COVID-19

To Mask or Not to Mask

Greetings all from the Wild West, a lawless frontier where you can take your own life in your hands by walking into your local saloon or general store. 

Every day, I meet perfect strangers on the street. Our eyes squint as our hands hover near our waist, waiting for the other to flinch before we pull out our instrument of death.

I like in California. The weapon at my waist is the mask in my pocket.

It sounds like we’re behind the curve when it comes to the reopening. But in many ways that makes it worse. 

In California, we like to “follow the science” whenever the science agrees with our preconceived notions. For instance, the science said that masks helped prevent the spread of disease, so we wore masks inside. Science also told us that the virus doesn’t spread outdoors, so we closed the beaches and parks. Oh, and the outdoor dining, which forced everyone indoors where they were more likely to catch said virus. See? SCIENCE!

Well, the science told us about three months ago that vaccinated people are safe. One might even call them “vaccinated.” But because there was no way to know who was vaccinated or not, and because our Herr Kommandant Governor REALLY likes his emergency powers, we decided it was best to make everyone wear masks. For, I guess, solidarity with the people who don’t give a shit about the virus.

Our Herr Kommandant graciously gave us a random date back in early April at which point COVID would be over and the masks could come off. Because SCIENCE! And when the CDC made the same ruling a month or so before Herr Kommandant’s random dart-throw of a date, well, we better not listen to those crazy health officials. June 15 was the date he picked out of his ass and June 15 was the date we could take our masks off. Not a moment before! SCIENCE!

I’m pretty sure dude would’ve extended the date even further if he wasn’t already facing a recall. In the weeks leading up to his Magic Day, we heard scarce information from the government. The only thing that stopped his reneging and moving the goalposts for the seventy-fifth time in the past year, is that fact that minor establishments like Disneyland and the five major league baseball teams in California had taken him at his word and started selling tickets for full-capacity after June 15. And if I was a voter who was leaning toward voting no on Newsom’s recall, but then Disneyland called me up to tell me that my June 16 ticket was no longer valid, I might be changing my vote. Psychology is SCIENCE, right?

Herr Kommandant did say that, although he was begrudgingly sticking by his earlier promise about June 15, he was at the very least going to hold onto his emergency power until, I shit you not, the virus is eradicated. Eradicated as in completely extinct. As in, no new cases, presumably in California but possibly the world. You know, just like all those other viruses we’ve completely removed from the human condition. Like… um… hold on a second….

When June 15 arrived, we were given very little guidance as to how to proceed. Employees, we were told, still had to wear masks. Something about Herr Kommandant couldn’t control Cal-OSHA, he could only make suggestions. Except when he was implementing the stay-at-home order in the first place. Somehow his emergency powers only allow him to make things more restrictive, not less restrictive. He can make new laws but not do away with old ones? Even if they were implemented via emergency powers in the first place? Sounds like some shitty emergency powers. I assume he keeps his primae noctis rights.

So most of the places I’ve frequented the last week, the employees are still masked up. The customers have been a crapshoot. It’s about what you’d expect. Nobody in line at the donut shop wore a mask. Maybe they’re not buying donuts for their health? At the Whole Foods, everyone still wore them. The comic book store was an anomaly, with almost all the customers wearing masks but a few maskless employees. The customers are adults buying comics, so probably aren’t the best with change, but they’re probably conspiracy theorists who won’t rat out the employees to the government. 

Most of the places frequented by the masses, grocery stores and sandwich shops and the like, seem to be split right down the 50/50 range. It’s here where I go back and forth, where I find myself grabbing for the mask in my pocket out of courtesy to the other customer, even though I’ve already been there for five minutes or more. What makes the exchange even more awkward is that I’m relatively certain that masked person is vaccinated, as am I. So each of us are masking up to signal to the other person that we don’t need masks.

SCIENCE!

I know a few weeks ago I said I wouldn’t wear masks longer than I needed to. The unvaccinated aren’t masking up, why should I? Especially considering the masks are best at preventing my globules from getting out, not from stopping the globules already floating around in the air from coming into my mouth. They’re condoms, not diaphragms. Since I’m vaccinated, my globules are great (too bad I’m not still single, that would be a great pick-up line). There’ve been a ton of studies on if we’re acting as conduits from unvaccinated to unvaccinated and it turns out, in over 99% of scenarios, we are not.

So why am I now playing along with the mask wearing? I mean, aside from the fact that now that it’s voluntary, I can damned well do what I please? Part of it is the whole social contract thing. I know we are a dying bunch, but some of us still believe you shouldn’t be a dick to other people just for the sake of being a dick. So fine, other person in the store, if you’re still afraid of people not wearing masks, then I don’t mind a couple minutes of discomfort. I mean, y’all might want to get over that shit and look up on the research, because they’re really unnecessary if you’re vaccinated. When the school year starts up again and I have to wear a mask eight hours a day (in a high school where most of the students will be vaccinated, because SCIENCE!), those extra five minutes of face freedom are mine, not yours!

And if you’re not vaccinated, then fuck you. The social contract means nothing to you. You’re not smarter than the rest of us, you’re just a dick. Quit saying government regulations ruin everything then whine that the government didn’t regulate the vaccine enough. Isn’t it the anti-vaxxers who usually say to trust the free market? Well guess what, Pfizer and Moderna are private companies. Let the free market work its magic.  Although I’ve been vaccinated for close to three months now and I STILL don’t have 5G coverage.

The main reason I’m still carrying a mask with me is because I have a 7-year old daughter. Whereas the douchebag Anti-Vaxxer at the Starbucks can lie and say he’s vaccinated, I don’t think I can pull that with her. And if I’m anxious to avoid being a dick in social settings, the top of that list would be making my 7-year-old wear a mask while I go maskless. 

I go back and forth on whether or not I should make her mask up. On the one hand, kids aren’t likely to catch it and, if they are, they aren’t likely to get symptoms. But at the same time, the law says unvaccinated people must wear masks. I’m not opposed to ignoring unjust laws, but I also don’t want to encourage a future teenager to ignore missives from authority figures. Sometimes it’s tough to be skeptical of authority but still a believe that most rules should be followed. I’m either lawful neutral or neutral good. Or maybe I’m just a dick. What alignment covers that?

We’re going to Disneyland in a few weeks. They still require masks for the unvaccinated, which should be fifty percent of their population. Again, do I want to spend a whole day reminding Daughter that she has to keep that mask tight while I’m off licking doorknobs? I don’t know if she’s comfortable calling bullshit yet, but if she chose that as her first usage, I wouldn’t fault her.

Don’t worry, I’ll blog post-Disney. I’m sure it’ll be enlightening.

So that’s where I’m now at. Do I mildly inconvenience myself to put others at ease or do I follow the SCIENCE! and force them to do the same? Do I model how my daughter should act or do I teach her “Different Rules for Different People”? 

To put it simple: To mask or not to mask, that is the question.

And dammit, where is my 5G coverage and check from Bill Gates?

Get Yer Shots, Numbnuts!

My family did something really weird last weekend

We baked some brownies and cookies, packed some drinks into a cooler, and went over to a friend’s house for a pot luck barbecue.

And then right as the wienies were roasted, the cervezas and margaritas flowing, all of a sudden….

Nothing happened. That’s it. End of story. Weird, right?

Did I mention we weren’t wearing masks?

Well, Daughter wore a mask, as did all of the other children. But the adults, all eight of whom are vaccinated, had nary a face covering in sight.

Or at least none doing their face covering bit. A couple of us had gaiters around our necks, just in case, because thirteen months is long enough to create habits. Even if the CDC kinda, sorta, maybe said it was a little bit okay, but not really? Because they can’t come right out and say that eight people, all of whom cannot catch a certain virus, might not still pass said virus amongst themselves.

For the last six months, every single message has been to go out and get vaccinated as quickly as possible so that we can… keep quarantining and masking? Bogus! I let Bill Gates chip me and I’m still on shitty-ass 4G.

I got my vaccine on the early side, considering I’m a teacher. When I got my first vaccine, I thought I was an outlier, but my purgatory of the only vaccinated amongst a sea of Typhoid Marys didn’t last long. They wanted me to post a selfie touting that I got jabbed, but considering so many people I knew were upset at the pace of shots and the amorphous criteria for who gets the vaccination, I didn’t want to post of “Ha ha, suckers! No COVID for me!”

After all, not everyone can get onto the French Laundry reservation list.

Fortunately, the wave of “put your name on a waiting list and wait for a call” was on the verge of becoming common knowledge. By the time I got my second shot, three weeks later because I’m a Pfizer (the 2021 version of asking someone their sign), most of the people I knew already had their first shot. The flood came fast and now we’ve already gotten to the point where the supply of the vaccines are outpacing the demand.

Which is why we’re still wearing masks, I guess?

At first I still wore masks because I was in the minority. Solidarity, yo!

But if we’re not to the point where a majority of Americans are vaccinated, we will be soon, so why the hell are we wearing masks outside? Or inside, for that matter?

Three vaccinated people with masks and one unvaccinated person without a mask walk into a bar. And… nothing. That’s the joke of a world we live in. 

Most of the data says we probably don’t need to be wearing them outside in the first place. The virus primarily transmits through water droplets, and the existence of wind and fresh air outside inhibit my globules from getting to you. But still, it’s comforting to see other people with masks, because it means they’re taking it seriously. Wearing them outside has always bordered on virtue signaling, so there’s little reason to take them off now, right? Except for maybe some ear fatigue.

Up to this point, it was to save the unvaccinated, as it was a total crapshoot on if you had access to the vaccine. But now we need to protect the unvaccinated because… they don’t give a shit?

And before I tailspin into some vitriol, let me get all my disclaimers and caveats out of the way. I know kids can’t get vaccinated. Trust me, I’m heading to school every day with the understanding that, even vaccinated, I can bring the virus home with me. And with every adult I know being vaccinated, the only one who’s likely to be hurt by my district’s decision is my daughter. Not the greatest feeling.

But kids seem to be safer from this particular virus. They can carry it from parent to teacher to other parent pretty easily, but they don’t get the symptoms themselves. At least until they’re 12 years old. But right now 16 is the cutoff for vaccines, so there’s a slew of 12 to 15 year olds who are in a precarious position. And considering I teach mostly sophomores, it makes it easier for me to keep my mask on during the school day, even if it sometimes feels like overkill. I’m supposed to be modeling “good citizen” for my students, but aren’t I also supposed to be modeling research and causal relationships? My district sent out a “reminder” that we need to wear our masks whenever we’re on campus, even if we’re outside. So great, in a school where we teach science and government, we want to model ignoring the CDC.

And fine, you want more caveats? I understand the variant problem. My student gives it to me, who is immune, I pass it to Daughter, who it doesn’t affect. She gives it to her teacher, who is immune, and said teacher gives it to another student with an unvaccinated parent. That’s five chances for the virus to mutate, five attempts the virus gets at figuring out how to end-run around the vaccine. Allegedly the South African variant is running roughshod through the Pfizer vaccine, which is the one I got. So that’s great.

Which I guess is why the CDC is telling us to keep wearing masks indoors, even if everyone in the room is vaccinated. They probably recommend using condoms after a vasectomy, too. But unlike the latter example, people are actually listening to the former.

