Wednesday, December 1, 2021

The COVID Chronicle, November 2021


November 1 [Monday]

[My daughter] became a licensed driver! She's a senior in high school and passed her behind-the-wheel driving test, her second attempt. No Covid note, just documenting a significant event. Bummer about the forthcoming increase in Auto insurance premium, but a big deal for the budding independence of this wildcat.


November 7 [Sunday]

A visit to IHOP this morning to retrieve pancake combos for pickup. International House of Pancakes requires a mask for entrance, naturally. I didn't recall if I had one or not, I didn't remember stuffing a mask into my pocket. But in my time of need there it was, stuffed into my front left pocket because that's where I place the thing upon exiting home. A rote victory. Then onward to my pal Emmett's for delivery and consumption. We ate indoors like civilized humans because we are all vaccinated. I'd visited a few times last year and we dined outdoors on the patio. We were then at the height of Covid concern.


November 9 [Tuesday]

Covid is receiving plenty of notoriety this football season. There are Covid protocols and a bunch of players are missing games. Players are tested weekly and if diagnosed as positive then they are put on the injured list and miss a game. A Covid-positive is cleared after two negative tests in successive days, the players may then return to action. My Browns will miss two running backs this coming Sunday due to Covid. I sure hope their back-up remains clean.


November 12 [Friday]

[Wife Klem] got her booster vaccine shot, Pfizer! A minor side-effect of drowsiness induced a brief afternoon nap.


November 13 [Saturday]

I got my vaccine booster shot this morning, Pfizer. I was jealous of [Wife Klem's] afternoon nap yesterday, so I did the same to assuage a beachhead of drowsiness.


November 17 [Wednesday]

My employer [in the category of 100+ employees] advised that all employees must be either vaccinated or test weekly for Covid. This action plan is intended to be compliant with the federal OSHA [Occupational Safety and Health Administration] Nov. 5 mandate applicable to employers of 100+.


November 18 [Thursday]

There must have been some kind of internal challenge to my employer's Covid vaccine / testing mandate. Federal requirement or not, the employee requirement is being put on hold in the name of respecting individuals' privacy. No additional details provided.


November 20 [Saturday]

Covid social hour. [The boy] and I walked to the pharmacy down the street and he got his booster shot. Pfizer. Then we saw a few friends, parents we knew from the grade school years, Team Piras. The mom got in line for her booster. We said hello then talked of footballs and our sons with the dad.


November 21 [Sunday]

Dad's cousin passed away a year ago during Covid, though not because of Covid. A funeral service was disallowed during Shelter In Place, so a year afterward, this weekend, the memorial service took place. I drove Mom, Dad and Uncle Joe. A nice get together.


November 25 [Thursday]

Happy Thanksgiving! Mom says it's her last one. I think she means that it's the last one she's cooking, not that she's expecting to sign off in the next year. In the past we've occasionally ordered out for Thanksgiving, or was that Mothers Day, and will seek to do that for future feasting holidays. Of course, when Mom hears that we're going to order out at future family dinners, she'll probably feel guilty and bake a ham.


Saturday, November 6, 2021

Suicide By Pandemic

 

The guy was truly a jackass. He was a hateful, hateable guy. He led a miserable life playing whim to his every emotion and want, each of which was of consistently sordid intent. Like an animal, there was no restraint, no self-control. The difference, however, is that an animal can at least be tamed. Even domesticated in some species. This guy, though, just a stubborn mule dominated by his feral instincts.

 

He was in his mid twenties. He communicated regularly with his parents, which was commendable. It usually ended poorly in tension and drama, which was not commendable. His shortfalls were easy enough to understand from any reasonable outsider looking in. He was of adult age, yet an adolescent’s capacity for adult conversation and thought. Queries pertaining to “What have you been doing lately” or “How has work been” were often the start of the conversation’s descent because he was incapable of constructive behavior.

 

He had friends. They too were miscreants more inclined to an angry verbal exchange rather than respond to such sensible questions. The likes of these fellows had it in their minds that if they were the first to become upset in a human exchange then they had successfully made themselves victims and the others the aggressors. Thus triggering self-defense behavior. The truth was, the boys, as they were not really men, were indeed victims. They were victims of their own ineptitude and joyless dereliction. Their ability to cobble together many poor decisions one after the other assured that they would eventually wallow in their own waste. All of them wading through their own abundant emptiness.

 

Our guy was a derelict. He struggled monthly accumulating money enough to pay rent. It’s not that he lacked work, he was employed. Compared to many of his friends he was top of the line compared to their own circumstances. On paper anyway, there was money enough to pay rent and recurring bills. Practical existence, though, did not reflect this. Returning to his desires, he spent unwisely. Late fees accumulated generously from late payment, when any payment had been proffered at all. Grocery shopping and cooking, even a can of chili or macaroni and cheese, were deemed too much trouble, so he often ate out, damn the budget. Parking tickets and traffic violations were bountiful, but only when he had cash enough to pump in a few gallons of fuel to allow for driving. Rarely did he fill up the tank. ‘What am I, rich,’ he thought as he’d settle for $10 or $20 of gas per stop. So went his mentality. A disappointing frame of mind for the personification of disappointment.

