My grandson recently graduated from 3rd grade and I was invited to watch the morning ceremony which the school managed to stream online. I’d just had breakfast and read a number of the articles in the New York Time’s news section. I read articles about Ukraine, and its desperate fight for its independence. There were articles about 2020 election deniers and their success in several states to control voting procedures along with articles about primary wins by Trump supporters. There were articles about the Supreme Court and its impending decisions, including the reversal of Roe v. Wade. One article I just managed to finish before the time of the graduation ceremony was about Poland and the absence of women’s rights to any decisions regarding abortions, which are completely illegal. I didn’t get to read the articles on climate change, which didn’t look encouraging at all.
So when those high voices of the third graders in my grandson’s school sang an optimistic song about “always learning” and “always growing,” my eyes just welled up with tears. At least they were able to reach their graduation, I thought. Unlike all those kids, including the children about the same age in Uvalde, who got shot. It should be enough to bring any grandparent –or parent– to tears as well.
Before the pandemic, I took the subway in NYC all the time. It was always my first choice for transportation. Then there was the pandemic. If I needed to leave my neighborhood during the pandemic (usually only for a doctor’s appointment or the occasional Covid shot), I would resort to a bus or, sometimes, a taxi. Taxis have a very reassuring plastic barrier between the front seat and the backseat. As a senior citizen, I really appreciated that. It wasn’t that I was that concerned about Covid transmission on the train, since I knew ridership would be way down. I was much more concerned about crime. Fewer riders to me meant more possibilities for criminal behavior.
Since March 2020, and with all the dramatic news stories involving subway incidents, that concern hasn’t dissipated at all. I’ve spoken to some friends and acquaintances, who are also senior citizens, who don’t have any problem riding the subway. Although some said they’d seen passengers on the trains and platforms who looked a bit “unstable,” they said they were “harmless”.
I’m not sure I can summon the courage to see for myself and am wondering what it’s going to take to get me to go down those subway stairs again.
I don’t know about you but the past few months seem to me to have been full of even more bad news than usual. I was, and am, devastated by the stories and photographs coming out of Ukraine and this senseless war brought on by an autocrat. Add to that, there have been some extremely disturbing stories of New Yorkers who’ve been shot or knifed for no reason at all. And now we have the horrific news of the racist shooting at the supermarket in Buffalo and the unbelievable shooting at the elementary school in Uvalde, Texas. It’s interesting that Covid has been pushed out of the front part of my brain now, where it occupied a center seat for the past 2 years. I suppose that’s one benefit from all this otherwise gutting news.
I think often of how my parents must have felt watching the world spin out of control during the Great Depression and, later, Hitler’s advance through Europe. I suppose they did not have the relentless 24-hour news cycle and all the devices which keep us in constant touch with the headlines.
I have a group of friends who recently shared how they cope with all this. The answers were interesting. One person said she only listens to one newscast a day, the evening news at 11:00 pm. Another said she takes very long walks. A third said she cries. At this time, none of those remedies are ones I’ll adopt. But I don’t have any others. So my fate is simply to be very upset and wonder how this gets better.
There are, unquestionably, many benefits to volunteering. Some of the ones that are most often mentioned are: it provides you with a sense of purpose; it provides a sense of community; it teaches you valuable skills (including social skills). As a senior citizen, it helps you meet new friends and provides a bulwark against loneliness. That’s especially important during this pandemic, as many of us who are senior citizens are spending more time, isolated, at home.
I live in NYC and I’ve had various volunteer jobs over the years. Some lasted longer than others because some I enjoyed more than others.
I decided at the end of last year that I wanted to add a new volunteer commitment to my schedule so I Googled “volunteer opportunities”. I could search in countless ways for volunteer work (in NYC, in my neighborhood, by type of work, etc.). It was somewhat overwhelming.
I’ve been on several Zoom calls recently during which some of my Zoom-mates (isn’t that what we are?) shared their travel plans. Many people seem to be planning trips, and to some faraway places.
Clearly, I haven’t been bitten by the travel bug, especially as the BA.2 variant seems to be spreading.
To my knowledge, I haven’t had Covid. I’ve just completed my 3rd week after my 4th shot, when I think my immunity is as good as it’s going to be. However, the thought of possibly getting Covid, and, in particular, long Covid, is keeping me from contemplating potentially maskless experiences and any kind of travel.
The concern I have, however, is what it will take to give me courage to do that again, since all indicators point to this being a disease we’ll be living with forever.
It took me a while to always remember to grab my mask whenever I would leave my apartment in the early days of NYC’s lockdown in the spring of 2020. Now, two years later, it’s became second nature to wear a mask and I would feel strange without one on my face in any indoor public setting. Going for a walk or being outside is another story. I’m fine without one on. The possibility of being maskless indoors, however, is going to take some getting used to.
I overheard similar concerns yesterday as I waited in the checkout line at a local CVS on the Upper West Side in Manhattan. An older woman who was standing near her friend on the checkout line was saying, loudly enough so most everyone in the front of the CVS store on Broadway could hear, that she was not likely to be taking off her mask. “You don’t know if someone near you has a new Covid form,” she kept saying. I assume she meant a new variant.