Their new chart is odd for a number of reasons. It’s got two elements, a green, yellow, red coloring system to denote relative safety, as well as a yes/no component about wearing masks. But there’s an obvious lack of continuity between the two. A whole bunch of “safe” green also requires masks, whereas some “less safe” yellows don’t require one. 

If you’re vaccinated, everything is in the green. You’re safe. But still every single activity inside tells you to wear a mask. So when I and all the other vaccinated teachers in my department have lunch together, it’s considered “safe,” but we should wear a mask. In fact, it’s the exact same designation if it’s a mixture of vaccinated and unvaccinated.

Safe, but wear a mask. To protect those who don’t care about being protected.

I don’t mind wearing a mask. It’s become normal. Sure, wearing it for eight hours straight at school is tougher than when I was maxing out at a couple hours before. After four weeks, I’ve noticed the skin behind my ears is getting rashy and blistery. 

But fine, it’s modeling. It’s solidarity. There’s no way for the stranger I pass to know if I’m vaccinated or not. And they might be nervous.

But if they’re nervous, shouldn’t they, I don’t know, get vaccinated?

Honestly, it’s available to everyone above 16 now. Those who don’t have it are choosing that. Why in the greatest of fucks should I worry about them?

I had a student who came to school for a week, then opted to return to distance learning. His mother emailed me, his history teacher, to explain that she didn’t feel we were doing enough to inhibit the spread of the virus. They have an at-risk uncle in the house, she explained, and she’s worried about her son bringing the virus home to the uncle.

Sounds horrible. And if this email were hitting my desk in November, I’d be right there with y’all. But how is “at-risk” uncle still not vaccinated by the beginning of May?

So fine. Keep wearing the mask to remind people that they’re supposed to be wearing masks. Even if the only people we’re reminding are probably as anti-mask as they are anti-vax. 

I know it’s not realistic to only tell the vaccinated people people to take off their masks while the unvaccinated keep them on. How do I prove to the bartender that I’m vaccinated? Couldn’t the unvaccinated guy say the same thing (those vaccine cards don’t seem overly difficult to counterfeit), especially since he probably rolls his eyes at the idea of me getting a vaccine in the first place. He probably listens to Ted Nugent who somehow can simultaneously say it was the sickest he’s ever been and that it’s not real. 

Which is what’s pissing me off so much about this. Because if I’m not masked, I might carry the virus from one unvaccinated person to another unvaccinated person. I’m sorry, but how the hell is that my problem? Shouldn’t I be taking off my mask, increasing their risk so they might get off their ass and get the vaccine? Why are we protecting them from themselves? 

I don’t want to say I only vaccinated for selfish reasons, but about ninety percent of that reason was so I wouldn’t catch the virus nor spread it to friends and family. Flatten the curve, free up hospital beds. Societal responsibility, blah, blah, blah. I know what I’m supposed to say. But I got vaccinated for me and mine, not for you. 

But you know what would REALLY flatten the curve and free up hospital beds? If all of those Ted Nugent-listening fuckers got vaccinated. Or died. 

But instead they’re going to keep spouting off their conspiracy theories without facing the repercussions, because they all know that we’re looking out for them. Think of the irony we’ll face when you’re out on the street and all the vaccinated people are wearing masks and all the unvaccinated aren’t. Congrtu-fucking-lations!

Seriously, anti-vaxxers, let this serve as a public service announcement. You’re on borrowed time. It’s time to shit or get off the pot. Figure out what’s more important to you, being the last fucker on the Titanic or hedging your bets. Because the time of us conscientious people covering your lazy ass.

Y’all aren’t the only people tired of all the bullshit. We want to stop wearing masks, too. We want to go to bars and movie theaters and concerts. That’s why we got vaccinated. 

You like to complain about the snowflakes who won’t let shit open? Well guess what, snowflakes, you’re the ones preventing the openings now. And why, because the government, which you always whine about being slow and inefficient, approved the vaccines without ten years of testing? It’s comical how many people will whine about too many regulations and the government getting in the way of private business in one breath, then in the next opine that the government didn’t do enough to get in the way of Pfizer and Moderna and Johnson & Johnson.

And if you think it’ll rewrite your DNA, don’t worry. I’m the same fat schlub I was before and you’ll be the same YouTube-watching automaton afterward, too.

It’s almost like they’re just scared little snowflakes who don’t want a little jabby-jabby in their army-warmy.

Another COVID Cancellation

Some of my normal camping guys came up with a crazy idea last year, which was to go camping again.

Normally, this wouldn’t seem totally asinine, but in this, the International Year of the Covid, all bets are off.

The wrinkle to this particular camping trip was the date it was to take place. Late January. Snow camping! 

I’ve never done it before. Nor has the other guy who was gung ho about the idea. The third guy grew up on the western bank of the Sierra Nevadas, where it snows a bit but nothing major. It should be noted that the two other Camptathalon mainstays, who grew up in Idaho and Wisconsin, couldn’t say no fast enough. A wise man might note the discrepancies. But fuck it, I’m sure I can get gassy enough to keep that tent as humid as a summer’s eve.

We opted for Yosemite. For one thing, I don’t really know how many campsites are even open this time of year. Our usual haunts don’t open until six to eight weeks after the last snow. In the midwest, there’s snow everywhere, so you can pretty much camp anywhere. In California, to get to snow, you’ve got to go up to 4,000 feet elevation or so, and the roads to those spots are a wee bit pesky. But the roads to Yosemite are plowed regularly. Commerce, as Teddy Roosevelt intended. 

Our second reason for choosing Yosemite was that it’s about as far from “roughing it” as you can get while camping. They’ve got two well-stocked stores and a half-a-billion rangers per square mile. Shit, they’ve got 4G reception and an ice cream stand. Guessing we could get pizza delivered if necessary. Not exactly a spot I’d need to worry about getting lost in a blizzard and wandering off a cliff.

Speaking of which, the valley floor is only about 4,000 feet, so the Wisconsoner and Idahoan really didn’t need to whine about traveling uphill in the snow both directions. It wasn’t supposed to drop below the mid-twenties at any point during our visit. The high was scheduled to be above forty on Saturday.

But alas, my first sojourn into the camping where you don’t need to purchase ice each day did not happen. Neither rain nor sleet nor snow would shut Yosemite down. COVID, on the other hand…

Yep, Yosemite is closed to overnight reservations as part of California’s on-again, off-again flirtation with pretending we’re taking it seriously.

Because, you know, there’s no chance for us to socially distance when we’re camping in the fucking snow. Why, it’s got to be like Disneyland, right? I imagine thousands of people are all ass-to-elbow, because if we know one thing about Californians, it’s that they LOVE being out in the snow in the middle of the night.

To be sure, it’s ONLY the overnight stuff that’s closed in Yosemite. Visiting the park in the daytime is still totally legit. It’s only the campers who can’t be trusted to social distance. Is there some sort of midnight orgy I was unaware of? Maybe it’s a good thing they won’t let me in, as you never want to be the guy who shows up for the orgy wearing snow-camping gear.

When I first made the reservations, I already had to deal with a weird COVID restriction. They were only booking fifty-percent capacity. Fine. Whatever. Except either I didn’t read the fine print or it wasn’t clearly spelled out, because if I were to ask you how to ensure fifty-percent capacity in a campsite, how would you go about doing it? Close every other campsite, right? 

Nope! They booked the entire campground for a week, then went an entire week without accepting reservations. I guess so they could… sanitize the dirt. Besides, who wants to go to a half-filled orgy. 

Just remember this when you go into a restaurant that’s cordoned off every other table to allow for maximum spacing. Tell them they’re doing it wrong. It’s much better to go standing-room only on Tuesday and Thursday, while taking Wednesday off.

This missing week became an issue while reserving, because Yosemite releases an entire month’s worth of reservations at the exact same time. I wasn’t sure what the demand would be for winter camping, but in the summer, if you log in five minutes late, the entire month is taken. So at 7:00 am, I started refreshing like I was loading a pornographic picture back in the dial-up days. 

7:01, 7:02, and I’m still not seeing the dates in question available. I noticed that the previous weekend was available, but I thought maybe they were residuals from the previous month’s availability. At 7:04, I decided to see if the FOLLOWING weekend. The campsite was available. It’s at this point I realize their asinine definition of “fifty percent capacity.” Good news is by that time, there were still campsites available. Bad news was I had to drop down to our third choice.

As an aside, the weekend we originally wanted to go was this weekend, the one in between the AFC/NFC Championship games and the Super Bowl. What better time to go camping than when there are no sports? But Yosemite only made the weekends of major football games available for camping. Maybe this was to further depress demand. Make sure no casual fans come up for the non-socially-distanced camping that is somehow less safe than day visitors.

Too bad I’ll never find out. At least not until next year.

And really, I don’t know why, ten months into the pandemic, I should expect anything less than arbitrary rules that have as much effect on containing the spread of COVID as taking off our shoes prevents terrorism. Remember back when they said we’d have regular testing by the end of May? 

Back then, Hawaii told everybody to stay the fuck away on pain of execution. Now Hawaii’s begging people to come work remotely, but only if you’ve been tested in the past seven days. Unfortunately, desire to go to Hawaii isn’t one of the prerequisites for getting a test. Tests, like vaccines, can only be doled out piecemeal, to those deemed worthy of saving. You need to have licked the bunghole of somebody with all three strains of the virus who is currently in ICU. 

Or you can be friends with the Governor. I have a funny feeling that everybody who was at Herr Kommandant Newsom’s French Laundry soiree has already received their vaccine. And snow orgies.

Speaking of which, sorry if my forthcoming rants are a tad California-specific. But a) that’s where I live, and b) we are the poster child for FUBARing the whole COVID thing. If you live in a place that’s got its collective head out of its ass, then maybe this’ll only serve to make you feel fortunate.

It’s interesting how most of the media say we’re no longer following the rules because of “COVID Fatigue.” Instead, most of us are making constant judgement calls, weighing the trade-offs between having a life or being dead. There’s a sliding scale. Even if we all strictly followed the rules, we have to grocery shop at some point. And I don’t think that I’m out of line that camping in the snow, with the closest human being fifty feet away, is probably safer than going to the grocery store. I’m not being ignorant. I’m trying to follow the rules and guidelines that the government established.

Not that those rules and guidelines mean jack shit. We’re told to meet certain goalposts, then we’re told that, sorry, that’s not the goal we’ve been looking for. Or sometimes we DON’T meet that goal, and Herr Kommandant’s like, “Yeah, you know what? It’s cool. We didn’t really need those ICU beds anyway.”

Over the Christmas holiday, Canada set up space heaters at outdoor parks. The message was clear: You want to be able to see your family and friends, so please be safe about it. In the United States, we opted for the tried-and-true “You want to be able to see your family, so we will tsk-tsk and shame you and not help you do that safely. Abstinence only has worked so well over the decades in this country. Just ask the millions of Americans who had premarital sex or smoked pot.

The ironic thing is we simultaneously tell people to social distance while also banning them from it. I’m on the Board of Directors for my curling club, and we perused the sports rules for hours. They have all sorts of rules for how to do our sports. Limited capacity? We’ve accounted for that. Social distancing and masks? We’ve changed our rules to implement those. But then, at the tail end of the document, they give a list of which sports can operate in which tier. It’s like telling us how we’re supposed to shop safely, but then closing the stores anyway. 

