Walk, Work, Wine, Write and Zoom: Four W’s & a Z in COVID-19 Times
By Ronnie Lovler
Walk, walk, and walk. I’ve got to keep the body moving and get some fresh air. I do this in Gainesville, FL the city I call home. Most days, I go out for one or two walks, mornings with two friends and often with another friend for a second walk in the afternoon. Sometimes we get inspiration from signs posted along the way. Who could not be motivated by this invitation for Bike-Thru Beer from a local brewery located just outside a downtown park? Walk-Thru beer also works for those of us on foot.
I’m working because I am able to do so online. I remain social via Zoom and other online options. I’m still learning French and German on Duolingo. And I continue to wage my personal war to stay upbeat, when sometimes I just don’t feel like it. We are entering Week 4 of our shelter-in-place order, or perhaps it is Week 5. I get confused. I am sure I am not alone in thinking that the days and weeks overlap. I try not to overdo the bouts of self-pity, so what has worked is to allow myself a little lapse into lethargy.
By that I mean, about once a week, I don’t get dressed, and I wear my pajamas all day. I will binge on a TV series or watch a movie I have wanted to see or settle in with a book I have put off reading. I opt out of socializing, so no phone calls, no Zoom, and no walks that day, because who wants to see me walking in my pajamas? I may venture out onto my back porch for some fresh air. The occasional day of self-indulgence allows me to get back on track.
By the next day, I am ready for another walk to take advantage of the greenery in our city parks. I live in Gainesville, FL and I number myself among the lucky ones. I am not ill, can work from home, and am able to maintain social connectivity, even if from a social distance. I am busy, somewhat content and relatively happy, and still have a lot to do.
My main tasks these days revolve around my classes. I have papers to grade for the three classes I teach: two online writing labs at the University of Florida and a public speaking class at Santa Fe College. Students have had a range of responses to the COVID-19 mandated online learning; some students remained engaged; others did not and have gone missing. However, for the reluctant professor who never contemplated working totally online, the show must go on, which means assignments must be distributed and grades must to be given. I have 61 students in the three classes, with a combined total of 50 active students. So that’s how many assignments I generally have to grade each week. It can be mentally exhausting, but some interesting things do pop up.
One student from my UF class turned in a social media assignment about cutting her dad’s hair while in quarantine. Nope, it didn’t come out great and I did not ask for permission to share pictures here, but I saw the results and her dad is an eminently good sport. Another was examining Facebook posts and determined that not only are older people more at risk for coronavirus, they are also more at risk of posting incorrect information on social media because we are “unfamiliar with technology, and have time to spread fake news.” I don’t think that applies to all baby boomers, but that assessment could describe a certain U.S. president.
My public speaking students also have some interesting insights to share. We meet twice a week on Zoom with a hard-core group of attendees. Our last assignment was persuasive speeches. One young man who was sick but tested negative for coronavirus was passionate about the need for masks. A young woman who, in her words, was just in a “horrific auto accident” advocated for seat belt use. Another student said so much time together in quarantine had made her family closer.
School is out for me on May 4 — in other words my grades have to be submitted by then. I am signed up to teach two classes this summer, but who knows if enough students will enroll? Not everyone is wild about online studying, and there will likely be no in-person classes until at least the fall semester, and perhaps not even then. Both the university and the college are still trying to figure things out.
What lies ahead? Like everyone else, I am waiting for Florida to open, but to open safely. I don’t want to be numbered among the #Floridamorons. If you missed it, that was the term is trending on Twitter, to highlight the people who crammed onto the beaches in Jacksonville after the mayor re-opened them. I’ll wait, thank you very much. I am not among those joining the protest to demand their right to get sick. Social distancing restrictions, however, do not apply to the seagulls that frequent our beaches.
I flaunt the rules with some very limited in-person contacts. More happy hours and conversations one at a time with individual friends keeping six feet apart on my back porch. I heard on National Public Radio that alcohol consumption is up by at least 40 percent. The clerk at my local neighborhood liquor store tells me they keep running out of Tito’s Vodka and Bailey’s Irish Cream (two of my favorites).
For me, continued group social connectivity continues via Zoom. I am on the boards of three local organizations, and we hold regular meetings online. We haven’t skipped a beat. My writer’s group has started meeting on Zoom. This week, my chapter of a group that supports women’s business efforts in developing countries held its first meeting on Zoom. I attended my third consecutive virtual dance party this Friday night.
. I still watch Jeopardy a few times a week with a friend, who is far better at the game than I am, with his ability for instant recall. We have upped the ante with virtual movie dates. We find a movie to watch, generally via Turner Classic Movies, turn on our respective TVs and bring up Zoom, but we mute ourselves, so we don’t hear two soundtracks. When we want to make a comment, we use hand signals so the other party can unmute. When the movie ends, we talk a bit.
I have a regular happy hour via Facetime with a friend from Orlando. I have “dinner” with my son in Baltimore once a week via Zoom. We even had a family reunion during Passover when my niece organized an online Seder. There were 12 of us there, something we probably would never have pulled off in real life, since we live in four different cities, hundreds of miles apart.
Sometimes there are too many choices. Last weekend, there was my dance party. But there was also an option of going on Broadway with YouTube to see Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Phantom of the Opera”. A local music venue offered livestreaming from four area musicians. There was opera again from the Met in New York City. A jazz concert from Spain. Oh, and course, the myriad streaming choices for movies and series. I really must catch up with “Ozark.” There was also the “One World at Home Together” event which featured musicians from around the world speaking out on behalf of healthcare workers and the World Health Organization (WHO). It opened with a three-way introduction from late night talk show hosts Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel and Stephen Colbert with a kickoff from event organizer Lady Gaga and her amazing rendition of Charlie Chaplin’s “Smile.”
But still I get nostalgic for the good old days. I visited Puerto Rico in December and to be funny, I sent a picture to my friend who I visited, of a group of us at a restaurant on Christmas Day before I headed back home. We sat so close together! We were even touching! And just a month or so earlier, I was at a major fundraiser event with hundreds of other people. It is still hard to believe how much things have changed so quickly. I miss those days.