Wednesday, September 23 2020

covid fights, bug hunts, and giant potato pancakes

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Dear Journal,

Good morning, everyone. Happy Wednesday. Here's to fresh coffee, quiet mornings, and weeks that move more quickly than you were expecting. Even though I've been on call all week, my phone hasn't made as much as a peep since Monday morning, and I'm hoping that by pointing that out I didn't just jinx myself.

I had a good work day yesterday. It was a satisfying combination of variety and deep focus. In the morning while I was sorting out my calendar, I got a slack message in a private chat.

"So did we pick a place for today?" it read. Last week, we had planned on meeting somewhere for lunch. We were going to pick some place far away from the downtown covid hotspot. Some place with spacious outdoor seating and a reputation for caution. But a real lunch, with real people, outside - what a treat!

I waltzed into the dining room for a coffee refill, passing Marissa, who was working on her computer at the table.

"So apparently that lunch we talked about last week is today, I must have forgotten about it," I said.

"Lunch?" she replied. "Oh, was that for real? I thought you guys were just kind of floating the idea around still."

"Well, we did say sometime next week," I said taking a sip of coffee. "And it's sometime next week now."

"Oh geez hon," said Marissa. "I don't know how comfortable I feel about it. I've been reading some articles, and they're saying that people should stay away from downtown."

"Yeah I know," I replied curtly. "That's why we picked a place that wasn't downtown. It's at least like four blocks away."

"What?" replied Marissa. "That's still downtown."

"Says who? What article are you reading?" I said, taking a seat beside her.

Things got a little heated. Marissa tried to back up her growing anxiety with online articles, and completely ignoring her underlying anxiety, I pedantically poked holes in her sources. "That's click bait," I snipped. "It's not like those are peer reviewed. They're trying to make people scared, so they get clicks, and they get more money..."

"I think we just need to cool off," said Marissa. We sat at the table in silence.

"Look, I'm sorry for passing judgment for being worried. That couldn't have felt good," I said. "Can I take another stab at explaining myself?"

Marissa nodded.

"Things are bad. The college reopened and the case count is out of control. Downtown should be avoided."

Marissa nodded again, refilling her coffee mug.

"But that was just as true last week too, when we set this up and I ran it by you," I continued.

"I guess I'm more worried about it now that it's here," shared Marissa. "Restaurants make me nervous. I don't like thinking about a waiter going from table to table. Even if you are at a safe distance, it still worried me."

Marissa tiredly rubbed her eyes and slid her computer aside. "I'm just so tired of feeling uncertain about everything. Even the CDC has been really shifty lately. They keep redacting things and changing the wording, and it makes me think Trump is pressuring them to... make things sound better than they are. And meanwhile, Wisconsin is getting worse."

"Sorry I got defensive," I said. "I just got a little anxious about cancelling plans, and I felt like I was being coerced into making it sound like we learned something new over the weekend that changed our mind."

"No, that's fair," said Marissa. "I admit it. The only thing that's changed is how comfortable I am with it. Sorry to put you in a tough spot."

"Nah, that's OK. People have been really understanding because we have a baby." I said, getting up from the table. I gave Marissa a peck on the forehead. "One of the better COVID fights we've had, huh?"

"Sorry fellas," I wrote in slack. "Have to cancel today. Just not feeling less comfortable about it now that it's here."

My teammates, as always, were relentlessly understanding. How silly of me to be afraid of the backlash from calling off a lunch date.

After finishing out the work day, my phone chirped with a calendar notification for "Science Class".

"Dude, are you ready for science class?" I asked Rodney, inviting him out of his room. "We're going to do something really fun today."

Leaving Marissa at home to cook dinner, Rodney, Miles, and I went for a bug hunt. We stuffed a few ziploc bags in Rodney's backpack and made our way down the sidewalk.

"Here's how it's going to work, dude," I said. "Keep your eyes peeled. We're going to bag up some bugs we find, then when we get home, we'll see if we can find them on the computer."

"Yes. Great," said Rodney eagerly. "Dada, my eyes are peeled."

We continued walking. Rodney added his own rules.

"Dada," he said. "When you see a caterpillar, I want you to yell CATERPILLAR. Try it now."

"CATERPILLAR!" I yelled.

The bug hunt got off to a great start. Only a few houses from ours, I spotted a lone bright red ladybug resting on a leaf. We collected the sample and continued on our way, Rodney chatting up neighbors as we passed. "HI," he yelled. "I FOUND A BUG. THIS IS DADA AND THIS IS BABY MILES." He was met with confused waves and amused smiles.

Me made our way to the end of the street, where there is a creek that passes under Milwaukee street. Kneeling beside the tall reeds, we nearly captured two different grasshoppers, but they leapt away to freedom.

We also found a beautiful daddy long leg spider. I began to collect it into the bag, but seeing a hundred baby spiders gathered underneath it, I paused.

"Look dude," I said. "This daddy long leg is a mommy. It's got babies."

"Awwww, cute little normal spiders," said Rodney.

"Wait, normal spider?" I asked.

"Yeah," nodded Rodney. "A normal spider."

Normal spider. As opposed to Miles Spider and Peter Parker Spider from Rodney's favorite Spider-Man movie. "Oh I get it," I chuckled. "Let's leave this normal spider alone, since she has babies to take care of." Just before turning around to head home, we scooped up a plain old Box Elder bug. Those are easy to catch. In our backyard, they're practically falling out of the trees.

When we arrived home, Marissa was plating up dinner - a giant potato and egg pancake that filled the circumference of our largest pan.

"You should have seen what I had to do to flip it," she giggled. "I used our big party platter, and I had to slam it on the table. The dogs were really scared."

At the table, while cutting into a giant and delicious potato pancake, we regaled Marissa with stories of our bug hunt by the creek. "And we saw a normal Spider," said Rodney out of turn. "With little tiny normal spiders."

After putting Rodney to bed, we caught up on chores, then watched some more of the Dark Knight. Climbing into bed, Marissa and I talked about our "covid fight" from earlier.

"Sorry about that again," I said. "I could have been way more empathetic about that, instead of just attacking your sources."

"It's OK," said Marissa. "My anxiety has been really bad about it. I think I need to stop reading things anyway. How have you been feeling."

"Great actually," I replied. "I'm at this really weird place where I don't even remember all the things we're missing out on. Like what is it even like to order food at a restaurant, get on a plane, or walk around in the mall? Shake someone's hand?"

"Or just sit at a Chipotle." said Marissa.

"And since I don't remember these things, when this is over, it's like we'll be experiencing it for the first time. I feel like the list of things that will give me an overwhelming sense of wonder keeps growing the longer we stay in quarantine."

I hope that thought encourages you. There will come a time where we'll be able to come out of our houses again and resume regularly scheduled life, and all the little things we used to take for granted will be so new and exciting. Keep hope, and have a wonderful Wednesday, everyone.