In California, we’ve had at least three different classification systems over the past year. First it was a convoluted “phased reopening.” That was tied more to which companies could open, and as far as I could tell, it wasn’t tied to any sort of caseload count. It was basically “Starbucks can open its drive-thrus, and if the shit doesn’t hit the fan, they can sell a couple Bacon Goudas, but not the bagel store in the same parking lot because Starbucks contributes a lot of money to politicians and fuck you, small businesses.”

Then we went to the color-coded, county-by-county system. Some people whine that the colors make no sense, but I think they’re fine. Yellow, orange, red, purple. It’s pretty standard “danger” stuff. The problem I have is that they set the classifications such that everyone will always be in purple. 

If you have more than 7 positive cases per 100,000 residents, you’re in purple. Seven! Currently, 54 of the 58 counties are in purple, which kinda makes the whole “purple” designation pointless. Sacramento County was at 55, while San Francisco County is at 38, and Los Angeles County was at 150. 

The red tier is set at 4 to 7 per 100,000. Orange at 1 to 4. Again, Los Angeles County is currently at 150, which is the same as 10. But 4 and 7 are hugely different numbers that drastically change what can open.

It seems to me that 150 cases per 100,000 residents is substantially worse than 38 per 100,000. But according to the state, they’re EXACTLY the same. It would be like maxing out the Richter Scale at 4. Or the hurricane classification at 2. “Boy, I wonder how big that natural disaster was?” “Exactly the same as every other natural disaster.”

So again, if they’re going to make their classification for the purposes of scolding us, then we’re going to try to make sense of it ourselves. At one of my staff meetings, my principal was running through the numbers and, at 93 per 100,000, referred to us being in “Deep Purple.” He talked about what preparations we might make if we get into “light purple,” but it was too late. I was already humming, “Smoke on the Water.”

At my curling club, we’re talking about reassessing opening when we get down in the 20 per 100,000 range. Although truthfully, I don’t know if that’s a good or a bad number, because it’s all arbitrary. If there’s no difference between 20 and 150, then is there really a difference between 7 and 20?

Then again, the numbers I’ve been quoting aren’t the real numbers, they’re adjusted for the number of tests. I have no idea what that means, but earlier this week, the New York Times showed Sacramento County with a rate of 23 per 100,000, while the California website claimed Sacramento County was still at 42. That’s a pretty large discrepancy and, unfortunately, the New York Times ain’t the ones who get to put us into red. 

And don’t get me started on the ethnic breakdown of the positive cases.

Yes, the state that claims to “follow the science” says that they get to make up the numbers. Counties aren’t allowed out of purple tier unless all of the ethnicities in the county are catching COVID at the same rate. And before you get started, yes, I know that Blacks and Latinos are more likely to catch it. But most of that discrepancy stems from issues of poverty.

Blacks and Latinos are more likely to work in the service and retail industries, which have remained open. Maybe if we want fewer Blacks and Latinos to catch the virus we could, I don’t know, try to make those activities safer. Like Canada did at the holidays, focus on HOW we do these activities instead of just telling people not to do them. I remember being a sexually-active teenager who had difficulties getting condoms.

Or we could look at fixing poverty and the reasons minorities are stuck in it, but ha ha, just kidding. Why would we try to fix poverty when we can just condescend people from behind the French Laundry barricade. “If you were taking this we were taking this more seriously, you would avoid the grocery store. Honestly, who has to buy fruits and vegetables more than once a year, anyway?”

So after the phases and the tiers failed to not only curb the surge, but actually seemed to make things worse, Herr Kommandant came up with a new metric, which was ICU capacity. So now if you’re in purple, everything is closed, but if you’re in purple and your ICU capacity drops, then… everything is still closed. But maybe they chain up the door now?

A recent article I read posited that closing everything down might’ve actually driven the latest surge. Before the shut down, people could eat outdoors. After the shutdown, they had to go indoors, where they’re much more likely to catch it.

Don’t get me wrong. ICU capacity is hugely important. It might even be something we should’ve been tracking all along. But we weren’t, and because the state couldn’t distinguish between nine sick people and two hundred sick people, they decided to change the playbook again. 

But once again, the ICU capacity numbers appear to be a heaping pile of bovine excrement. The Sacramento region (not county this time) sunk below the 15% availability in early December. We were put on Saint Gavin’s naughty list for a minimum of three weeks, after which it would be reassessed. I kept checking the ICU capacity over that three week span, and it usually oscillated between 14-17%. So I was shocked when Jan. 2 rolled around, and our region was suddenly at 4% capacity!

Four percent? How the fuck did we drop ten percent in two fucking days?

Well, you see, that 4% number wasn’t our actual ICU capacity. It was Herr Kommondant’s PREDICTION about what he thought our ICU capacity WOULD BE four weeks later. So, you know, sorry y’all worked so hard to reach that milestone I told you would get you off probation, but now I’m making up a new milestone that is literally impossible to reach.

Of course, the reason they were predicting our ICU rates would plummet was because they didn’t think we were following their rules over the holidays. In other words, “we don’t think you’re following our rules, so we’re going to keep the same rules.” Wonderful.

Then he reversed gear. A week later, he claimed that the ICU rates weren’t spiking as expected and he was going to reopen Sacramento only, because now his magical eight ball says that four weeks later, we’d be at 17%. I’m sure this decision had nothing to do with the fact Herr Kommandant currently lives and works in the Sacramento region.

And no, if you’re wondering, the French Laundry is not in the Sacramento region.

The irony of the naughty-list/nice-list switcheroo was the actual numbers. When we were told we couldn’t reopen because we hadn’t cupped his balls correctly, the actual ICU availability was around 14%, but when we got the all-clear, we were just under 10%. So why exactly did we set the 15% threshold?

Then a few days ago, he waved his magic wand and reopened the entire state. Poof. Our long, national ICU crisis is over! Even though not a single region (aside from Northern California, where nobody lives) had even come close to sniffing 15%. But now the magical four-week prediction says all is honkey-dorey. The outlook was almost comical. Sacramento is still predicting 17%, the exact number that was predicted two weeks ago, so I guess not a damn thing has changed. But all of the other regions, who were below Sacramento, are predicted to be higher. Bay Area is supposed to be well over 20% ICU availability, but the true kicker is Southern California, which is predicted as having 33% of their ICU beds free in just four weeks! This is the same Southern California that has had 0% capacity for six straight weeks! What the fuck? Are there only three ICU beds in Southern California and Bob is starting to look a little ripe?

I teach social science, so I’m totally comfortable with trends and projected statistics. For instance, Gamestop’s stock is predicted to drop by ten percent, but instead it increased by… what the holy hell? Okay, maybe ICU beds can jump from 0 to 33%. Gavin just needs to get reddit dorks on board.

The latest completely arbitrary shift came with the vaccines. They very clearly laid out the first five groups, confusingly named Tier 1A, phases 1, 2, and 3, followed by Tier 1B, phases 1 and 2. Not sure why they couldn’t just name them one through five, but I guess everybody’s gotta feel special. In the end it really doesn’t matter, because they changed up the order. The first two groups were an amalgamation of front-line workers. Then it was supposed to by those 75 and over in that third group. I know this because I was in the next group, 1B part 1, along with those between 65 to 75. Not sure how teachers and baby boomers were included together, but whatever. How many 75 year olds can there be? I assume teachers will be up any day now.

Except then they decided that those 65-year-olds get to jump ahead of teachers. No real reason. Just because. And I don’t know if you’re aware of age demographics, but there’s a lot of fucking baby boomers. So when it was teachers and boomers together, I was looking at a late March vaccination. Now that it’s boomers, THEN teachers, I just got pushed back to July. JULY! And I’m still in a “special” category. There’s still going to be a group behind me, which I think includes a large swath of retail workers, before getting anywhere close to the general population. So if you’re 50 years old and work a normal office job, you’re probably waiting till 2022.

Remember back in November when people were saying there was a light at the end of the tunnel, and this might be our final lockdown? And Biden promised 100 million vaccinations in 100 days? Well, I hope his math wasn’t dependent on the most populous state in the nation getting its head out of its ass.

I’m pretty sure the real number Lord High Protector Gavin was looking at had nothing to do with positivity rates or hospital beds or millions of vaccines he has in his own personal batcave. It’s the number of signatures on the recall petition. Here’s how I think this went down. The president of the California Restaurant Workers Association called him up and said if he didn’t open the entire state, she was going to tell every restaurant employee to sign the petition. And voila!, state is open. 

I should note that the reason I know that person is a she is because it was her, not the governor, who announced the reopening. He followed a few hours later. Ironic, considering many of the legislators and health officials were angry at Newsom not telling them when big announcements were coming, so they weren’t prepared for the slew of phone calls, making Newsom look large and in charge. But if he outranks them, we now know who outranks him. Be sure to tip your server.

So huzzah! Restaurants are open! Hair salons are open! Swimming pools are open! Unvaccinated teacher coming soon to a recently-opened ICU near you! Just in time for a newly-mutated strain that requires two masks!

But don’t worry, we’re all still safe.

Snow camping is still closed.

Some Statins, Stat!

Earlier this week, I wrote about my wife’s summer-long ordeal with her bored general practictioner, who spent his COVID Vacation searching through her medical file to find shit to tamper with. I also touched on tipping your servers and hookers. Well, not tipping your hooker, but the economics of prostitution. Although you should probably tip your hooker. And no, not “just the tip.”

Regardless, after living through Wife’s own medical-solution-in-search-or-a-problem, I probably should’ve been more on guard when my own doctor asked to set up a phone call. To be fair, although I’d like to be a writer, a chronicler of the human condition, I’ve never claimed to be all that observant.

Doc wanted to talk to me about cholesterol medicine. Doc’s been wanting to talk to me about cholesterol medicine for quite some time. A few years ago, I went in for something, probably gout, and he pulled a “Hey, I don’t give a flying fuck about what you came to me for, your cholesterol’s a smidge high, so let’s randomly prescribe you some statins.” 

Sure. Why not? He sent me over to the pharmacy and I left with the drugs that very day. On the way home, Wife told me I miiiiight want to look up some of the side effects of statins. Umm, okay. I’m sure I’m not the only person who approaches the medical profession with confused acquiescence. 

Okay, here’s what my robot overlord, Google, tells me are some statin side effects:

They might spike blood sugar. Hmm, I’ve been prediabetic for five years.

Liver damage. Hmm, I’m a borderline alcoholic.

Kidney problems. Well, at least it won’t make my gout worse.

At least I’m at Kaiser. One of the reasons I chose the Kaiser, aside from my love of old-tyme handlebar mustaches and pickelhaube helmets, is that you can see your test results online. Back when I was on a different plan, my doctor would tell me something in my blood was “a little elevated,” which could mean just about anything. 

“So it turns out there’s some extra lead in your system.” 

“Yeah, Doc, I came to you for a gunshot wound.”

But at Kaiser, I can see precisely where I am and, even better, what the standard range. When I got home from the “quick, take these drugs before you ask your wife about it” appointment, I looked more closely at my last blood test. The standard range for cholesterol is listed as anything under 239. My horrible, sky-high cholesterol that needed drugs right the fuck now was a whopping… 219. 

Except, you see, it’s not just a matter of overall cholesterol. You’ve got to look at the good cholesterol versus the bad. Your HDL, or good cholesterol has to be over 40 or else you’re unhealthy, and mine was only at a measly 52. Oh, and that LDL, it’s the bad cholesterol and we should really look for a way to get it under 159. So maybe some drugs will improve my reading of… 150.