 

He was done. I don’t want this anymore, he figured. Life is a hassle. An endless stream of inconveniences and hurdles and I’ve had enough.

 

On this point, to his partial credit, he was right. Life can be a hassle. The point, on which he fell short, is that life offers two choices. First, life is an endless stream of hurdles and they are too much trouble to overcome. The second choice is that life is an endless stream of goals for which to strive, each one requiring an action plan by which it was to be attained, before then leveling up to the next goal and proceeding to the next action plan.

 

Our derelict errantly chose hurdles, the first choice. In so doing he relegated himself to a person living out as only a minor character in his own life. The other choice would have furnished him control over his life. Leading man material. But in this he was not. Rather than choosing the path in which he was in control as his life unfolded, he lived in a manner simply watching it unfold before him. He was a loser and had finally, on this soggy, rain be-soaked weekday afternoon decided to resign from this life. It was in the aftermath of this decision he heard the news report from the TV.

 

There was a virus of some sort resulting in a kind of global pandemic. He’d been mildly aware of it and paid no attention. His state was in lockdown effective immediately. If you must go out, wear a mask and keep your distance from others. This illness had been percolating throughout the globe for some months now. He cared not because he had not for which to care. But these escalated precautions did bring rise to an idea. 

 

He decided that ending life was preferred to living it. But he lacked gumption and the capacity for follow through. He would like to be concluded, without having to actually do it himself. As the news in the background caught his attention his mind wandered to the pandemic. Suicide by pandemic.

 

“How about if I just catch this virus?” he said aloud to nobody.

 

The government was implementing safety mandates unto its denizens. The Federal level had recommendations, the state had requirements and the county also put down some of its own. Our guy was not much of a rule follower so he was a little shaky on what was required, when and by whom. The mask, however, easy enough to understand, so he wore it when required.

 

He began to hear of volunteer opportunities to assist people incapable of getting out, or were deemed health risks. This awareness neatly coincided with a Federal stimulus check. So in an unusual moment of inspiration he used the free Federal money to fix his car and buy a tank of fuel. With that, he was in a better way to go about engaging the infected landscape and challenge the virus. Going one step further, in a rare moment of initiative, possibly brought on with a now smoothly operating vehicle, he volunteered to deliver meals and groceries to the oldsters at the local assisted living facility.

 

A point of clarification here. Our guy was not motivated by the charitable cause. His doing good through volunteerism was a pleasant byproduct of his darker drive. Just something to do while he’s waiting to catch the virus, a way to increase his exposure.

 

His first day was simple enough. “Pick up these orders at this address. The bags will all be labeled. Then, just, make the deliveries and report back.”

 

Order and abiding authorities were not amongst his strong suits. But, with orders as simple as this, and the authorities not standing between him and his goal, he could easily continue this at least until his end goal is attained. Affliction. If only his gas money were sustainable.

 

As if the world responded to his good deeds, regardless of motivation, he was handed a subsequent governmental gift. A Federal-level rent payment excusal. If he experienced financial difficulty due to the pandemic he would be excused from his rental obligation for several months. He did, so he was. He didn’t have much money, but without the squeeze to pay rent he’d be better able to continue his fuel-heavy volunteerism.

 

But still, gas wasn’t cheap. He was driving much more than he had before and he needed a cushion for fuel funds. He’d been at his parents’ house recently and a meal delivery service retrieved the meal from the restaurant and delivered it directly to their front door. He was already doing this, delivery service for the old people in the facility. The delivery work was easy enough and he considered himself good at it. The first time in a long time he considered himself to be good at anything. Well, other than cheating at cards and foulmouthing at the slightest provocation. So heck, he signed up with a meal delivery service and started earning additional pocket cash. This could fulfill his gas money needs as he continued with operation suicide. But, dammit, he thought, this was taking longer than he expected.

 

The months rolled on. Governmental rental postponement was extended. He chuckled to himself. He didn’t care. Rent was no longer his issue. Not his problem. Not anymore.

 

His driving continued. It was mostly recurring volunteer pick ups and deliveries to the old people facility. In fact, the charitable cause had expanded their outreach and he volunteered for additional routes.

 

Sometime around this point a change had begun to occur in him and he didn’t even notice. He involuntarily started remembering the names of the oldsters. He no longer approached them with furled brow and a countenance of impatience. He sometimes now even smiled and offered a greeting under his breath. Truth is, he didn’t even realize he was doing it.

 

He got a call one night from a pal. They hadn’t seen each other in a while. A few people were getting together to blow off some steam and push back against the government’s social gathering mandates. Beers, burgers, then probably followed by a bar fight like pre-pandemic days. Without even a thought he declined because he had deliveries. Good byes and a hang up.

 

With his hand still on the phone, “What the hell am I doing? Turn down beers to deliver groceries,” flummoxed at this internal development. But he carried on. There were people who needed him and he would ease their inconveniences by taking it on himself.

