pipes to make sure nothing was wrong there, I called a plumber and made an appointment.

Soon enough, the neighborhood social media chain was telling us that the problem wasn’t ours alone. A broken water main had either reduced pressure at or completely cut off service to about a thousand homes. One of our neighbors reported nothing more than a trickle dripping from her faucets.

We would literally die without water, yet we take for granted that we can have as much as we want simply by turning a handle. Our minor inconvenience got me thinking about those around the world for whom water — and food and electricity and shelter and other essentials — requires daily attention.

Fully three months after Hurricane Maria blasted Puerto Rico, parts of the island were still without power and clean drinking water. This is no far-flung, how-do-you-spell-that? country, but a United States territory less than a thousand miles off Florida’s coast. These are Americans, and they remain mired in terrible conditions, and we have just stopped caring.

Yesterday morning I had to stand for a little while longer under the shower head to rinse the shampoo out of my hair. For some of my fellow Americans that wouldn’t have been a pain in the ass but a dream come true. | DL

The Winter of Our Malcontent, or Why Spring Needs to Hurry the Hell Up and Get Here

WELL, THAT happened fast, didn’t it?

Winter, I mean. One week we were sailing along with late-autumn temperatures in the 50s and 60s, and then, almost as soon as the solstice happened, we found ourselves plagued by single-digit lows and highs that looked up at the freezing mark with envy. On top of that, we had four measurable snowfalls in December. New Englanders may shrug at that frequency, but for us mid-Atlantic types, it was an unexpectedly early time to keep our eyes on Twitter to find out if our kids’ schools were closed.

No 30s and 40s to ease us in. No solitary dusting to remind us that more serious stuff was on the way.

I can take — even prefer — cold, wintry weather through the holidays. Things feel terribly off when Christmastime is too warm.

Now that we’re into the New Year, though, I’d sure love for Mother Nature to cut us some slack. If she’s trying to teach a much-needed lesson to the climate-change deniers, I can understand, but that’s like when the teacher would punish the whole class because one kid was acting like a blockhead.

So maybe, Ma N., maybe give us cold instead of frigid? Give us weather that braces us instead of hurts us?

And if you want to bring the 60s and 70s back a few months early, I’d be okay with that, too. | DL