I’m not saying I’m the picture of health. But if all of my cholesterol readings are within the range that’s deemed “normal,” it doesn’t seem to be something I should be pumping my body full of side effects for. Sorry, Kaiser Wilhelm, if you don’t want me making uninformed decisions, then maybe you need to not let me see the information.

Why are they giving me pills to fix something that ain’t broke, especially if there’s a good chance it’ll break something else? I mean, if I take these pills to drop my cholesterol from an “on the high end” 219 down to an, I don’t know, 200? While at the same time spiking my blood sugar and losing both my vision and my feet to diabetes, I wouldn’t necessarily call that a “win-win.”

So I came home with the prescription but never used it. That worked for a while. Doctor got his kickback from the pharmaceutical company and I kept my liver. Actually, the next two times I got tested, my cholesterol went down, first to 199 then to 189, despite never touching the statins. Maybe I’m so magical that just convincing myself I needed to lower my cholesterol was enough to do it. It’s some Jedi magic. 

Or else maybe my cholesterol fluctuates inside the normal range. There’s a reason it’s called a range, right?

But eventually they caught onto my duplicity. Not because my cholesterol changed, but because I never refilled the prescription for something I’m supposed to be taking every day. Or maybe they were onto me because my blood sugar didn’t spike enough. “People who take our drugs can’t be as healthy as you are.”

After a year or so, doctor sent me a nastigram that I better take my fucking medicine like a good fucking boy. I ignored him, so he referred me to the big boss. I started getting emails from some random dude, inside Kaiser, listed as “Pharm.” That might stand for pharmacist, but I assume he works for Big Pharm, which is where this entire push must be coming from. My doctor needs to get a new Porsche or something, and the gout medicine people just ain’t willing to cup his balls the way he likes on the reach-around. I mean, if there ain’t kickback going all the way up the wazoo, then why the hell are we not only prescribing cholesterol medicine to people who don’t need it, but actually following up to ensure that said individual is taking said unnecessary drugs. 

By contrast, I also have asthma (hurray, mid-forties!) but I’m really bad about using my inhaler. Not the emergency inhaler. I use that one often. But there’s an inhaler I’m supposed to use every day that will prevent the need for the emergency inhaler. Problem is that when I’m breathing fine, I forget. So that’s another prescription I’m supposed to fill every six months or so but regularly go two years between refills. And not a single email from doctor nor pharmacist nor Pfizer lobbyist. Because if you can’t breathe, meh. But if your cholesterol is normal, well then that’s a problem we need to solve! 

So there I was, foolishly accepting the call from a doctor with way too much time on his hands, knowing full well that he had some drug kingpin breathing down his neck to make sure he gets all his little cretins hooked, and wouldn’t you know it, he doesn’t want to ask me how my breathing’s going with all of the fires going on, like the snazzy new “Glass Fire,” proving that I’m a fucking Nostradamus who nobody heeds. Nope, what he really wants to talk to me about is how important it is that I get my normal cholesterol under control.

This time, however, I was prepared for the statin conversation. I asked for clarification, like why the fuck am I supposed to risk making some of my medical conditions worse in order to fix a problem I don’t have. It turns out that cholesterol medicine ain’t got shit to do with controlling cholesterol. Studies have shown that prescribing statins to people who don’t need them severely lessens the likelihood of, I don’t know, heart attacks and stroke and scurvy or something. 

Honestly! Why, the drug company who has the patent for this drug has run bazillions of tests and, wouldn’t you know it, they all came back proving that their product rivals only the flush toilet and electricity in the advancement of the human race. And the proof is that, when they prescribed it to people who didn’t need it, those people ended up STILL not needing it. It’s kind of like saying that stitches help people who’ve been stabbed by a sword, but our tests show that unstabbed people who were given stitches ALSO didn’t exhibit signs of sword punctures. Stitches greatly reduce your chances of bleeding out in a medieval dungeon.

My doctor assures me that the DHS has signed off on this whole cholesterol-medicine-for-non-cholesterol-purposes thing. And boy howdy, if COVID has taught us anything, it’s that government agencies devoted to our health always know what they’re talking about.  Like when the virus was airborne for, like, an hour before the CDC took it off their website because the president complained. A week later, it was airborne again. Hopefully you weren’t breathing in deeply for that week that the virus was noncommittal. 

And yeah, I know that the Department of Health Services ain’t the same as the Center for Disease Control, but the only reason we’re focused on the latter is because they’ve kept us hostage all year and we’re suffering from Stockholm Syndrome. Even if the DHS whims can’t keep me chained to my refrigerator for the next fortnight, my eyebrow’s still rising over them suggesting what we really need in this world is more random, never-ending prescriptions. Those bacteria ain’t gonna develop antibiotic immunity by themselves, y’all! For all I know, the Orange One has a bunch of stock in the statin company and that’s why they’re now suggested for everything from hemorrhoids to gunshot wounds.

Then again, I’m just now realizing that the DHS is the British single-payer system. Shit, is my doctor running my blood tests in metric? Maybe that’s why my numbers don’t match what he’s saying.

Or maybe he’s talking about the other DHS, the American one that likes to look at your browser history. In which case I better get me some statins, because unlike some mamby-pamby doctors and pharmacists, you DEFINITELY don’t want to ignore the suggestions of the water-boarders. 

Then again, if it’s the Department of Homeland Security, then they need to update their sales pitch.

Lower your cholesterol! Avoid heart attacks! Now with fewer anal probes at the airport!!!

Sold!

Pandemic Pill Pushers

I worry about all the professions who are suffering during COVID, workers who can’t go through their normal day-to-day routines.

We hear a ton about the Uber and cab drivers, although I’m sure they’re all getting bonus shifts with Doordash. What about those retail cashiers, the restaurant servers? Am I the only one who struggles with what to tip for takeout orders? Look, I waited tables for most of my twenties. I know those servers get paid shit and rely on their tips to survive. My standard tip is 20-25% and you have to be phenomenally shitty to get less than 15%, but the most “serving” you’re doing on takeout is grabbing the bag, already prepped by the line chef or expediter, neither of whom are likely to a sniff of whatever tip I left. Is that worth 15%? I didn’t get my iced tea refilled once!

I still tip, but only as a nod to solidarity. And taxes. Did you know your server has to pay taxes based on what the government thinks you should’ve tipped him? If the bill is $100, the government is adding $15 to his W-2. Think about the next time you stiff a server – he actually lost money by serving you. 

But for takeout? I don’t know, man. I usually err towards 10%, enough to cover the stiffers and the IRS, but not enough to work as a dialogue about quality of service. Yeah, I feel a tinge of guilt, but I figure I’m not taking up one of his tables for an hour. He should be able to burn through 30 or 40 orders in an hour, as opposed to five. 

But then the restaurants are going to twist that little guilt knife by only giving me “pre-filled” options of 15%, 18%, and 20%. So now I have to write in my 10% number, making me go out of my way to stiff my server. Who isn’t really serving me. Shit, I bought donuts the other day, and she did that thing where they swivel the tablet around so I can select the tip, but then I had to tell her what the tip was and she would select it, so the customers don’t have to touch the screen. What the fuck am I supposed to say? “Write in 10% for yourself” or “No, I don’t think you deserve a tip”? So I told her to select 15%, the lowest option and now I just tipped more than I tip for takeout to a lady who only put six donuts in a goddamn box!

Donut-shop swindlers notwithstanding, making people write in any number below 15% probably results in more people paying zero.
“Skip” is just as easy to hit as “20%.”

I’m not here to talk about the servers though. At least they’re on most people’s radars. Some of them were probably laid off and reaping the rewards of the bonus unemployment before Congress yanked it away after a heartfelt and impassioned debate about the long-term consequences and short-term tradeoffs associated with paying people more to not work than they would make working. Ha ha, just kidding, politicians never articulate arguments for or against their actions, preferring the more nuanced “nan-nah, boo-boo.” Democrats wanted a $3 trillion bailout, which Republicans wanted $1 trillion, so they settled it like adults and made it zero. Maybe somebody should’ve given them a “$2 trillion” button.

So the Uber drivers are probably thriving and the servers will find a way to muster through. But what about the prostitutes? 

Meh, the prostitutes are probably fine. At least the illegal ones. For once, they’re economically better off than their legal counterparts in Nevada. I assume the brothels are shut down, but the place of business behind that dumpster on Broadway remains just as accessible as ever. It’s always on Broadway, right? Doesn’t matter which city, the whores hang out on Broadway. 

Plus, it’s not like their johns are overly concerned with health and cleanliness. I have a friend who’s a deputy DA, and one of the hookers she used to prosecute on a regular basis charged extra for sex without a condom. So I can have sex for twenty bucks, or I can have sex AND chlamydia for forty? What a bargain!

 Plus, you’re not allowed to kiss a hooker, right? So might as well keep that mask on.

So maybe the prostitutes are okay. But what about the drug dealers?

And before you tell me that pill pushers should be in the same boat as hookers (that ain’t a boat, it’s a yacht, baby!), let me clarify that I’m not talking about the same dealers you’re thinking of. The guys pushing meth and heroin are probably fine. I’m talking about doctors and Big Pharm.

You would think that primary care physicians would be overworked and malnourished during a medical emergency like we’ve faced the last six months, but it might turn out to be the exact opposite. Sure, those ICU Units are filled to the rafters, but the guy or gal you go to for the sniffles or tennis elbow is stuck twiddling their respective thumbs. After all, we’ve been told that all non-emergency situations don’t matter and are wasting the medical community’s valuable time. I went three months without allergy shots, and I don’t think my allergy doc was being drafted into front-line duty. So sorry about your pancreatic cancer, Grandma, but Aiden once drank a Corona, so you need to give your hospital bed up to him.

So now none of us are calling those doctors who normally take Grandma’s temperature long enough to refer her to seventeen other “specialists,” thereby maximizing insurance premiums whilst minimizing efficiency. Now those general practitioners are bored, and the news is doing their job for them, cause ain’t nobody questioning that 20% increase in insurance premiums this year. And just like a teacher who decides that the only time to clean the house is the day before grades are due, when doctors are bored, they find shit to meddle with. And since they’re probably not allowed in the Admiral’s Lounge with all the cool ICU doctors and patients, they fill their time consulting those nanobots they placed in our bloodstream the last time we peed in a cup.

What? There isn’t supposed to be blood in my urine? And I’m not supposed to put it back in my body when I’m done?

My wife got hit with BDS (Bored Doctor Syndrome) first. Her blood has always tested positive for a clotting risk. But her “askew numbers” have pretty much stayed consistent since her early twenties and she’s never had blood clots. It was certainly something we kept an eye on during her pregnancy, but if anything, overreacting to her bleeding risk is probably what caused them to radiate her after delivery, subjecting her to seven hospital trips over the first six months of Daughter’s life. So maybe sometimes we shouldn’t tinker with phantom ailments. 

I run into this all the time while I’m curling. We time the delivery to determine where the rock should end up and whether or not we need to sweep it. But you still have to watch the rock, walk alongside it. Sometimes the ice is frostier on one route than another. You gotta be ready to start or stop sweeping as the reality on the ice amends what your stopwatch told you. You can’t just say that it’s blood platelets was 3.6 seconds so the diabetes will end up right on the button.

Sorry, mixed my metaphors there, but you get what I mean. And in normal times, the doctors understand this, and don’t go out of their way to fix problems that only exist in the data.

