Friday, April 03, 2020

Navigating Social Distance

Frankie, here. I'm an introvert. I mention that because of the tweets from introverts pointing out that a personality trait that is often viewed as a deficit is actually an advantage right now. Unlike extroverts, introverts have no problem being at home alone. We are experts at "social distancing." Even those of us who have learned to be outgoing when we need to be, find large groups exhausting. By the third day of a conference we have either found sanctuary with two or three friends or are retreating to our hotel room to read or write. 

But this is different. Even introverts are not prepared for pandemics. It is stress-inducing to share space with extroverts who are prowling around the house because they want to go out. And a cough, sneeze, or pain is a reminder that this is one time when being at work and having weekend invitations wouldn't be at all bad.

 I've been setting my clock each night because psychologists are telling us that if we are working at home, we should try to maintain normal working hours. But my normal working house vary. Since I've been wanting to get more sleep, I decided to set my alarm for 10 a.m., and then work until 8:00 in the evening. That allows time for getting ready for my now online classes, writing, and taking a break to watch ''The Young and the Restless" and "The Bold and the Beautiful. By 8 p.m. I'm either ready to stop, or I have made enough progress to want to go on a bit longer. And I'm getting more sleep. Except when I wake up and can't get back to sleep. 

In newspaper articles, blogs, and Twitter photos and cartoon, "pet parents" are reporting that their dogs and cats have to adjust to having them at home. Dogs are finding that they are being walked more often because their humans want an excuse to get out of the house. Cats -- who may enjoy having the house to themselves doing the day -- are now finding their humans underfoot all day long. Some of them like it; others find a place to hide out. 

My cat, Harry, is accustomed to my odd hours and realizes by now that when summer comes I will be around much more. What he must find puzzling is that I rarely go out these days. Yesterday I thought we both would need to venture out. A couple of weeks ago, I hear him land hard as he jumped from a chair or off the radiator. Later, he was limping. Not much, but a little. I planned to call his vet the next day, but by then he was running after treats again. Then this morning, I saw him jump and then limp as if he had sprained a back leg. Whatever he had done the first time, it was worse this time. 

I spent an hour or so watching him. Then I Googled to see what I should check for before calling his vet. No swelling, no jerking away when I stroked his leg. Catnip seemed to help. But I decided I'd better call.

The recorded message I heard said my vet's office was not doing routine visits. Humans were required to maintain social distance when they arrived for appointments. They were to call from the car and then bring the cat carrier to the door. They were then to wait in their car. That resolved the debate I was having with myself about the safety issues involved in going to any doctor's office. After all, I had rescheduled my routine appointments. But maybe a limping cat was almost an emergency. 

So I followed the instructions and sent an email explaining why I had called. By then Harry was walking better. He had lunch and climbed up on his cat tree for a nap. I decided to give us both a break and went out for a walk. 

I drove to my university's uptown campus and parked. There were cars in the parking lots and a few people walking themselves and/or their dogs. One or two getting in a run. But a silence hung over a campus where thousands of people gathered on a typical Thursday during spring semester. Away from the roads and sidewalks around the perimeter of the campus, it was quiet enough to hear birds singing. I paused to watch a ground hog who had waded out of his hole. By the small lake near the athletic center, a pair of geese came out of the water and stood on the bank looking around. We looked at each other. 

I stepped back into the grass to keep my social distance from a woman passing on her bike. She smiled and called, "You know you've been inside too long when you start talking to the geese." True. But I had only been sharing the quiet with them. 

 Next time, I'd like to go for a a stroll in Washington Park. I love looking at the water. Since I am not likely to be on a cruise ship again any time soon, that now means ponds, lakes, and rivers. Washington Park is lovely, based on a
design by Calvet Vaux and his junior partner,  Frederick Law Olmsted (Central Park). A good place to spend an hour or so. If it isn't too crowded.

Stay well, everyone. 

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