Tom Clyde: These days, even cleaning out the Roomba counts as excitement
If everything goes according to plan, we have another month of this stay-at-home-and-hide-from-the-virus to deal with. I’m not sure what happens on May 1, assuming the order is lifted as scheduled and we are set free to go out and share our germs again. Do we all have parties on a Great Gatsby scale, and eat three meals a day at restaurants we’ve been missing? Or will we stick a toe in the water to see how it feels and gradually re-enter the world, maybe with a barbecue with family, then maybe go out for lunch, or in an act of real bravery, show up at the office? My guess is “normal” doesn’t return anywhere near as fast as it vanished.
Social distancing isn’t all that unusual at my house. The nearest neighbors are a quarter-mile away, and they aren’t here very often. Going a few days without seeing anybody is kind of normal. But somehow this seems abnormal, partly because I’m not going into town except for the occasional grocery run. Home Depot is distant memory, though this time of year, when I’m gearing up for the summer on the ranch, it would be typical to be there several times a week.
I knew I was in trouble when the most exciting event of the whole week was emptying the Roomba and combing the dog hair out of the brushes. At times like this, it doesn’t get any better than that.
For a while, my brother was having problems with the heating system in his house. It’s a vacation home, and he gets alerts on his phone that the heat is off. So he’d call me, and I’d go over there and reboot the system. It would run for a couple of days and then quit. One day, the weather was bad enough I decided to drive over. It had been so long since I had started the car that the battery was nearly dead.
But he got the heat fixed, and that social outlet is gone.
There was a trip to the hardware store. The drive chain in the snow blower broke, and I needed a new connector link. Of course the only reason it broke was that I was bored and was clearing snow from places that hadn’t been cleared all winter. The snow blower choked on frozen horse poop buried in the snow. Anyway, the trip to the hardware store was a great adventure. Actual commerce. It was the first $4.65 I’d spent in about 10 days. I’d forgotten how it worked. There is still life going on out there, though things seemed pretty slow.
When this all started, I went on a house cleaning binge. This place has never been so clean and organized. I vacuumed under furniture that hasn’t been moved in longer than I want to admit in print. Then, after a couple of weeks of being home, actually cooking, things began to decline. The mud around here is about knee-deep, and every walk with the dogs results in a change of clothes (and another Roomba cycle). The laundry is piling up, both clean and dirty. In the space of a couple of weeks, the house has gone from that Martha Stewart shine to an episode of “Hoarders.” So I guess I’ve been flattening that curve.
The dogs seem to think that the only reason I’m home is to play with them. They want constant attention. The marmots came out of hibernation this week, and you’d think that a herd of marmots in the yard would provide all the entertainment the dogs would need. But that’s not enough. The Aussie shepherd isn’t happy unless his nose is touching me. The Lab thinks he needs to be fed every couple of hours. A little more social distance from them would be OK.
The abruptness of all of this is something most of us have never experienced. Hundreds of people in our community had perfectly reliable jobs and income one day, and were without the next. The impact is huge. The new legislation that is supposed to backstop some of that will start working pretty quickly, but meaningful replacement of a paycheck that isn’t otherwise coming will take a couple of weeks. We’re all supposed to get a check for $1,200 from the feds. That, too, will be a while in coming. For a whole lot of people in our community, it’s really unneeded. And for another big chunk of the community, it’s the difference between buying food and diapers or not.
If that money is essential to your household, great. Spend it quickly and locally. That’s what’s it’s supposed to accomplish. But if it doesn’t really make much difference in your household situation, pass it on to people who are in dire straits. The Christian Center of Park City and the Park City Community Foundation are at ground zero for people in free-fall. They need it more than me. Give what you can.
Tom Clyde practiced law in Park City for many years. He lives on a working ranch in Woodland and has been writing this column since 1986.
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“Our community is fluid,” columnist Teri Orr writes. “Yet our actions are increasing rigid … and honestly — tired and stuck and unimaginative and nowhere near … .”