For the most part, Wife’s blood issues are like a birthmark – always there with no discernable affect on her life. If the numbers had gone up as she got older, or if she ever experienced any of the many symptoms listed in the brochures, we would’ve done something. The health issues she does have, like some lactose intolerance that leads to some nasty IBS after a Starbucks trip, has nothing to do with blood clots. But obviously they aren’t concerned with that, because IBS isn’t covered by most insurance plans. Somehow that’s considered a “quality of life” issue like a boob job. Unlike boners, which are TOTALLY covered by insurance. Because, I suppose, senators have trouble getting it up. But let me tell you, needing to visit the toilet every five minutes is every bit as destructive to the libido as a little flaccidity amongst friends.

But somewhere in her medical file bored doctors were thumbing through, it said that Wife has clotting potential. So they called her up and told her that, you know, what with all this COVID stuff… 

I didn’t really see the connection, seeing as The ‘Rona attacks the lungs, not the blood. But you’ve heard the media reports. Everyone who dies is either old or had a pre-existing condition. What they don’t report, however, is whether that pre-existing conditionis in any way related to COVID. Hey, did you hear about that 25-year-old who died two days after catching the ‘Rona? Yeah, but he broke his arm as a teenager. And that teenager who got it? Her orthodontist said she had braces.

So whatever. Wife decides to play along with their blood-thinning regimen. But then she sliced her foot on a boat prop, so she had to wait a week. Seems a pretty big loophole there. All she has to do is cut herself once a week and she won’t have to go on blood thinners. Then again, if the shit they’re about to give her is going to turn her into a hemophiliac, maybe it ain’t worth it. Unless we get some medieval duchy out of it.

Instead of following my advice and becoming a cutter, Wife finally goes on the blood thinners. In addition to pills, she must give herself shots in the stomach. What the fuck kinda home remedy is that shit? I get allergy shots every few weeks and never once have I been expected to plunge that shit in myself. Aren’t there trained professionals who can give shots? Or are they too busy going through old medical boxes next to the Ark of the Covenant to sell Nefertiti on some meds?

Every few days, she gets her blood tested again. Fortunately they don’t make her take it out herself. On her first test, she overshot her mark. The number that used to be too low is now too high. This could be a great time for them to step back, realize Wife knew what she was talking about, that these were phantom numbers to begin with, an anomaly that remained consistent with no symptoms for twenty years, and that they were trying to fix a problem that didn’t exist, quite possibly creating a new problem, whereby my otherwise healthy wife now has to steer clear of a wall corner lest it break her skin and cause her to bleed out on the floor with nary a Russian orthodox month in sight to cure her.

Or, you know, they could just cut her down to one shot a day, then test again on Thursday.

So for the last month or so, Wife’s been heading to the lab to get her blood taken every three days. They adjust her dosage, rinse, and repeat. The good news is she doesn’t have to give herself shots anymore. The bad news is she’s never gotten down into the “healthy” range. Again, they’ve made her less healthy. Or maybe they’ve just made her equally as unhealthy, but on the other side. She’s gone from having slightly viscous to slightly runny blood. No big deal.

Except that all of those blood tests have her bruised up like a heroin junkie. She’s always had this problem where the technicians can’t find her veins. Sometimes they need to stick her three or four times before they get the good stuff. Add to that the fact that they won’t go in where the earlier bruises are and it wasn’t too long before they had to take blood out of the back of her hand! I’m a blood-giving pro. I don’t give two shits about getting shots, but holy hell, that sounds excruciating. Especially if it isn’t doing jack diddly to improve her health or quality of life. And since they haven’t done anything about her IBF, she still has to wipe with those hands!

So I should’ve been on guard, a couple weeks after Wife’s regimen started, when my doctor wanted to set up a phone call. 

Check here to hear about my own frivolity. At least I won’t bruise ya!

COVID Scoreboard

Am I the only one this happens to? 

I return home from  some socially-distant walkabout, or perhaps I put on my HazMat suit to buy a dozen eggs, and immediately go wash my hands, as I was told might be important back in March, but I haven’t heard one medical or political leader mention since then. But the running water makes me have to go pee. Then I have to wash my hands again. I’m starting to think Bath, Body Works, and Zoom is behind this whole COVID thing. 

Yes, I list Bath and Body Works as two different entities, which I assume merged in the late Middle Ages, like Buda and Pest.

It’s been a while since I’ve checked in. In that time, the world seemingly ended and then started to come back before deciding that, meh, maybe it needs to hit the snooze button for another six months or so. 

I blogged a fair amount back when it all came crashing down. But then I stopped because every post ended up being the same. Even when I went beyond the COVID stuff, what the hell else was I supposed to write about? A fancy new restaurant I discovered? That new movie that’s become water cooler scuttlebutt? Try as I might, I can’t milk 1000+ words out of washing my hands and then peeing. 

At least not on a weekly basis.

But here on the cusp of a the second full decade of COVID, it’s worth another check in. 

What’s that? It’s only been five months? Regardless, Daughter and I are both heading back to school this coming week, so I guess now is as good a time as any to take the rectal temperature.

Of course, “heading back to school” might not be 100% accurate. We’ve started education via shiny screen, at any rate. In my last post I mentioned my district was bloviating about sending all the kids back to schools and starting teacher death pools as a new fundraising apparatus. Then they said the students didn’t have to show up at school but the teachers still did, because only one of those two variables are important to the educational process and their bottom line. After that, the teachers agreed to let them blame pushing back the start of the school year by a week on us to the parents. As a result, we’re allowed to teach from home. So now I’m live-streaming 12th grade AP right next to Daughter, who is live-streaming first grade. My students are very jealous that we can’t spend a whole day on “how to use crayons” like the other talking head in the room.

I called it, of course. I knew that no school district was actually going to go through with the whole “no social distancing, everybody come back” threat. Wait, what’s that? Georgia, you say? Too bad they suspend people for taking pictures, so we’ll never see what that looks like…

Looking back on my earlier posts,  I was right more often than I was wrong. I thought we were overreacting and, I know this is an unpopular position, but I still think we’re overreacting. Or maybe not overreacting, but focusing on the wrong things. Much like the TSA, half the crap we’re doing is designed to look like we’re trying instead of actually keeping us safe. If there was really virtually no spread at BLM rallies, then half the stuff we shut down didn’t need to be shut down. As another example, in baseball, they have to sanitize the bullpen phone after each usage, even though the bullpen phone is answered by the same person every single time.

And no, I don’t think that’s where the entire Marlins team caught the ‘Rona. Unless there’s a bullpen phone in South Beach night clubs. 

Speaking of sports, I was also right that baseball is a relatively easy game to socially distance. What I forgot was that the owners and the players would rather stick their heads up their collective asses than to take advantage of months where everybody is stuck at home watching Frozen II for the seventy-fifth time. The owners were convinced they were going to lose ALL of their money and then, lo and behold, opening night was the highest rated in years. Imagine if it had happened back in May. Or April, if we’d never shut it down in the first place.

Of course, two teams have gone full COVID. Double digit cases on both the Marlins and Cardinals, which is made even worse by the fact that those two teams don’t play each other. Had they caught it from each other, we might have a good test study. But they’re in different time zones. Again, it probably would’ve been better for MLB to start up in April or May, when the players couldn’t go to bars after the games. But when you hold off for three months because it’s “unsafe,” then say, “Okay, things are safe enough to return now,” then people are going to act as if they’re safe. It’s the lesson that the entire United States learned during July.

That’s why the recent cancellations of most of college football was obvious from a mile away. And the conferences that are still “contemplating it” are only doing it for the optics. College football is a fucking pipe dream. Take all of the problems MLB has had and add in teenagers without millions of dollars on the line. Or proper health care beyond a team doctor who gets paid to say, “Yep, he can play.”

Closer to home, the recreational soccer league we signed Daughter up for back around the time her softball season was canceled after one game seem intent to go on with soccer this fall. With only “slight modifications.” Such as there won’t be any actual games. Only practices. And parents can’t hang out at the practice. But we can’t leave practice. We have to sit in our cars the whole time. How quickly can I opt out?

Here’s what I don’t get: how would putting my daughter on a field with 10 other six-year-olds and a couple of parent coaches be fine, but putting her on a field with 20 others be where the problems come? Yes, I understand the law of averages, but if the implication is that at least one team will get COVID and they don’t want to spread it to others, then maybe they shouldn’t be having team practices in the first place. 

The soccer league is just taking a cue from the general sense of “othering” tied up with COVID. My team is okay, it’s those other teams that we have to fear. I know all of my friends are clean and safe, it’s those OTHER people who are disgusting and COVID-y. Right before my curling league shut down, somebody proposed that we keep our leagues running, because we know all those people, but maybe stop doing Learn-to-Curls, because the GENERAL PUBLIC can come to those. I responded that the members were just as likely to have it as non-members, so we shut the whole thing down.

Conversation with my father-in-law: “The mask is not just to protect you, but other people.” “But I don’t have it.” “How do you know?” “Because I’m healthy.”

Which is not to say I’m immune to this othering. Whenever I hear of someone catching it, I ask, “where did they go? What did they do? In what way did they bring this on themselves?” And when they caught it at church, I breathe a sigh of relief. 

Somebody at my wife’s work caught it. Oddly enough, it wasn’t the guy who frequented every bar in the greater Sacramento area the day they re-opened. It’s one of the conscientious ones, my wife claimed. He’s got three kids at home! It’s totally random!

Turns out he went to Tahoe, which is pretty much the hottest of hotbeds in our state. “Don’t have COVID? Well, come on down and we’ll fix that right up!”

Back in March and April, I thought we forced shut down too quickly, before we could see if the distancing and hand washing would help. And masks, although back then they lied to us by telling us masks didn’t help. In fact, masks were probably bad for us. The lie was totally reasonable. One look at the toilet paper aisle was enough to realize that if we thought we needed masks, no doctor would be able to cover his or her face until 2025. 

But the short-term gain from that little white lie came back to haunt the CDC, didn’t it? Might be a teachable moment in there. If we were allowed to teach anymore. Most people (certainly not all, but most) are willing to go along with scientists changing their minds as new evidence comes in. What we’re less thrilled with is the “Oh yeah, we knew all along that you should be doing this, but we didn’t think you could handle it. This time we’ll keep the football down, Charlie Brown.”

So yeah, I still don’t understand why we shut down camping and miniature golf and contactless car washes. Perhaps if we had taken a measured response at the beginning, told people that if they wash hands and wear masks and be careful about how close they are to people, that we can do certain things. Instead they told us we couldn’t do a goddamn thing for two months and then were shocked that we crammed the beach so closely that we were cupping the balls of the dude three blankets away.

Most of us have figured out the measured approach on this second go around, yes? We wash our hands and wear our masks. We let people take out temperature when we go inside. I don’t understand what good that does if the main problem with COVID is how many people we spread it to before we have any symptoms. Once your temperature hits 100 degrees, it’s game fucking over. Last time I went to Kaiser, they didn’t stop me to take my temperature, so I figured they were acknowledging it as pointless. Nope, the nurse informed me, they’ve just gone all Big Brother and are surreptitiously scanning us from afar.