That’s the problem. We won’t know, and can only trust in the vaccines we’ve had (even though half the reports say the immunity to them wanes over time) and our masks.
Unquestionably, winter, and especially several days in a row of gray skies and precipitation, seem to make the pandemic worse –at least for me. I’ve felt like Bill Murray in the movie, “Groundhog Day”, more times than I can count. One friend on a Zoom call this afternoon remarked, “I just can’t tell what day of the week it is anymore.” Many others on the screen nodded in agreement.
I’m triple-vaxxed since late October but still haven’t seen a theatrical performance or even been to a museum since before March 2020 (although that may soon change now that Omicron cases in New York City have significantly dropped). I haven’t eaten inside a restaurant.
I’m not sure how one ventures back out into the world. But until I do resume many missing activities of my life, the dreariness of the pandemic, and the winter, make the days all seem the same.
It was one of those uneventful mornings after an equally uneventful trip to my local grocery store on Broadway, on the Upper West Side in New York City. I waited until the light had changed for me to be able to cross a particularly wide stretch of Broadway. The cars and trucks had stopped, since they had a red light. A large truck was stopped in the last lane. That’s significant because the truck blocked my view of a bicyclist riding one of those (wretched) electric bikes in a narrow passage of street to his left.
He blew into the crosswalk and came within inches of mowing me down. Luckily, he swerved just in time. It was a very close call.
Was this a moving violation? Well, that’s easy. There is something called the “New York City Department of Transportation TRAFFIC RULES”, Title 34, Chapter 4.
Specifically, for “Steady red alone” traffic signals, Section 4-03, says “Vehicular traffic facing such signal shall stop before entering the crosswalk on the near side of the intersection…and shall remain standing until an indication to proceed is shown.”
There is also a definition of “Vehicle” : “A “vehicle” means every device in, upon, or by which any person or property is or may be transported or drawn upon a highway, except devices moved by human power or used exclusively upon stationary rails or tracks.” Clearly, that electric bike is a vehicle.
Now, it begs the question of what to do to keep it from happening again…and again…and again.
After our vaccinations, there’s no question that we all need a good mask to increase our odds of not getting Covid. The public service announcements for what constitutes a “good mask” are coming thick and fast. There should be no tiny air spaces between your face and the mask, so the ubiquitous blue surgical masks have fallen from grace. They don’t hug your face.
The gold-standard of masks, the N95’s that we were told not to buy in 2020, so they could go to healthcare professionals, are now readily available online. The fine print for many of them say they are ‘NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) approved for at least 95 percent filtration efficiency against certain non-oil based particles’. The ones I have (and I bought a few to try from 3 different manufacturers) fit like a second skin on my face. The problem are those elastic bands, one around your head and the second around your neck. I can handle an hour with them on and then my face and skull begin to rebel. (If I have the courage someday to attend a play in NYC, and the mask mandate is still in effect, it had better have no more than a 1 hour running time.)
The KN95’s, the ones with the ear loops, are definitely easier and more comfortable to wear. However, my glasses fog up with one of them on. I assume if my breath is capable of escaping to fog my glasses, then those teeny-tiny Covid particles have a way in, too. So they’ve fallen a few notches down on my personal mask “Favorites” list.
I’ve already thrown out all of the cute cloth masks I bought on Etsy in March and April of 2020. Cute as those gingham patterns were, they also didn’t pass my Glasses Fog test.
The N95s are definitely the Top Mask in my mask basket. No glasses fog. No air pockets. Just pain.
Although I’m officially retired, I spend time writing and illustrating this blog (although not as regularly as I would like). I also spend time working as a volunteer for the New York City Chapter of The Transition Network (www.https://www.thetransitionnetwork.org/events/nyc/), a not-for-profit networking organization for women over 50 transitioning into retirement. In particular, I’m involved with one of their Caring Collaborative Neighborhood Groups. These are groups that are neighborhood-based throughout the city, comprised of members of TTN who wish to support each other through regular meetings and shared information about health and well-being. I also have five wonderful grandchildren, all 8 and under, whom I hope to see more regularly, thanks to the Covid vaccine finally being approved for the 11 and under group.
However, I’m finding that I have free time, and that free time has led me to want to reach out and seriously explore additional volunteer work.
I contacted Americorps.gov and they immediately responded. After completing and submitting some forms, my contact sent me a list of potential openings with nonprofit organizations looking for volunteers. There were so many. They ran the gamut from volunteering to work in a soup kitchen, to tutoring, to mentoring, to helping recent immigrants craft their resumes and hone their interviewing skills, to simply having regular friendly conversations with homebound senior citizens. I’m deciding how I can be the most help but I’m left with the realization that there is an extraordinary amount of need out there thanks to the pandemic and everyone who can help in any way, should do that. They all also welcome donations if you can’t offer your services.