 

There was another incident two weeks later. He was at the grocery store ready for pick up, but there was a hold up awaiting payment. 

 

“Hold on, please. These haven’t been paid for yet,” said the grocery store clerk.

 

“Dude, these are going to old people. They need help. What’s the store doing charging them,” replied our guy.

 

“Look, man, I just work here. Let me ask my supervisor if payment’s been received yet. Gimme two minutes,” offered the grocery clerk before hustling away.

 

“Fuck you guys. My grannies are getting their grub,” he muttered under his breath then swiping the grocery bags and driving away.

 

Theft was absolutely not above him. Although, it was unusual that he was not the beneficiary of his own misdeed. This would have been totally out of character for him only four months ago, this benevolent thievery. Patience could have allowed an opportunity for an amiable resolution. And, of course, theft was wrong. But still, the miscreant had experienced a most unexpected growth. 

 

He returned to the non-profit and was called into the office.

 

“What the hell, man. Did you take those bags? They weren’t paid for yet.”

 

“I’m just helping my grannies.”

 

“Not like that you’re not. The grocery store will stop working with us if it happens again.”

 

“OK, but food was delivered. Everyone’s good over there.”

 

“All right, but hey. No more of that. Besides, payment went through shortly afterwards.

 

The weeks rolled by. The pandemic remained in force. A surge, in fact, was scrolling across the country starting with the largest cities and spinning out in concentric circles as consistently as equidistant ripples from a stone thrown into a pond. But he was totally into it. He’d found purpose. And with that he’d been gradually shedding layers of degradation. It had been six months since he slept in until noon. He’d become a regular for dinner at his parents’ house. He’d become almost agreeable with them, even fielding an occasional question about his circumstances and intentions. He even brought an anniversary gift for them several weeks prior. Tonight he brought flowers for his mom’s birthday. After supper his parents looked at each other and dad said, “Who the hell was that? Sure not our son. What’s going on with him?”

 

What’s going on was that he’d found his cause. He’d discovered, quite by nefarious intent, that proverbial thing that would get him out of bed each day. A call to serve. He would serve a cause greater than himself.

 

He was seeing his existence in a grander more respectable way. He made a couple partial rent payments despite the continued Federal Rent Relief program. He even started to do his laundry more regularly. Not often enough, but still a vast improvement. Then the pandemic’s next wave arrived in his community. 

 

 

It started with an incessant sneeze. Four or five blasts in quick succession, a brief pause, then a few more. He went to bed early and woke up the next morning to an achy body. All his joints and particularly his back. He would stretch and be met with an explosion of pain throughout. Then came the headache. Then the realization, “Oh shit, this is it!”

 

He called the non-profit and they arranged for his test. It came back positive. He got medication and stayed home to rest. The days rolled by and his condition worsened. The deterioration was unimpeded after two weeks. His kitchen table was full of Get Well cards from his grannies. But he didn’t get well. He wouldn’t.

 

Before long he was almost done, lying in a hospital bed hooked up to a ventilator and an IV. Access was restricted from visitors due to the facile transfer of the virus. His parents were weeping on the phone with him. His doctor had frankly instructed them that it was time to say good-bye.

 

“I don’t want to die,” he wept. He hadn’t cried since he was eight and the family dog died. “I don’t want to die. There’s more I want to do. I’m not ready to die.”

 

The nurse changed the IV and he would soon go to sleep for the last time. With that, it was done. He’d maneuvered his action plan to a victorious end. The life he wanted to end, indeed, did end. So, too, did the life he wanted to live.

 



Tuesday, November 2, 2021

The COVID Chronicle, October 2021

 

October 1 [Friday]

Governor Newsom laid out his mandatory vaccination plan for public school students 12+ years. This would be effective sometime in 2022. I’m conflicted. I want the children to be safe, but I’m also in favor of making information available, then advocating for people to make their own decisions. So, I resolve my internal conflict by agreeing with the mandate and keep the kids safe. But I want the disagreeing adults to have the freedom to remain unvaccinated. Anyway, I suspect there will be an uptick in California’s home schooling next year.

 

October 3 [Sunday]

[The boy] finally drove his new car back to Cal State Fullerton. It was living in our driveway in San Dimas for a month waiting for its license plate. [He didn’t want to buy an on-campus parking pass without plates, then later need to update the permit, so he waited.] Well, he drove away this evening. There’s no Covid angle. I’m just documenting a significant event. Maybe it’s just the symbolism. He drove away, himself at the helm in charge of his destiny. It felt like we’ve done our jobs, [Wife Klem] and I, and he’s now off leash into the world.

 

October 4 [Monday]

Virtual work continues for me, but today was a one-day reprieve. With my employer’s go-ahead I went to the Long Beach Convention Center today for a restaurant / mobile food truck convention with an associate with whom I work. His office had a booth at the convention representing my employer and I assisted in manning the booth. I had requested approval of my employer to attend, it was granted. The convention was not jam packed like I imagined it would have been in pre-Covid years. This event was postponed from last year due to Covid concerns. This was a productive day. Masks were required, though not enforced. I wore mine because [Wife Klem] is vigilant and I like her.