I hate going into Kaiser, because they make me lie. “Have you been experiencing any shortness of breath?” Um, I’m here to get allergy shots, meaning it’s been many weeks since my last allergy shots. And I have allergy-induced asthma that gets worse the longer I’ve gone without shots. So have I been experiencing any shortness of breath? I just assume they mean “more than usual” and say no. 

The mask companies finally caught up and made fancy, fashionable masks so we can accessorize with our favorite sports teams or pop culture references or works of art. We carry our hand sanitizer with us, even if it smells like a noontime drunk. Seriously, I’ve got some alcohol-based hand sanitizer in my car and, let me tell you, if I ever get pulled over after using that shit, I’m going to jail. Granted, it’s 100 degrees on the average day in Sacramento, but that stuff is straight rum coming out of there. Is that how we fixed the supply problem? Hand sanitizer: all gone, Restaurant alcohol: wasting away undrunk. Get me that Bicardi, stat!

I think the biggest failed lesson from the first lockdown was that the lockdowns had fuck-all to do with people’s actions. Herr Kommandant Newsom told us all to stay home and, lo and behold, we all stayed home! He hath spoken and we hath listened! Except that’s not really how it happened. What actually happened was people started hoarding and staying at home and started freaking out about whether or not they were going to go to work. On March 12, for instance, March Madness was canceled and Disneyland closed. And seriously, if those two organizations that put profit ahead of their very souls, are shutting down, then why the fuck am I going to work in my cubicle? 

Seven days later, after we had all purchased enough toilet paper to survive a nuclear shitstorm, Herr Kommandant told us, “Hey, why don’t you stay home? Go ahead. It’s on me.” Then, instead of trying to figure out how it spreads or if masks work or if a bear shits in the woods, he spent the next two months patting himself on the back that EVERYBODY in his state was listening to him and his fancy hair.

I assume they’re separate entities, Newsom and his hair. I only wonder who is the one that’s truly in charge of the symbiotic relationship.

Then people got tired of being trapped at home, so they started going out. And the Governor, not willing to admit people weren’t following his directions, came up with some bullshit about Phases and  R-1s and how if we do our best to watch all of his press conferences and maybe get our Senator put on the national ticket so that next year he can pull a Blegojevich next year, then maybe he’ll let us go to bars, but only if they serve us fatty foods with each drink.

Seriously, at one point everybody went to the beach and he said if we kept going to the beach, he wasn’t going to open anything. Then there was one windy day in SoCal where people didn’t go to the beach and he said, “Since everyone listened to me, you can go to the beaches now. And movie theaters, too.” 

But still no camping. And still, in late May, nothing about masks.

Remember when Georgia had a “Partial re-opening” and it was lambasted as short-sighted and dangerous, while at the same time California had a “phased rollback of restrictions,” which included about 90% the same things, but was somehow lauded as a studious approach based on evidence? Of course, nobody’s saying that about California now as we’ve surged past all the models.

So yeah, I still think I was right about a fair amount. About toilet paper and social distancing and the likelihood that schools would never have on-location education ever again. At one point I said that if we all hunkered down for two months then all returned to the wild, we weren’t really “flattening the curve” so much as “delaying the curve.” I think I get a fucking gold star and a cookie for that prediction, yeah?

But there were definitely some things I could not have been more wrong about. Top of that list is how many people want to burn the whole thing down. I mean, I assume they want to stay in lockdown forever, or else they’d wear some fucking masks, right? 

Seriously people, if y’all put on your masks and stopped practicing fully-clothed sodomy with each other, we could be out of this in a manner of weeks. But today I had some 80-year-old lady crawling up my backside at the checkout counter at the grocery store. Y’know, those carts are almost six feet long, so all you have to do is stand behind your fucking cart and we’re good. And yeah, I know you have to take stuff out of your cart, but this lady stood right behind me and pulled her empty cart in behind her. Then she LEANED TOWARD ME!!!

And now everybody’s trying to follow the letter of the rules without following the intent. Bars are selling a single french fry to go with your drink. Restaurants can serve outdoors, so they’re throwing up giant tents to keep all the COVID trapped around you in a nice moist environment. Others aren’t even pretending to follow the rules. A waterslide park outside of Sacramento recently reopened in violation of a state mandate. They’re being fined $500 a day. 

Five hundred bucks a day. They run a water park in a Trump-voting county where the average temperature is over 100 degrees. I think they make back that $500 in the first twenty minutes they’re open. That’s kinda like making me pay the extra five-cent sin tax on my beer. It’s not really doing jackshit to dissuade me from drinking.

Oh wait, it’s not a sin tax, it’s a recycling tax. I’m supposed to get it back if I recycle. Except all the recycling centers have closed, and that was long before COVID. Probably a topic for another time.

I’ve got plenty of time, after all. With tent dining and opened water parks and a bunch of Anti- Masxxers, to say nothing of the 100 students waiting patiently on a Zoom call to turn a freeze-frame screencapture of my nosehair into a Tik Tok, we’re going to be here for a while.

Back to School, Sort Of

 My school district is threatening to start school up again in a few weeks.

Yes, I used the word threaten. I don’t think they intend to go through with it. I think it’s a negotiating strategy, an “I WILL turn this car back around” opening gambit. I don’t know who, exactly, they think they’re negotiating with. The teachers union, the parents, the media. Probably a mixture of all three and more besides, considering their scorched earth approach.

IF Y’ALL WON’T SIGN UP FOR DISTANCE LEARNING, WE’LL INFECT ONE STUDENT PER DAY UNTIL OUR DEMANDS ARE MET!!!

I’ve been involved with many school districts in my life. Between the districts I’ve worked for and the ones teachers and admin I know have moved on to, plus throw in the fact that my daughter is (allegedly) starting first grade in less than a month, I have understanding of the inner workings of upwards of ten different school districts. 

This might shock y’all, but school districts are a fucking mess.

The average district office is an awkward mishmash of former teachers who couldn’t wait to get out of the classroom and lifelong bureaucrats who are most comfortable when articulating the subtle differences between form 47(f) and 72(q), and don’t forget to write hard enough for the goldenrod triplicate and page twelve requires two initials and a signature. Add into that mix the Board of Education, a group of would-be politicians who aren’t savvy enough to win a competitive election like, say, dogcatcher.

So it’s no surprise the the average response of the average district is to put their heads in the sand and hope that the issue de jour blows over before there’s any blow back. Which isn’t to say they don’t spend money. They spend shit-tons. We get guest speakers for some fancy new fix that’s going to have all third graders solving differential calculus. Then we move onto another fix the following year, long before we get any data about if those now-fourth graders can do any third-grade math, let alone z-axis graphing. 

Most districts think that REAL education occurs far, far away from the classroom. If you’ve never encountered a child, you’re probably the best educator in the world. After all, those fucking students fuck up all of our well-laid plans. During the budget crisis a decade ago (returning soon to a school district near you!), my district laid off close to fifteen percent of the teachers along with about five percent of the district staff. After all, a teacher with a class size of forty is a minor issue compared to an assistant superintendent cutting down to ONLY two secretaries. How the hell can she get ANYTHING done?

Here a good example of how my district meanders its way through the average “catastrophe”. After Sandy Hook, the federal government sent a bunch of money out for security improvements. My school wrote out a proposal for keyless (badge) entry to our buildings. The proposal was approved. Everything was set to be installed over summer. When we came back, we had the same shitty doors. The district decided they would “test run” the keyless entry at the district office. Because, you know, it’s EVERY DAY we’re bombarded with horrific stories of school (district office) shootings. We all know those horrific stories of the admin assistant who quietly ushers all of the NCR paper into a closet seconds before…

Even better, they only gave badges to district office employees. Why the fuck would teachers want into the district office? We are inconsequential in the business of running a school district. We have to check in through the front door like the rest of the riffraff.

The badge system worked so well that they added a second one to the elevator. Personnel and Benefits are on the bottom floor, they argue, why should any teacher need to know what’s going on up there on the second and third floor? If we really have legitimate business there, we can (I shit you not) call whomever we’re supposed to meet and they can go send the elevator down to us.

Here’s another example: During that budget crisis, we negotiated a reduction in the school year. We got rid of the two bullshit “teacher development” days plus five student days. That way, we could say we agreed to a two percent pay cut while actually taking an eight percent pay cut. When the recession was over, they gave us back the seven days and added three more bullshit days. But not the two percent pay cut.

The bullshit days don’t have to be bullshit days. But they’re always bullshit days. You see, the year we negotiated the days back, the school year calendar was already set. So we just threw the now five extra non-student days on at the beginning of the school year with the idea that we’d move them around the following year. That was back in 2013. Want to guess where the bullshit days fall on the current calendar?

If we were serious about using these days as development days, which is what they’re called, or if we were interested in legitimately following through on whatever we’re working on the first day, we’d spread them out throughout the year. Have two of them at the beginning, then check in at the beginning of each quarter to check progress and reassess. Instead, we go to six hours of meetings for five straight days. By the time we see a student, we’re fucking exhausted. And any bright a-ha moment we had on day one has been lost behind a fog of tardy policies and dress codes. Come mid-October, somebody in the lunch room will throw out a, “Hey, weren’t we supposed to be doing something with vocabulary this year?” and none of us will the slightest idea what the fuck he’s talking about. 

So remember that these institutions are the ones responsible for reinventing their entire industry in the span of a few weeks.

I hear you saying, “a few weeks? Haven’t we been shut down since March? What the hell have they been doing since then?”

And the answer is, mostly, twiddling their thumbs and hoping everything was going to be better. 

My district ran fourth quarter in a “no-harm/no-foul” mode. If you liked the grade you had when we shut down, you can keep it without doing a fucking thing! Distance learning where everybody gets a trophy. The result was predictable. The A students continued to do work, because they’re A students. Some B students did, if they were bored. C and D students didn’t do a fucking thing, because what if they do an assignment and it lowers their grade? Even though we set the rules that, not only could your end grade not be lower than it was in mid-March, no SINGLE ASSIGNMENT could lower your percentage at all. So if you had a 76% in my class and you sent me a picture of feces, congratulations, you just got 16 out of 20 on that assignment. A few F students did enough work to get up to a 60%.

But it’s okay, because by August, we’ll have licked COVID and everybody will be excellent at social distancing and wearing masks and washing our hands. Movie theaters and sporting events and restaurants would be alive and well, right?

Oops.

To be fair, we’ve had a whole bunch of meetings over the summer. My department chair is part of the “High School Task Force,” so he’s regularly come to the rest of us with updates and to ask for suggestions. We’ve come up with alternative schedules whereby only 25% of the students are on campus at any given time. One batch comes Monday AM, another on Monday PM, then two more on Tuesday before we cycle back to the Monday peeps on Wednesday. Friday’s an “all distance learning” day, which is also a teacher catch-up day, because if I only have my students in my class one hour a week instead of one hour a day, I’m going to be spending most of my time in front of the classroom. I can’t exactly give them seat work so I can update my blog like usual.

Of course, this schedule wouldn’t work for younger students. High schoolers can legally stay home by themselves on the three days they’re not at school. I don’t see that working for elementary school kids. I’ve been faced with that option for my daughter. We could send her back full time or two days a week. But what will we do with her the other three days? Send her to daycare? Isn’t that pretty much the same as sending her to school, only without the education? Her school is also offering a full distance learning option. But again, where would that distance learning happen? She’d probably be sitting in my classroom with teenagers getting a whole DIFFERENT type of education. Daddy, what’s a fucktard?

