It’s been one of those weeks — the kind that makes you think your head’s going to explode.
For a start, Rich and I were enmeshed in a ghastly tangle with our Spanish bank involving a new pin number they’d sent out of the blue, texting it to our Seville phone number — which isn’t operational. No pin, no online banking. Not good. Multiple emails and phone conversations later, the bank grudgingly texted a new pin to our US phone. It didn’t work. Over Skype, the woman at the bank explained protocol now required sending the next pin by snail mail to our Seville apartment. At this point, the screen went dark and silent.
“We’ve been cut off,” I said.
Rich and I then proceeded to vent our feelings about the bank and its pin protocols, expressing ourselves with a good deal vigor for about five heated minutes. When we finally began to wind down, we heard the woman at the bank say brightly (in Spanish), “So, is there anything else I can help you with today?”
Ooops! Apparently we were still on the line with her. Abashed, I mumbled “No, gracias,” and hung up.
Then came good news from the county: my age group (65+) was now eligible for the Covid vaccine.
In the stampede for appointments, every time I logged on, it was already too late to get on the list with my provider, the county health department, or a pharmacy. Rich, determined to find an open time slot, took it on as a personal vendetta.
Meanwhile, a friend in Seville retrieved the bank’s letter and emailed us the new pin. Surprise! That didn’t work either.
“It’s like one of those ransom movies,” I said. “Where the kidnappers make the guy with the money race to a phone booth only to be sent on to another and yet another.”
“Yeah, except this time, they’re holding the money hostage.”
I realized we needed something to take our minds off all the bother and frustration.
“Date night on Saturday?” I said.
Date nights have become one of our key pandemic strategies. We rely on them to break up the routine and refresh our minds, hearts, and spirits. If you’ve never done a date night at home, it’s really quite simple: all you need is food and some form of entertainment that sparks a conversation that isn’t about the pandemic, politics, or Spanish banking. It helps to find a fresh location to eat; we often use a folding table, the coffee table, even the floor in places like the living room or foyer. The point is to make the night feel different from the hundreds that have gone before. If it feels different, so do you.
Saturday was pub night. The food was the sort of casual stuff you’d nibble in a bar: smoked salmon, bread sticks wrapped in prosciutto, goat cheese with rosemary, olives, artichoke hearts, and of course, wine. (Yes, I was inspired by Carlotta’s aperitivo in last week’s post.) I’d sprung for some high-end shrimp too, but when I opened the fridge, worrying smells emanated from the deli drawer. Recalling with a shudder the time Rich ate dubious shellfish in Mexico (you do not want to know the details), I wasted no time in flinging the shrimp into the outside trash bin.
No matter, we had plenty to munch on. I arranged the food on "the bar," a big wooden cutting board set in the pass-through between the kitchen and dining area, then dragged over a couple of tall stools. To set the mood, I played a YouTube video of a pub with music and background chatter. I turned down the lights, added candles, and suddenly this everyday space was transformed into a cozy, intimate tavern.
Once everything was in place, I went upstairs to collect Rich. For both of us, one of the most delightful parts of date night is the anticipation. When it’s Rich’s turn to arrange things, I sit upstairs listening to the bustle below, sniffing whatever delectable scents are wafting out of the kitchen, trying to guess what he’s got planned. I’ve written about some of these evenings: 1950s sci fi (The Virus That Saved Humanity), dive bars (Bar Hopping, Quarantine-Style), and winter wonderland (Relax: Nobody's Cancelling the Holidays). Others include a drive-in movie (on the couch), picnics (indoors and out), sunbathing (hot lights and beach towels), and themed film nights (Hitchcock classics).
Scrolling for ideas, I’ve read plenty of articles about date nights written by people who have obviously never experienced one. “Read your favorite novel aloud” to your partner? That would take an average of eight to thirteen hours. Are we supposed to stay up till dawn? “Tackle a DIY project like painting a room together.” Yes, that wouldn’t be at all stressful at the end of a tense week. The most bonehead idea I heard (and I am not making this up) was “Clean out your closets.” Seriously? Clean out your closets as a way to reconnect with your soul mate? If Rich ever suggested that one, we’d be spending our next date night having a Zoom conference with a marriage counselor.
And then there’s “Just talk.” As you may have guessed, Rich and I are both champion chatterers, but after approximately a billion hours of one-on-one this year, even we need some fresh material. Sources such as 36 Questions: How to Fall in Love or 350 Good Questions to Ask have sparked hours of stimulating discussion. Here’s a sampling:
For many of us, the answer to that last one would be the video of the lawyer whose Zoom filter made him appear to be a talking cat.
How did this happen? According to a 12-year-old in a YouTube video (and I think we can all agree that’s as expert as you get), you simply install Snap Camera and choose a filter, showing up for online dates as a cat, a pirate, or a talking potato with a halo of hearts.
For now, I’m keeping my dates real and low tech. And Saturday night certainly needed no enhancing; we were celebrating Rich’s triumph in securing my first vaccine appointment. One of the lesser pharmacy chains had such a convoluted sign-up form that anyone with any sense soon abandoned hope and went elsewhere. But to Rich, a hardened veteran of the Spanish banking system, it was child’s play. I’ll be getting my inoculation this week, most likely just about the time you read this. Hallelujah! It’s almost enough to give me hope of someday getting back into our Spanish bank account.
Have you ever done an at-home date night? What else is helping you stay sane in these crazy times? Let me know in the comments below.
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This post is part of my ongoing series of articles on surviving the pandemic, if possible with some of our sanity and sense of humor intact. Each week I provide tips, strategies, and reasons for hope.
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I'm an American travel writer based in Seville, Spain and currently visiting my home state of California.
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