The traffic in the morning and drive home in the late afternoon seemed pre-Covid thick. The talk radio was just as angst-inducing as I remember from pre-Covid, back when I spent several hours each week driving for work and listening to talk radio. I do not miss them, the traffic or talk radio.

 

October 7 [Thursday]

A tankless water heater and water softener were installed today. This has been three months in waiting due to supply delays with the softener. Again with the microprocessors, bottlenecks in worldwide parts supplies and a backlog of cargo ships at the local ports off the coast here in Los Angeles. The anticipation had been a long time brewing and today was a relief seeing the task to completion.

 

October 11 [Monday]

The days of strictly virtual work are winding down, even if only in the slightest manner. We have been advised that we may recommence our field work when we feel comfortable. I’ll milk this for a few more weeks, then free up a day to get back in the field, at least once to get the proverbial virtual monkey off my back.

 

October 12 [Tuesday]

An evening of playoff baseball made its return after last year’s Covid cancellation. I get together annually with a few friends at a restaurant laden heavily with big-screen TVs. We watch a playoff baseball game while talking nonsense and off-gassing about work and life. We watched the Dodgers beat the Giants in the Division Playoff Series!

 

October 21 [Thursday]

I lunched with a friend today, a pal from college. He’s got three kids, same age range as ours. It helps getting together periodically torealize these parenting trifles are not just mine, everyone’s juggling the same.

On a Covid note, we ate indoors because their former Covid-era outdoor patio dining area had been dismantled, only indoor dining remains. I take this as Covid being incorporated into the normalcy of every day life for the intermediate future. As if, ‘It’s here, not going away. Let’s carry on with sensible precautions, but we’re going to keep moving forward.’

 

October 25 [Monday]

Today confirmed that strictly virtual work is winding to a close. A colleague of mine has been out doing a handful of field work this month. Well shoot, with this development I must prepare myself to vacate this cozy virtual cocoon of comfort and return to some modicum of field activity. 

 

October 26 [Tuesday]

I often read from Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine over breakfast. I read an article this morning about vaccinations and how they will likely affect the cost of Health insurance in the very near future. Not for 2022, but probably by 2023. For example, Health insurance questionnaires and enrollment applications ask if the applicant is a tobacco user. The answer affects the premium. The same kind of question will likely be added pertaining to the Covid vaccine. The unvaccinated may see an increase in their Health insurance premiums. Plus, studies are in progress to see if people who have had Covid are more prone to develop subsequent health problems.

 

October 27 [Wednesday]

Strictly virtual work comes to an official close in December. We will have an off-site Live team lunch meeting. I haven’t seen my colleagues, other than Skype, since December 2019. I work with a good group and look forward to the festive-feeling of a live-action get together. Although I have mixed feelings about disbanding from my cozy obligation of strictly virtual work. But really, I knew it couldn’t last forever, and it lived on much longer than I had expected.

 

October 28 [Thursday]

The battle over vaccine mandates is heating up. There is at least one state [Florida] suing the Biden administration over a mandate for government contractors. Large corporations are weighing whether or not to mandate. A large number of employees are purportedly prepared to quit work and find other employment if their employer requires vaccinations or weekly testing. The discussion also rages on for school children with parents concerned about lack of research about possible long-term effects of the vaccine. And of course, much of this political. The WSJ statistics suggest that 90% of Democrats have been vaccinated compared to 71% of Republicans. As Covid seems to have a smaller daily impact on my life personally, this thing is clearly going to be raging on with its impact felt for years to come.

 

October 29 [Friday]

I was in the field today conducting work for the first time since March 2020. I drove to the High-Desert and it reminded me of the lost opportunity time for all the behind-the-wheel drive time. Two hours driving there and back means two hours in lost productivity. I don’t miss the driving, but is part of the job. I anticipate being in the field a few days per month in the coming months.


Friday, October 22, 2021

First Date

 

1993 Northern California

 

Coursing heavily of excitement and adrenaline he backed the car out of the carport hoving slightly too far portside. The beautiful young lady in the passenger seat proved to be too much on his mind resulting in a momentary lapse of focus. She was his date, their first. This lack of concentration, adversely affecting his driving skills, was subsequently disrupted by a collision. Not the vehicle’s chassis, but an appendage, the driver’s side mirror had been lopped off. It had been torn asunder by the carport’s vertical support pole. Hundreds of times he’d come and gone safely maneuvering the troublesome support pole, then this error at a most inopportune moment. 

 

Wanting the first impression not to be sullied by this silly blunder, he feigned cool. He stopped the car, popped the trunk, picked the shorn mirror fixture up off the ground and tossed it nonchalantly into the trunk, then returned to the helm.

 

“If you see any more of those difficult to avoid stationary poles, please let me know,” he offered weakly. This was met with courtesy laughter signaling that the date was not yet ruined but he’d better step up his game.