But it doesn’t really matter what our task force or the middle school or elementary versions thereof came up with, because the district replied with a nice, resounding hell-to-the-no. Comically, the Board of Education isn’t even involved with the negotiation, and they weren’t there when we negotiated the shutdown back in March. They just told the superintendent to figure out the minor stuff while they focus on the important educational stuff like, I shit you not, spending millions of dollars on a fence around the district office because one time there was a homeless person nearby. The fence would only be passable by people with badges, which the teachers don’t have. Not sure how we’ll get to personnel or benefits now.

Oh, and on the same board agenda as the gate was starting to look into pay cuts for teachers next year.

What the district did decide on was a two-fold approach. Parents have the option to sign up for 100% distance learning for the entire school year or 100% live instruction for the entire school year. No switching from one to the other after you’ve made the decision, which they gave parents one week to ruminate. Who needs more time than that to decide such a minor thing?

Now the numbers are in. Clearly I’m not the only parent who went with the “what the fuck am I supposed to do with my kids when I’m at school?” option. Not that my district offered a hybrid option. Still, the results are informative. In my largely low-income, two-worker family district, only six percent of parents opted for distance learning. In my daughter’s district, where there are a shit-ton of stay-at-home parents and lots of personal computing devices, not to mention a hybrid option, only ten percent opted for some sort of distance learning.

So yay! Only 94% of my students will be in my class on a typical day. So now my class of 40 students will have… 38.4? Super easy to socially distance those 38!

And all of that was before the COVID spike. Now districts are scrambling.

Last week, Daughter’s district blanketed us with phone calls and emails about our county potentially being put on Herr Kommandant Newsom’s “watch list.” Great name, Gavin. You know we were already putting your face on the principal from The Breakfast Club, right? Like you can keep this up all weekend? And your response is to come up with a “Watch List.” Only it’s not a watch list. Because once you’re on the watch list, you’re already shutting down. If you’re saying, “this county will probably go on the watch list the day after tomorrow if x, y, z doesn’t change,” isn’t that county already being watched? 

Anyway, when it was reported that my county might go on the watch list, Daughter’s district alerted us that, even if we opted for in-school instruction, we might still be starting the school year at home. Be prepared, they told us, for a kooky, crazy school year where we oscillate between in-school and at-home based on how many COVID cases we have and how many of Herr Kommandant’s hairs are out of place. Just kidding, none of his hairs are ever out of place. Have you seen that guy? Only person in America who stayed groomed during the entire shut-down.

Meanwhile, my district, which is in a county that’s already on the watch list and has been surging like a motherfucker, shrugs and says, “what’re you gonna do?” Even on their FAQ, they claim that social distancing is only a suggestion, not a requirement. Kinda like flossing twice a day. So they’re going to jam us in like sardines and just give a vague answer to the dentist. The good news is some of us will start dying off, which should relieve the overcrowding issue. Unless it’s the teachers, which’ll cause the classes to become even more crowded. Because if I die, they’ll need to combine my students with somebody else’s. I doubt they’re going to have a ton of success hiring a sub to go into the classroom where the last teacher caught COVID and died.

Speaking of catching COVID, we’ve been told that if any of our students test positive, we need to quarantine ourselves for two weeks. If that happens, we have to use our own sick leave. We get ten sick days a year. So after we burn all of our sick leave on the first quarantine… 

But as I said at the beginning, I think this is just a negotiating tactic. The district broke off talks with my union saying they couldn’t meet again until the week before we report for the five bullshit days. My inner Nostradamus can predict exactly how that conversation will go”

“We can’t open. Our teachers will die!”

“We’ll give you distance learning for a five-percent pay cut. After all, you won’t need to buy as many school supplies, etc, if you’re teaching from home.”

Or not teaching from home. The latest I heard was they didn’t like giving us that much autonomy. If there is any distance learning this year, they want us doing it from the classroom. 

And that’s pretty much the only thing that’s been “fixed” about distance learning. All that stuff you’ve heard about teachers being trained to do it better this year? Ain’t happening. It’s going to be another big shrug and “figure it out.” 

So my union will probably agree to the pay cut in order to not have any students. Which is great, because then my district can finally build that moat around their fortress.

Quaran-Geddon Part V: The Re-Opening

I was ready to walk away. My journals were getting redundant. The world was flooded with enough blowhards shouting out of their asses about this Black Death Zombie Apocalypse Shutdown. Who the hell wants to hear from a stay-at-home teacher who used to have too much time on his hands, but is now in charge of implementing remote learning for a kindergartner while also organizing remote learning activities for high-school students? Especially when there are such learned individuals like Hollywood actors and athletes and the president talking out of their own asses, too?

Oh, and I’ve got to do a Zoom staff meeting this afternoon because clearly my principal has lost his faculties. Shit, I hope he’s more effective at muting the nimrods in this setting than at real staff meetings. Come to think of it, can we add that “mute other’s mic” function to reality when the world comes back? Doubtful. I’m still waiting for the ability to pause and rewind live conversations like I can on tv.

Hold on a second. I need to get my two schools in order. While I’m sure my AP European History students would love to analyze “If You Give a Dog a Doughnut,” I don’t know if Daughter’s kindergarten teacher is ready to analyze the causes and effects of the Irish potato famine.

Sorry, where was I? Oh right! I was walking away. Washing my hands of the ‘Rona. I needed to get on with my blog life. Sorry Virus, we’re done. It’s not me, it’s you.

I prepared a few non-COVID posts. Random thoughts on stuff around the house, some posts I was planning to write before the world ended. Maybe I should finally get around to post the Camptathalon journal from last summer. Especially since Camptathalon might be dead on arrival this year if Governor-Commandant Newsom with his fancy slicked-back hair doesn’t open up the campsites even though camping is about as socially-distant of an activity as exists in the 21st century. But one does not become Governor-Commandant if one is willing to acknowledge nuance and/or listen to the ideas of anyone who’s not currently speaking from more than a nose’s length away the Governor-Commandant’s ass.

And I thought losing Camptathalon to a fire was bad.

But then, just like the victim of an abusive relationship, here I am coming back. You don’t understand, guys. You only see the outward signs. I know I complain about the definition of social distancing, and the constantly moving goalposts, and the toilet paper. But then he does something that draws me back in and I’m all, “WHY CAN’T I QUIT YOOOOOOOOOOOUUUU?”

The Governor-Commandant (I don’t know if this title is official yet, beyond in his own mind, but it’s only a matter of time before it gets snuck into a rescue bill that legislators won’t be given enough time to read but will be demonized for voting no on) called a press conference last week. Because he has to have one every few days or else how will he know if his hair is slicked properly? He doesn’t allow himself mirrors, as a) he can never tear himself away from their gorgeous visage, and b) seeing himself in the mirror might prevent him from holding press conferences where not only he, but his entire fiefdom, is granted the privilege of viewing this modern-day fusion of Adonis and Apollo.

But before I get to what he said, did you see that Stanford study about the COVID? No? Well do you remember when you had the sniffles back in January? Well good news! If you’re in California, you’ve probably already had the ‘Rona and are now immune. The whole state, it seems, might have herd immunity. It doesn’t mean we’ll get to leave the house any sooner, but maybe we can stop scrubbing our hands down to the bones.

Speaking of which, when I was driving in to school to pick up the next few weeks (Honestly, Herr Kommandant, I was out for an essential reason. Not that, in your wisdom, you’ve deemed education as “essential.” Can’t wait till that comes up in our next round of salary negotiations.), the Amber Alert sign said, “Soap and Water will defeat COVID-19. Wash your hands.” Um, Amber Alert dude? Haven’t you heard? Washing hands is sooooo March 20. We gave up on washing our hands long before we could determine something as pointless as if it will defeat the ‘Rona. The only way we can beat it now is by sequestering ourselves for a decade or so. And maybe by extending a governor’s term to life.

I certainly hope the Governor-Commandant doesn’t discover the Deep State rebel in the Amber Alert office or dude’s gonna get canned. Just kidding. I think I’ve written about that asswipe a few times, and I’ll be the first one donning a Brown Shirt if Newsom ensures that those signs are only used for emergency information. Of course, I only support the removal of said employee if firing employees is still the preferred method of removing non-party government officials. If we’ve already moved on to summary execution, I guess I’ll keep being electronically scolded on my commute. If I ever have a commute again.

Although now that I think about it, Newsom seems more of a Mauve Shirt kinda guy.

Sorry, where was I? Oh right. The Stanford study. I remember headlines back in February saying “Coronavirus set to hit what has already been a brutal flu season.” That flu season was BRUTAL, y’all. Why, people were having trouble breathing, with a dry cough and high fever. Then some of them died. Horrible flu season! Oh, did I mention we never actually tested any of these people to see if it was really the flu? Hmm… what else could cause those symptoms…

BTW, I googled “Coronavirus symptoms” to write that last paragraph. I’m sure I’ll be getting a friendly visit from a concerned government worker soon. After all, they’re talking about letting Google and Apple use our cell phone records to see if we come in contact with any of the COVIDs. I can’t think of anything bad that would come from giving the government unlimited access to all of our phone and location data. What’s this? Why is there a speeding ticket in my mailbox because I went 37 in a 35 zone last month?

I didn’t get this “Brutal Flu,” but I know a few people who did, and they all now swear it was the ‘Rona. The people at Stanford agree. They say nothing else explains why California’s infection rate is so much lower than New York’s. I can think of a few reasons. For one thing, New Yorkers do crazy things like come in contact with other New Yorkers. They walk on the very same sidewalks that other people are walking on. At the same time! They also commute in a giant metal tube amongst thousands of their brethren. In California, we drive by ourselves in our cars, like decent human beings. We park in the parking lot and, if you time it right and work in a cubicle, you might never come within “social distance” of another human being for the entire day.

As a result, we also spend a large portion of our time walking through a smoggy haze. It’s tough to breathe through that atmospheric soup. And I suppose if we can’t inhale oxygen, it’s tougher to inhale viruses, too. Except now that nobody’s commuting to work anymore, the air quality in LA’s drastically improved. Not that we give a shit about saving the environment, mind you. California showed its true colors when we banned reusable bags at grocery stores. We love trees and all, but as soon as there’s a 1 in 2,000 chance we’ll get sick, after which there’s a 2 in 100 chance we’ll die from it, then Woodsy the Owl can kiss our collective ass.

That’s right. At this point in California, a state of 40,000,000, we’ve had just over 1,000 deaths, making it roughly 1 out of every 40,000. This, of course, doesn’t count all the people who caught it before March when we were calling it “the flu,” but even so, it’s a hell of a lot safer than driving, which is something, last time I checked, we didn’t tell people to stop going to work over that statistic.

The Stanford study (and there’s another one going on at a Southern California university, too) posits that, since the virus originated in Asia, and a large number of Asian flights land in LA and SF, that like a Snobby Doo villain, if we could unmask that wily villain, the “Brutal Flu” was COVID all along. And he would’ve gotten away with it, too, if it weren’t for our meddling herd immunity. And just think, we did got through it all while still going to work and grocery shelves filled with toilet paper.

Not sure how this Stanford study will explain Seattle, since the Asian flights that don’t conclude in California gotta be going there. Sorry Portland.

