I don’t like to brag, but I can’t resist sharing my good news: I am now the proud owner of four surgical masks and six of those cool blue nitrile gloves — all brand new and never worn or washed! I know, thrilling, right? I’ve been sanitizing and patching our old latex gloves for weeks and was down to my very last one, plus a few flimsy, floppy produce gloves Rich brought home from a grocery run.
You can imagine how delighted I was when Rich arrived home bearing his treasures.
“I could have gotten more,” he said, as he emptied his pockets in our Decontamination Zone (formerly known as the front hall). “But it just seemed wrong to take anything beyond what we absolutely need.”
We’ve all read about supply shortages forcing doctors, nurses, and other frontline workers to fashion substitute face shields from random materials like plastic report covers; some healthcare workers, including those in LA County, have been instructed to reuse surgical masks.
Back in the 1990s, when Rich and I were doing volunteer work in the former Soviet republic of Georgia, I was shocked to discover doctors washing out surgical gloves to use over and over again.
I’m even more shocked to find myself doing the same thing now.
Desperate situations require ingenious solutions. At I write this, people all over the world are devising their own unique protection measures, using simple household items, a spirit of resourcefulness, and often, more flair than common sense.
These makeshift masks offer yet more proof, as if any were needed, that we humans are the Earth’s most adaptable species. Five million years ago we were clustered on the savannas of Africa and today we inhabit every climate and terrain on Earth, with six of us living in outer space. Three of those astronauts —Andrew Morgan, Jessica Meir, and Oleg Skripochka — return to Earth tomorrow after 90 days on the International Space Station. I wonder if anyone has told them what’s been going on down here. Do they know they’re going to be stepping out of their spacecraft to discover a shockingly different planet than the one they left? No doubt the debriefing will start with, “The good news is that after 90 days you get to leave the space station's cramped quarters and social isolation …”
One positive effect of the pandemic is that it’s reminding us just how much we owe to science. Remember polio? Smallpox? When was the last time you heard of anybody getting rubella or whooping cough, let alone bubonic plague? Like the astronauts, we rely on scientists to keep us as safe as possible in this hazardous universe. We follow their guidelines for avoiding contagion and reassure one another that it’s just a matter of time before researchers develop a vaccine for COVID-19.
Unfortunately, in recent decades dark money has been funding a campaign to undermine our confidence in science and encourage us to ignore concrete data about problems even more worrying than this pandemic, starting with climate change. Right now the world is applauding our heroic researchers, doctors, nurses, and technicians. I’m hoping we continue to give them the same respect and support in the future when the pandemic is finally under control and we’re dealing with the next global catastrophe.
Science and technology have transformed our lives, especially in the last century. Where would we be without cell phones, antibiotics, or airplanes, to name but a few? And then there’s the really important stuff, like movie wizardry, online games, and social media. Without connectivity, we might never know about extraordinary feats of engineering like this.
Brilliant! As for the following photo, I’m not sure the person who took it was an actual scientist, but the shot would have been impossible if French astronomer Pierre-Jules-César Janssen hadn’t discovered helium back in 1868.
One of the technological advances we’ve all come to know recently is Zoom, the nine-year-old video conferencing service which has skyrocketed in popularity; since March 2 installations of the app have jumped 728% and stock is now valued at $1 billion. Not only do we all now speak of “Zooming” with our family and friends, some of us (and you know who you are) are “Zumping” — that is, dumping their lovers via Zoom. More sinister uses include “Zoombombing” — that is, crashing a Zoom call to cause disruption or chaos, often to spread messages of racism and xenophobia in educational, religious, or business settings. Zoom has overhauled encryption to tighten security with passwords and admission protocols. Still, I suspect some of those who have Zumped in haste may now be claiming it was all a big Zoombombing mistake in hopes of smoothing things over. If anybody uses that excuse with you, they have a lot of 'splaining to do.
If you’re innocently Zooming (or using other video conferencing systems) with friends and family, you may want to take the focus off the pandemic with themed, costumed Festiv(ir)us gatherings or online talent shows known as Coronapaloozas. Or if you’ve been baking lately, you might try creating a cake that looks like something else (here’s a starter how-to video) then astound your fellow Zoomers by casually cutting into it during a session.