 

He loved the car, a Ford Mustang, even without the mirror, but more so with it. This was no baseline Mustang. The thing was amply juiced and was not for the tame of heart. He’d sometimes give the gas pedal a little tap just to hear the roar of the engine, feel the torque rumbling through the vehicle. He equated it to his own professional aspiration. Capable and aggressive. He was not willing to wait for his professional achievements to come to him, he’d go out there and get it. He reveled in this symbiotic relationship. 

 

The drive continued, dinner awaited, casual conversation was in force cobbling together rapport. As the mood turned to playful banter, they approached an intersection of tree-lined surface streets with a romantic dusk setting up nicely. 

 

The intersection ahead, a left turn on the approach to the main thoroughfare. Dozens of little birds, finches probably, in the street picking fruit off the asphalt from the bountiful branches above. He thought it might be fun to accelerate into the turn and send the cute little birds all aflutter. Maybe add excitement to the sparking that was brewing in the vehicle. Only, dammit, it didn’t happen as envisioned.

 

He accelerated into the turn followed immediately by a half dozen tiny bumps under the tires as if he’d run over several tennis balls.

 

‘What the hell,’ he played out in his head. ‘How many times have I approached a stretch of road with birds on the ground and they always scatter? I’ve never run over a bird before. Never. Now tonight, when it’s most problematic I knock off a bunch of inconvenient cute little avian carcasses.’

 

“Should I take you home now,” he offered playfully, smiling sheepishly hoping for a declination. He’d do it without argument if requested, but wanted not for the offer to be accepted.

 

She paused before answering. The expression on her face indicated shock. He panicked internally struggling to maintain his cool, but maintain he would by shear force of will. His armpits would soon be blown out if this were not quickly favorably rectified. No words yet spoken. Then she smiled and punched him in the shoulder with a closed fist.

 

He liked that she didn’t give him a dainty tap on the shoulder, too light and timid to signify sincerity. He liked also that she didn’t wind up and deliver a contusion-inducing blast. No. More like a shark in open water giving an initial contact before deciding the next course of action. Game on.

 

With that, he thankfully continued driving to the restaurant for a tasty meal. Having survived that asphalt massacre his confidence swelled, not that it needed a bump.

 

“Let’s eat.”

 

 

[Based on the dating experience of a pal, Adornato. He was awarded a second date. -klem]

Friday, October 8, 2021

San Dimas Bobcat

 

Wife Klem and I have lived in San Dimas for 20 years. We’ve heard rumors of bobcats in the area, but I thought this was mostly wishful thinking. No more. Visual confirmation was attained last week.

 

I take an evening walk every day. It’s helpful in mentally toggling from work to play at the end of the workday, especially in this time of continued Covid-induced work from home.

 

This evening walk took me to a local residential association in our neighborhood south of Via Verde. I saw what initially registered as a regular old housecat, but as I walked by I noticed its unique markings. Then I paused, then stared. Just sitting there in someone’s yard. As I maneuvered for a better look, this feline moved unlike any housecat I’d ever seen, eerily making me feel as if I were the prey. With that as my motivation I took the below photo from 15 feet away. Then skedaddled.

 


Saturday, October 2, 2021

The COVID Chronicle, September 16-30, 2021

 

September 17 [Friday]

I took the day off, just because I have too many vacation days. [I know, nice problem!] [Wife Klem] and I went out for breakfast, then we walked around the Claremont college campuses. Just the two of us, neither of the piglets. A pleasant treat. School was in session, but it did not seem overly thick with students. Maybe they’re extending some virtual college courses into this fall semester. There were several tents set up throughout the campuses for classes to meet without the confines of inside restrictions and abide by social distancing precautions. A nice walk.

 

September 18 [Saturday]

Mom’s birthday celebration weekend in Santa Barbara with her girls; [my sister, sisters in law, cousins, niece]. They were all vaccinated, masked up and sensible. Life goes on. 

Meanwhile, [my oldest brother] was at the Safehouse, visiting from Massachusetts! The six of us, including [another brother, nephew, Dad and uncle] went to dinner at Lancers. I understand eating out in a restaurant is frowned upon by some circles in this age of Covid. The number of ambient diners was sparse, or maybe that was just because we ate dinner at 4:00. Well, all right, 4:00 was probably the reason. Dad was granted the honor of paying the bill, the good sport.

 

September 20 [Monday]

An example of Covid-era courtesy. A neighbor and I are consistently walking our dogs at the same time in the morning. At least twice weekly we’re both walking up the same stretch of street at the same time. This morning we were all making our final approach home, before Ghost and I crossed the street to take the lead, as a courtesy so she wouldn’t have to walk in my wake, breathing my used air, Ghost and I paused waiting for her and her dog to go ahead. “You can go ahead, he’s taking his time,” she said to me from across the street referring to her dog snuffling around in the ground cover. We did. Good morning to you, neighbor. Until next time.

