In this month’s Amazon Trail, Lee Lynch talks about the end of quarantine, the fear of being around people again, and supporting local businesses in their time of need.
It’s finally here. The end of total lockdown. Am I ready? Absolutely not. I like my burrow. I don’t wanna play with others.
We’ve fashioned a comfortable little routine. Week days, work. Evenings, spend time alone together. Weekends, yard and house work and, sometimes, an adventure.
The adventures are mostly food and view related. They require us to travel along Highway 101 thirty to forty-five minutes south. Which is a mini-vacation in itself. People come here from all over the developed world to drive this highway. My sweetheart and I, we just buckle up and go, the little dog in her back seat safety perch and the cat at home, guarding the house from whatever intrusions he fears. Probably a bug. Talk about privileged lives. We ain’t got much but we’ve got it all.
Former neighbors gave us the idea. They liked to go to a certain restaurant, get takeout, drive two minutes to the ocean, and watch the waves while they ate. As it happens, that modest restaurant makes the best fish and chips on the coast. No soggy beer batter. No fancy coleslaw. No stingy portions.
We worried that this institution might be lost to the pandemic.
When the first COVID cash arrived, my sweetheart suggested we use some of it to help keep our small local businesses afloat. Wow. What a very pleasant patriotic practice. And it hasn’t all been food. Over the months we’ve helped keep America strong by shopping at Grandma’s Greenhouse, the feed stores, the locksmith down the street, a roofer, the hardware store — though that’s a franchise operated by a local. Of course, these happen to be the places we’ve always shopped, but now we could pat ourselves on the backs, all noble in our consumerism.
Ice cream had been a forbidden fruit for health reasons, but we couldn’t let the nearby ice cream palace or the iconic creamery in the next county suffer economic ruin, could we? Pounds for a purpose and a treat for the dog, who we are trying to convert to a pet who loves the car and travel and her safety seat. So far, ice cream isn’t enough of a bribe.
We weren’t hiding under a rock. We knew the pandemic was taking a terrible toll; the sheer numbers of deaths assured that. Multiply each death by a family, friends, work colleagues, perhaps students, clients, patients, the losses became staggering, and the former administration’s deceptive, money-grubbing, incompetent response was revealed as criminal.
COVID has forever changed our lives. We follow the guidelines and make our drop-in-the-bucket contributions and stay sane with our little routines.
Then we found Chubby’s. Is there a more effective method of funneling COVID cash into a rural county’s economy than by patronizing our food trucks? Chubby’s is a basic burger chuckwagon. The friendly pest control guy told us they made the best burgers he’d ever tasted.
Out came our second Economic Impact Payment. Chubby’s only accepts orders online. This was new to us, but through trial and error, we’ve indulged ourselves twice. Maybe the third time we’ll get the fried onions, onion rings, mustard-mayo-ketchup, cheese, and timing right. They only stock so many patties per day and when they’re out, they close, a horrid surprise after a fogbound drive when the ocean is mostly invisible.
The newest problem for these businesses is lack of employees. What’s with that? The pizza and grinders place we favor is pleading with customers to be kind to staff because they’re all working ten-hour days, fourteen days in a row. They’ve had to cut back on deliveries and close two days a week. The same with our fish and chips place. Is it continued fear of COVID? The unvaccinated? The unvaccinated and unmasked? It’s hard to admit to myself that I can’t go and apply. Even if they were desperate enough to hire someone with white hair, my body wouldn’t last an hour at restaurant pace.
But that’s not what I set out to say. It crept up on me — the beginning of the reopening of our county.
First there was my friend the Librarian who came to drop off a brilliant red daylily, and I was so excited to see her, I insisted she come inside. The first other than service people to do so since lockdown. Then there was my sweetheart’s friend of many years who appeared like an emissary from the Golden Crown Literary Society. We three actually rode in a car together and ate inside a restaurant. Two other firsts.
The Handydyke emailed to invite us to watch the annual Blessing of the Fleet — we’re a commercial fishing town — with her, the Pianist, and maybe some other friends, from their deck. Five of us showed up, unmasked, vaccinated. It was just like old times. The CDC said we’d be safe. And it felt wonderful, especially the hugs. I should have checked; is it safe to hug again?
How am I going to preserve our hermitage, when seeing friends is such a pleasure? I loved eating by the ocean with my sweetheart and our little dog Betty, who dislikes oceans as much as cars. We may have to leave her home and bring (gasp) two-legged friends.
Copyright Lee Lynch 2021. Photo courtesy Lee Lynch.