Humans are a very clever species. We never cease developing new skills and inner resources in response to evolving circumstances. Our ancestors survived for millions of years, outliving all sorts of other bright primates, largely because of an astonishing ability to adapt to change. As Dr. Rick Potts, who runs the Human Origins Program at the Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC., explains, “Going from upright walking, the first tools, changes in our body, the invention of fire, the increase in brain size and then the invention of specialized tools and ultimately the ability to take a story of something you saw outside and bring it inside a cave and paint it — all of these things represent a ratcheting up of adaptability in our lineage.”
That’s why I’m confident that we can adapt to life in lockdown, even as it keeps getting extended. Astronauts, explorers like Earnest Shackleton, aviator Amelia Earhart, navigators such as Columbus and Magellan, and countless others learned that cramped quarters and social isolation can be endured for a long time in a good cause. And there’s no better cause than saving human lives. Just ask any of these heroes.
Stay strong, stay considerate, and above all, stay home, my friends! And let me know how you are holding on to your sanity, entertaining yourself, and adapting to the new lifestyle of our global village.
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I had to do a very quick errand the other day. I hadn't left the house in a month (other than a couple brief walks in the park across the street). I knew I'd be around people and should wear a mask. Problem being...masks are like unicorns. So I thought, Hey, I'll make one!
4/17/2020 07:51:48 am
Shéa, your story is a perfect example of how ingenious we humans can be when driven by necessity. I'm sure you looked very exciting in your bandito mask. That look is very popular around here, and Rich keeps saying this ought to be the perfect time to rob a bank, because nobody could give a description beyond "He was wearing a mask..." I keep pointing out the getaway problem with virtually no cars or people on the street. Apparently local criminals have figured this out as well; crime has never been lower here. Hope you like the new masks you've ordered. The medical ones have a very thin metal strip you bend over your nose to avoid steaming up the glasses. If your new ones don't have that, you might be able to add that yourself. Worth a try!
4/17/2020 07:24:54 am
Life's routines continue in rural Greece. . .I've often written that we wanted to 'live differently' when we embarked on this expat life. . .I guess everyone in the world is now getting a chance to 'live differently'. From the FB posts I read and emails I receive I realize that some are cut out for the adventure and others are not at all . . .hang in there!
4/17/2020 08:01:58 am
Jackie, I have no doubt you are embracing this global crisis in a full-on adventurous spirit. You and I are explorers and observers, and this situation certainly gives us plenty of scope. I loved your recent post "Ringing in Easter — The Sounds of Silence." It perfectly captured the eerie silence of streets that would normally be pure bedlam and are now empty due to the pandemic. And you are so right about the impact of the strict quarantine. Look at the numbers you quoted: Greece: population about 11 million. COVID-19 cases: 2,170. Deaths: 101. Washington State: population 7.5 million COVID-19 cases: 11,154. Deaths: 544. It's no fun being on real lockdown, but it's a lot better than the alternative! Keep up the good work, Jackie.
4/17/2020 11:03:34 pm
"Solutions" is my word going forward. I wrote it in an email just before I read yours and today I heard it from a young musician.
4/18/2020 08:51:59 am
Kitty, I love the image of you running around town in Burning Man goggles with rose colored lenses. Send me a photo if you can! I think that Coronavirus Chic will become a new fashion category. One thing to try re: steamy glasses from a surgical mask is to find the little metal strip on one edge of your mask and pinch it around your nose. I didn't even know my mask had a metal strip until someone clued me in. Helps a lot. But even so, I hope you don't stop wearing the Rose Colored Goggles; style counts, even in a pandemic!
4/18/2020 09:50:53 pm
Karen, i love my nitrile gloves, too. I ordered more from Amazon, along with masks, and, of course, it is taking forever for shipment to arrive. Glad I ordered early so I would not run short, hopefully!
4/20/2020 03:31:16 pm
You're so lucky to have those N95 masks! And isn't it amazing how important protective gear has become? Rich wears an old sanding mask bought for a long-ago home improvement project. It languished in a back closet among the paint cans for years and now it's one of his most valued possessions. As you say, Faye, the key is finding ways to protect ourselves, especially when supplies run short. Somehow we all have to adapt to our new world and figure out how to stay safe and feel as comfortable as possible interacting with the world. Sounds like you're doing it right!
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TO I'm an American travel writer based in Seville, Spain.
Wanderlust has taken me to more than 60 countries. Every week I provide travel tips and adventure stories to inspire your journeys and let you have more fun — and better food — on the road
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