 

 

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Skeeter Feeder

 

It was the proverbial tropical wonderland. The ocean was crystal clear with consistently excellent sets of waves rolling in, one after the other. The temperature was never too hot and was almost always t-shirts, shorts and sandals weather. The place was truly a beauty. Though a long way from idyllic. The job market was not set with career jobs. These were mostly transient jobs that seasonally chased tourists.

 

The young man loved his homeland and wanted to make a go of it. He wanted to be one of the few locals fortunate enough to find professional work, a job that would support him and a future family. Not that he was married, he wasn’t, nor kids, he hadn’t. Not even a girlfriend yet, but he had plans.

 

There was industry on the island that boasted of such jobs. Well, one industry. Research. Permanent well paying work was scarcely available on the island, but what there was went through the research lab and it was constantly flush with work.

 

He was in the local college studying Biology. His grand idea hinged on a job in the research laboratory. That would be a major victory. A job that paid well enough to support a family and maybe even buy a home. A home on the island where his backyard was the ocean. Such a thing would be an anomaly. Those kinds of jobs went to the mainlanders. This one, though, he had a good deal of determination matching up with his action plan.

 

He already had work in the lab, but it was not a salaried position. It was hourly wage work cleaning test tubes, plus other janitorial type laboratory work. This was not the white lab coat-type work he envisioned for his future. But he wanted more. Needed more.

 

He was well liked and thought there was a possibility of attaining his goal. Something more permanent to keep him employed after graduation. That’s when the job posting went up for the mosquito lab that would be starting up soon. Construction had been recently completed and the mosquito-specific research build-out completed. Then the teasing commenced from his professional-grade colleagues, those mainlanders.

 

“Hey, you’ve seen the new job post? You going for it? Could lead to something more, you know.”

 

“I hope you put in for the new mosquito research. We all like you, I’m sure the ‘skeeters will, too.”

 

He didn’t fully understand the job posting. It was short saying only ‘Help needed to feed the mosquitos. Pays well.’ What did mosquitos eat other than blood? What would the labs feed them? With the encouragement of his fellow lab workers he put in for the job. To his eventual delight, with his sights on future permanent employ, he got the job!

 

 

He arrived at his new post and was greeted with an enthusiastic tour of the research lab.

 

“The work we’re doing here is important research. So many of the locals here, plus elsewhere in tropical climates and worldwide, are ravaged every year by mosquitos and the diseases they spread,” explained the lab director never breaking stride.

 

“The research in this lab involves malaria and dengue fever. These have been major problems for tropical islanders and many parts of the world going back as far as documents go. Before then even. And next door they’re researching West Nile virus and Zika.”

 

They entered the next room through double doors into an impressive pristine white room. Containers lined both walls. Each bin about the size of a small refrigerator. Each had a glass front and was adorned with a hole covered with rubber.

 

“And here you’ll see our residents. Each container has 100 or so mosquitos. I may say, bravo to you putting in for the position of feeding the mosquitos. I know this seems unconventional, our feeding process, but I assure you, all these mosquitos are tested and they are disease free. They are bred under the highest standards. You are not at risk of contracting any illness at this post,” pausing to let that sink in as the new lab technician wondered what exactly he’d been employed to do. Then the lab director continued. 

 

“OK, so with that preamble, if you’ll please roll up your sleeve and stick your arm through, all the way to your torso, your armpit, if you will. That’ll seal the hole flush and prevent any escapees. Stick your arm in, leave it for ten minutes. When the bell dings, you’ll carefully and very slowly retract your arm. The movement should encourage the mosquitos to detach. Else, some minor flexing or wiggling of your forearm will also help, if needed. Then, move on the next container of which there are twenty. You may choose to alternate arms with each feeding. So, if you will, please,” motioning for the young man to step toward the containers and begin the feeding process.

 

The young man did not step up. He stood fast with a quizzically raised eyebrow. “I anticipated the feeding process to be more regimented, not so immersive as this.”

 

“Yes, well, I assure you, you are at no risk of illness. You may feel a minor sting, very minor, but they don’t drink much blood. You won’t experience any wooziness, if that’s the cause of your hesitation. And afterwards, we have a salve to apply to your arms,” advised the director matter of factly. “Plus you can help yourself to an orange juice in the community refrigerator afterwards.”

 

“This was not explained in the job post, the details of the feeding process.”

 

“Right, you’re entirely correct. The one-page flyer allowed for only so much space negating the opportunity to be verbose. In fact, I’m glad you’re here now. I wanted to be present the first time to make sure this is done correctly. Each container receives one feeding in the morning, then again in the afternoon. We have a back up feeder for weekends or if you are ill.”

 

The young man continued to hold his ground. Uncertainty swirled in his head.

 

“They’re ready for you. They’re hungry. And if you’re good here, I understand an upcoming research project opening in a month is going to need a spider feeder. I’ll gladly put in a good word for you. So, if you will, please,” again motioning for the young man to step forward to the first mosquito container.

 

He stared blankly at the black rubber cover where he was expected to insert his bare arm all the way in. He stared at it with the precautionary concern as if it were the gaping entry hole of a tree trimmer’s stump grinder.

 

The clock ticked. Talk behind them from the researchers started to rise.