Okay now, where was I? That’s what tha 2020 is like. I can’t go off on my tangents in class anymore, where a discussion about Martin Luther, Jr. posting his 95 Letters from a Birmingham Jail on the door of a Wittenberg church bombing can randomly turn itself into a discussion of how the video for John Cougar Mellencamp’s “Ain’t Even Done with Tonight” is the perfect summation of the Jimmy Carter presidency. Remember gas lines?

So right, I was talking about Herr Obergruppenfuehrer Newsom’s press conference. The one where he totally ignored the Stanford study. What else is he gonna do? The quasi-Marxist probably can’t give credence to those liberal think-tanks.

It was the first press conference I checked out in a while, because he had been meeting with the governors of Oregon and Washington the day before to hammer out “The Re-opening.” Alas, poor Oregon. Working with its two big neighbors, never realizing that when we all secede to start the New Pacific Order, they were doomed to play the role of Poland.

But nope. No reopening in sight. The low numbers, according to Newsom, have nothing do with herd immunity. Want to guess why Californians aren’t “Doin’ the ‘VID”? Because we listened to Gavin. Sure, we were shutting shit down a week before he said boo, but it’s all thanks to him. We heeded his demands!

And dammit, if we don’t keep doing exactly what the fuck he says, he’s going to infect one person per hour until he’s all the way up to the 25.5 million that he promised four weeks ago. What, you didn’t think he was serious? You doubted his ability to do basic arithmetic? Well, the second you head back to work, the CHP will pull you over and plunge a syringe of virus into your arm as soon as you roll down the window.

He set out some guidelines for reopening which make it crystal clear that we will never reopen in our lifetime. He laid out six things that need to happen, and I can guaran-fucking-tee that at least one won’t happen. Schools will need to ensure social distancing.

Now I’m not a math teacher, but I’m curious how I keep 40 students six-feet apart from each other in a room that’s maybe 300 square feet? One option would be to build a bunch of new schools. As in triple or quadruple the current number, with a commensurate addition of teachers and staff. Either that or they’ll turn schools into round-the-clock enterprises. My forty students get chopped into four groups of 10, with one having school at 8:00 AM, the second at 2:00 PM, the third at 8:00 PM, the fourth at 2:00 AM. And unless they’re planning on making the teachers stay there 24/7, they’re still going to need to hire more teachers. And I for one don’t really want to teach 24 hours a day nor take a 75% pay cut.

So it’s never going to happen. We’re never going to reopen. There is no feasible way to build or staff any school at a 10:1 ratio. I hope you’re enjoying home schooling, because that’s going to be sticking around for a while.

Comrade Gavin has made it clear he won’t let us go back to work until he can ensure that no Californian ever dies ever again. Nothing about making public transportation that would cut down on car crashes, though.

Some of Governor-Kommandant’s other “benchmarks” will be coming a lot sooner, though. For instance, his missive for “a data-tracking system that provides an early warning” of future shut-downs. That’s front burner shit for his ilk.

Comrade Gavin wants to figure out a way to go through this whole fuckamamie bullshit again. Because he might need to stop us from going to work again in the future. Not to cut down on car crashes or help the environment, but to remind us of his magnanimity. Stalin and Hitler loved making their birthdays national holidays, after all.

So one more time, but with quickness and pizzazz.

He doesn’t want us getting comfortable. Rights aren’t, you know, natural or anything. They’re given to you by your benevolent overlord.  And he’s not opposed to taking them away again it again if we do irresponsible things like purchase groceries.

And the way he’s going to do it? Why, Yep, we’re back to the whole government commandeering Google and Apple. Although maybe, if they won’t narc on us, he can devise his own system.

Like maybe a two-way television screen on every wall. With his face on it. We’d never leave the house again.

Quaran-geddon, Post IV

The world has seemingly settled into a new normal. It feels like the sparkle is off this journal. But the problem is what the hell else am I supposed to write about? It’s not like I can go out and make pithy observations of my fellow human beings. I can’t regale you of stories about those crazy teenagers in my classroom. Do you want to hear my thoughts on Frozen II? Trust me, I got plenty o’ thoughts on Frozen II.In the meantime, here are more oddities and frivolities from the Great American Stay-Home:1. We’ve been playing restaurant at mealtimes. Evidently we eat out often enough (or ate out, back in the Before Times) that Daughter feels uncomfortable without someone bringing food to the table. So she plays server. She takes our order, picks up our food (which Daddy Chef left on the counter before taking his spot at the table to have his order taken) and brings it to the table. We’ve allowed exceptions for wine and beer, which requires a grown-up “sommelier” to deliver. Not for any moral reasoning or anything, but because we don’t want her sloshing out the good stuff.The first time we did this, I said, “Garcon, coffee!” She just responded with “Okay,” not yet familiar with the proper response of “Garcon means boy.” We gotta wait until at least week four of quarantine before I make my five-year-old sit through Pulp Fiction. So naturally, she thought I was naming her Garcon. That it was maybe printed on her name tag. So now, she asks if she can play Garcon, like it’s some alter ego.She’ll be sitting at the table and realize she needs more water. So she’ll ask Wife or I to ask Garcon for water. Then she leaves the table and, wouldn’t you know it, Garcon shows up. It’s like Clark Kent and Superman. We’re supposed to tell Garcon that our daughter is at the bathroom but she’d like another water. Then when she “returns,” the drink’s there. Just like Mia’s food in Pulp Fiction. I’m tellin’ ya, Quentin Tarantino predicted my quarantine to a T over 25 years ago.She needs to work on her pricing, though, if she’s hoping to stay in business beyond the pandemic. Odd things are included and others aren’t. The coffee’s included, but not the creamer. Cereal’s free, but the milk will cost you. Our breakfast bill came out to $117 the other day – everything was included except for the bacon ($17) and the coffee ($100). I mean, at least she’s got the concept of demand down pat.2. I love all the advertisements and mail circulars I’m seeing that were clearly written before Quaran-geddon started. The first week or two of grocery store circulars were comical. Oh, they think pork is on sale this week? Have they seen their meat section? Good thing they don’t list toilet paper. They understand the concept of inelastic demand.Sorry, I’m a stay-at-home social-science teacher right now. If I don’t point out portions of our history or government or economy, I might just burst.A batch of coupons I received a few days ago came in an envelope encouraging me to tune into the XFL. That league stopped all of its games and canceled the rest of the season weeks ago. Others made reference to St. Patrick’s Day. Or “Get Out for Spring!” Or “Happy Easter!” Is Easter still happening? Can we postpone it for a few months like they did the baseball season?Of course, the obsolete advertising that I’m seeing the most is related to March Madness, the college basketball championship. Then again, maybe some ad exec knew it was canceled, but figured “Get into the Madness” still works perfectly fine.One company that seemed to miss the whole March Madness memo as Great Clips. I was near one the other day that had three postings. The first was a poster of a basketball spinning on a finger that read “This March, we’re getting in on the Madness.” Oops. There were two other sheets of paper on the door. The first, dated March 18, said that the health of their staff was their first concern, so please don’t come in if you’re sick. The second, dated March 23, said they were closed until further notice. Somebody had handwritten in “But don’t cut your hair until we’re back.” Tacky much?That’s what the NCAA gets for picking Great Clips as the Official Haircut of college basketball. Sports Clips actually has TVs where they show sports. Of course, most of the time those TVs are pointless because live sports don’t happen at the same time of the day as haircuts. But during March Madness, that’s a key selling point. But go ahead, NCAA, partner with a business that has no TVs and doesn’t show your product.3. The brewery that I was heading to for weekly growler fill-ups is now delivering beer.I’m going to let that one sink in for a bit: Hand-delivered craft beer.Obviously they can’t deliver growler refills. But two “crowler” cans has the same amount of beer as a growler. And four crowlers, which is what I ordered, equals 128 ounces of beer. That’ll keep me busy for a bit.Technically I live outside their normal delivery radius, but they were willing to extend it for me. Either because I’m a regular customer or because I just ordered 128 ounces of beer. Or because, I don’t know, what the hell else are they going to do?When the guy dropped off my beer, he thanked me profusely for the business. Like, he seriously wanted me to know how much it meant and how he’d be willing to extend their official delivery options any old time I wanted to sit on my ass and get beer.Again, I’m going to let this one sit for awhile. Some dude was delivering beer to my front door. And I was somehow the hero in this scenario!4. “Want me to brew another pot of coffee?” I ask, shaking the empty pot to indicate its emptiness toward my Wife.”Wasn’t that already our third pot today?””Yeah, but it seems too early to switch to beer.””What time is it?””10 am.”5. Thanks to Josh Gad reading bedtime stories on Twitter and Mo Willems doing lunchtime doodles on YouTube and Weezer’s hilarious video for “Lost in the Woods,” where they do a shot-for-shot remake of the scene in Frozen II in which the song appears, complete with Kristen Bell, the real-life voice of Anna, in the place of Anna from the movie, Daughter is becoming more familiar with the actors and writers behind the scenes of her favorite media.This led to the following back and forth.”So Anna’s not a queen, is she? And Elsa’s not either?””Well, they were both princesses. Elsa was queen for most of the movies. Anna was a princess who became queen by the end of the second movie.”(Oops. Spoiler!)”No, I mean that Kristen girl isn’t a princess or a queen, right? So Anna’s not REALLY a queen.””Oh, no. Kristen Bell and Idina Menzel are Americans. Our constitution says we’re not allowed to take titles of nobility unless we renounce our citizenship.”So, wherever you are, jut think that it could be worse. You could be quarantined with a stay-at-home social-science teacher right now, like my poor daughter.6. Okay, since I broke the seal on Frozen II, here’s a shot of Daughter watching it:You’ll notice she has an iPad next to her with a face on it. That’s her and her friend Facetiming and watching the movie together. And no, this isn’t because the friend doesn’t own a copy of the movie. This is just what they decided to do. Video call your friend, then instead of talking face-to face, turn it around and watch a movie together.Can’t wait to see what generational hang-ups will manifest themselves in 20 years. I’m already prepared for a drop in my high schoolers’ reading abilities in another six or seven years.7. Lots of parades these days. All the teachers and most of the staff at Daughter’s school paraded through our neighborhood. Thirty or forty honking cars, decorated with the school name and mascot and elementary teachers leaning out the window and shouting, winding up and down all the streets in their attendance area. Thank God my school doesn’t come up with some bullshit like that. I’m all for “show the kids we miss them,” but I can accomplish that with a well-timed reference to the Zombie Apocalypse. And explanations of constitutional provisions against titles of nobility.Then all the local emergency services followed suit a few days later. Fire trucks and police cruisers and ambulances, sirens and buzzers blasting. I guess when society shuts down, we don’t need to worry about being on-call for crime or fires or non-COVID patients requiring rides to the hospital. Ha ha, just kidding. Non-COVIDs don’t get medical attention. Sorry, grandma on Life Alert.Allegedly this was for community outreach, but I’m not so sure. I figure their income’s gotta be through the floor with nobody driving. Gone are the revenue streams for speeding or rolling stops or parking violations. And isn’t anyone who leaves their home to see the parade violating a government mandate? I figure they had a whole bunch of pre-written fines and were tossing them out like beads at Mardi Gras. I was a few neighborhoods over when it all went down, and all I could hear were sirens and horns. I assumed every blast was another $100 coming toward our fair city’s coffers.8. Corona just stopped brewing because of COVID-19. Mexico has determined it to be “non-essential.”To repeat: No more Corona because of coronavirus.I don’t think there’s anything else I can say.