 

“What’s going on?”

 

“He’s the ‘skeeter feeder.”

 

 

Friday, September 17, 2021

The COVID Chronicle, September 1-15, 2021

 

September 7 [Tuesday]

President Biden has unfolded a plan requiring businesses with 100+ employees to ensure that their workers are ‘either vaccinated or tested once a week, requires all employees of the Federal government be vaccinated ’. This may be difficult for employers to comply with. Sounds like lots of potential confusion and inconvenience with the weekly test since employers are unable to require employees to get vaccinated. Sure, I know, people will have to relent to a vaccination or subject themselves to the unpleasantness of the Q-tip deep into one’s nostrils. Or at what point do we let people make their own safety decisions and move forward?

 

 

September 9 [Thursday]

I’ve enjoyed a good long break from imbibing of the news. The sabbatical dates back to last year’s Presidential election. I got back on board this week by committing to at least one article daily on ‘school days’ from the Wall Street Journal Business page. I’m of the mind that it’s good to be informed. Informed, though not inflamed.

            I come to understand many large companies including Microsoft and Google are still working virtually. Several companies had dates approaching by when offices would be re-occupied, but many companies moved those prospective re-open dates back to early 2022. This furnishes me with some comfort. It’s not just us, my employer, there are many others with elongated work-from-home timeframes. And quite frankly, I’m thriving in this casual work environment.

 

 

September 12 [Sunday]

The second Covid-era NFL football season gets underway today! It may be interesting to see what, if any, new or updated Covid protocols are in place for the players. Meanwhile, I watched a game on TV, the crowds appeared to be at capacity. Much thicker crowds than last season.

[Some of the NFL protocols: Players and staff are tested weekly for Covid, even if vaccinated. Unvaccinated players will test daily. Vaccinated players are not required to wear face coverings outdoors, but yes for indoors.]

 

 

September 15 [Wednesday]

Ten students out of 1,800 at [my daughter’s] Bonita High School are down with Covid. Or, as [Wife Klem] points out, those are the admitted Covid-afflicted. There are likely others, just not admitting to the virus. No Covid numbers for staff and teachers specifically at Bonita. This is not being released.


Saturday, September 4, 2021

The COVID Chronicle, August 16-31, 2021


August 18 [Wednesday]

[The boy] moved into his on-campus apartment today at CS Fullerton. He returns to live-action college with graduation pending for the spring! [A three-year college plan because he couldn’t hang with his old man’s five-year plan.] Proof of vaccinations are required to move in to the on-campus housing. Residents are also encouraged to pack a Go bag, two days worth of gear in case a lock down incident occurs. But really, in that case I’d prefer he simply break out and come home [we’re 20-miles away]. Anyway, classes commence Monday.

 

August 19 [Thursday]

My work remains virtual. Some non-field colleagues in other departments are returning to the office in limited capacity. As for me and my field colleagues, my employer has asked for our input about returning to field activities. Are we comfortable going back to our field tasks? What aspects give us pause? What tasks are we comfortable resuming presently? I’d like to return to my field tasks, but in-office appointments I prefer to continue on a virtual basis. I’m interested in seeing how long this ‘strictly virtual’ will continue. The concern is that if my employer sees virtual work being conducted equally as productive as field work, maybe we’ll be asked to move to a less expensive state and save the company on salary expenses.

 

August 20 [Friday]

Having a mask on my person is so second nature after all this time, it’s like reaching for one’s wallet and keys before stepping out. Walking out the door without one makes me pause to check, then turn back for its retrieval if needed. 

 

August 21 [Saturday]

There is talk of vaccination booster shots. Each manufacturer has its own timeline, but they’re all working on boosters. The evolution of Covid and its variances seem to remain problematic. The Delta variant has been getting much notice lately.

 

August 23 [Monday]

[My daughter] returns to live-action high school today for her senior year! She got gypped with virtual high school and I’m happy to see the live tutelage resuscitated.

 

I saw an on-duty school bus this morning while taking Ghost Dog for a walk. Whoa! Now that’s anachronistic of the pre-Covid era.

 

August 24 [Tuesday]

With the return of live-action high school, the ultra leisure mornings of Shelter In Place conclude. No more rocking the cardio machine in the early hours, shower, enjoy a relaxed breakfast before logging in to virtual work. There is now a schedule. Drop off at high school or dog walking with breakfast to fit within the necessary time parameters, then logging in for virtual work. 

 

August 25 [Wednesday]

Lunches have gotten lonely. [The boy’s] at college and [my daughter] is at school. I’m sitting alone in the kitchen eating soup and reading an eBook, Pride and Prejudice. I had been greatly spoiled with having so much of these playful monkeys during Shelter In Place.

 

The Corona doll finally met its demise. This was a doll [my daughter] and I made from a kit at the very beginning of Shelter In Place. It was agreed that it would go to Ghost Dog when live-action school resumed. I figured that would have been a few weeks or at least the fall of 2020. But no, it took a year and a half. With [my daughter] pulling and Ghost Dog biting and pulling, it was shredded within two minutes. I don’t miss the doll, standing there in the kitchen window day after day looking at me with his hand extended high in the air waving.

 

August 26 [Thursday]

My internet connection this week has been better than average! I have not needed to engage the work-provided wi-fi tool. This expanded available bandwidth is due to [the boy] being away at college and [my daughter] being occupied at live-action high school. I can hog up all the house internet for my virtual employment with nary a quibble or concern over sketchy coverage during a Skype meeting.

 

August 27 [Friday]

[The boy] returned home after his first week of live action college. One professor is continuing online with pre-recorded lectures into September. By that time the mandatory vaccinations at Fullerton for students and staff are to have been fully implemented. Meanwhile, one of his roommates had a Covid test because of an exposure risk, but tested negative. As a courtesy he vacated the apartment for a few days’ cushion. How long are these tests and excitements going to continue?

 

August 28 [Saturday]

[The boy] and I bought a car today, a 2022 Toyota Prius Prime. I’d worked with a salesperson over the phone and through text. A price had been agreed to more than a month ago, but the vehicle arrived only today. There is a shortage of vehicles to some extent due to the shortage of microprocessors. But anyway, we got ours. We were at the dealership for four hours. Much of that extended stay was because the vehicle had arrived just that morning and there were a number of checklists the dealership had to roll through before approving the vehicle ready for sale. It was a very amicable process having agreed to a price before even arriving to the dealership with absolutely no haggling remaining to bang out. Masks, social distancing, optional handshakes, and plastic see-through screens on tables and desks were in effect.

 


Sunday, August 15, 2021

The COVID Chronicle, August 1-15, 2021

 

August 8 [Sunday]

We returned from vacation week in Pacific Grove. Numerous factions of Klems had peacefully assembled in town. Was really a super time. This is the largest congregation of family since pre-Covid! We’re all vaccinated except for the youngest, my nephew. As a tourist location, Cannery Row, the occasional glut of people on the sidewalks and in stores made me uncomfortable for virus and variant concern. It was avoided when possible, but some things are worth that kind of exposure. Namely caramel apples, chocolate-dipped frozen bananas, lemon bars at the bakery, sea salt caramel banana milk shake at the Ghirardelli shop or an Italian restaurant visit. So, sure, I’ll mask up, but I expect my tasty positive reinforcement.

 

August 9 [Monday]

Some things will return to pre-Covid-normal more slowly than others as the virus and its effects wane. But my desire to distance from non-selected humans remains strong as evidenced by my continued crossing the street when another pedestrian approaches from the other direction. How long’s this going to continue? I kind of like it.

[Note: Admittedly, I had to forgo this preferred pedestrian distancing while on vacation last week. Crossing the street was not always an available option due to too many people down Cannery Row. Avoidance of that whole area was eventually self-imposed.]

 

August 11 [Wednesday]

Governor Newsom announced possible forthcoming enhanced safety precautions due to Covid and its variant’s refusal to wither. This potentially includes requiring proof of vaccination for entering stores and restaurants. I have a tough time imagining such tightened measures could actually gain traction and be implemented. There’s also the unexplained ‘Who’s responsibility it would be to enforce.’ [That dirty work would fall on the business owners. Come on, they just want to conduct commerce, not police the state’s hand-wringing.] Maybe it’s time we cull the herd. We start with those who choose not to vaccinate. We’re all aware of Covid, we’ve heard of the vaunted Delta variant, vaccinations have been made widely available for months now. If someone chooses to abstain from vaccination, well, they chose. Anyway, if this goes forward I foresee a big win for Amazon and online retailers.

 

Saturday, July 31, 2021

The COVID Chronicle, July 16-31, 2021

 

July 16 [Friday]

My shaving quality has diminished during Covid. I don’t often have a public audience and my work remains strictly virtual. Nobody sees me close up enough to observe my shaving defects. Today I’m going to a funeral, not Covid related. With the need for a more pristine shave I find myself being more diligent where I would normally blow past knowing that Skype would not reveal the deficiencies.

 

July 19 [Monday]

Covid has done wonders for my Verizon store experience. We had a cell phone issue requiring remedial action. Prior pre-Covid in-store experiences yielded a crummy overcrowded bloated experience of wasted time and waiting. But today! Covid protocol offered an appointment and we accepted. The place was sparsely populated with patrons. We were in and out in 15 minutes! How nice and unexpected.

 

July 22 [Thursday]

We’re buying a car for [the boy], he’s going back to live action college at the end of August and will be living on campus. Car inventories are stifled! Looking for a 2022 Prius Prime LE. Checking in with five local dealerships we can’t even find one on the lots. Tight inventory has a Covid angle. There’ve been microprocessor deficiencies worldwide since Covid’s advent. This has affected new car supplies, amongst much other merchandise. Anyway, we put a deposit down on a vehicle sight unseen. Silver.

 

July 27 [Tuesday]

The numbers of afflicted have been increasing, but depth of sickness is largely attenuated and diminishing. Especially for those who have been vaccinated.