Day 23 – Stories of COVID-19 and Sheltering-In-Place

For the first time in nearly a month we ventured out of our home together to do shopping and to take the Girls to the vet. It was an absolutely okay experience.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020 – Live to Blog from A Hyper Blue Subaru

I owe you an apology. In yesterday’s blog I made a horrendously bad joke. I don’t know what came over me. I finished capturing the dialogue with Bert (Left) and Ernie (Right) and suddenly there it was. It just appeared and I couldn’t resist myself. It was a lousy, good-for-nothing, groaner joke…worse than a Dad Joke. Plus, Bert and Ernie were quite offended that I didn’t believe they could actually be support socks. So, to Bert and Ernie and to you, I sincerely, humbly apologize for such a lousy joke. And if that isn’t good enough, consider this apology:

Before I forget, a good friend from Toronto, Michelle Shockness, is working on her PhD in Organizational Leadership from Eastern University, the same program in which I earned mine. In fact, she is doing research for her dissertation on the relationship between values and commitment to one’s organization. She needs people who work in nonprofit organizations to complete her survey. At this moment, because of the chaos around COVID-19, she is having a tough time getting responses. If you work for a nonprofit organization and could spare a few minutes today, please help her out. The survey takes only 10 to 13 minutes to complete. If you click here you will be taken to Michelle’s survey. Thanks!

Tom and Clemencia Get Out of the House

For the first time in nearly a month we ventured out of our home together to do shopping and to take the Girls to the vet. It was an absolutely okay experience.

Our first outing, which took less than two hours, included three stops. First, we went to Walgreen’s for drugs and a handheld mirror so I can try to give myself a haircut. (I’ll let you know how that goes.) Then we stopped at Aldi and Shoppers for groceries.

I know I’ve mentioned before that Clemencia is an epidemiologist who spent years with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Part of her early years with CDC was in the Epidemic Intelligence Service. During the Coronavirus pandemic it has been wonderful to have a personal epidemiologist.

  • She has been tracking the Coronavirus since the first hint of it in early January.
  • She predicted with incredible accuracy how all of this would unfold over time.
  • She put us three to four weeks ahead of everyone else in getting ready to ride out this storm.

In late January and early February, when we were shopping at BJ’s Warehouse, I thought it was a little unusual that she would buy extra cans of beans and rice when we already had a lots of extra at home. Then, she insisted on a package of 36 rolls of toilet paper. I remember protesting, “Mi amor…we have shelf full black, pinto, red, and garbanzo beans in the garage. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen so many beans in one home in my life. Plus, we have a back-up package of toilet paper too.” But no, she persisted, and of course, I knew I couldn’t win. To her credit, she has never said, “I told you so,” now that we are in the midst of the pandemic storm, which is getting worse everyday here in Maryland. No doubt…having Clemencia as my personal epidemiologist is a wonderful thing in times like these.

The weirdest but most practical of Colombian gestures…the Lip Point. (Mantarayatravel)

Until I have to go shopping with my epidemiologist in the middle of a pandemic. I thought Clemencia’s eyes were going to pop out and her lips were going to fall off. Let me explain. A few blogs back I mentioned that Colombian’s have some really unusual gestures they will use to communicate. One of them is to point with their lips and bug their eyes out. See the tutorial I’ve included here.

The minute we got out of our car (in CDC approved homemade face masks, of course) and encountered the first human being we’ve seen in weeks, her eyes started bugging and lips started twitching wildly.Yes, she was wearing a mask, so you can imagine how wildly her lips were moving if I could still see it. At first I thought she was overcome with excitement to see anyone other than me. But when it didn’t stop, I worried she might be having a medical moment.

The entire time we were in Walgreen’s the twitching and bugging continued. But when we got to the check out, I began to realize what was really going on. Clemencia was using the famous Colombian Lip Point to get me to see all the epidemiological violations taking place all around us. Her Epi Cop was on duty and working double shifts! The Walgreen’s check out clerk had on a single-use disposable mask…pulled below her nose and upside down. Clemencia could contain herself no more.

  • Clemencia (from at least six feet away and pulling me backwards toward her): Your mask needs to cover your nose.
  • Clerk (cheerfully tugging it up): Oh, I forget about it and I don’t like it much anyway.
  • Clemencia (unfazed by the clerk’s perkiness): Doesn’t it have a light metal strip at the top so you can shape it to your nose? That will help keep it in place.
  • Clerk (still perky and checking her mask): I don’t know. I never noticed. (Then exlaiming) Oh, look, it’s upside down! Thanks!
  • Clemencia (speechless her lips and eyes kept “talking”):…

She was not speechless when we got back in the car though. “Did you see that? Six feet! Nobody was six feet apart! What would they do if they told us 27 feet, which is more accurate anyway? The clerk didn’t wear her mask properly. She didn’t even know how to use it! When she opened the door for us, she didn’t get out the way even six inches, let alone six feet! I really don’t like this…this is the worst experience of my life! And so it went at Aldi: more lip pointing, eye bugging, and chatter about this being the worst experience of her life. And so it went at Shoppers, too.

Finishing Our Epidemiological Terror Tour of Shoppers

Clemencia’s CDC and epidemiological training has given her this highly tuned 6th sense when it comes to disease prevention and infection. At home it can be slightly annoying on occasion but, in public, it can be highly annoying. She doesn’t cite CDC standards and practices to people, exactly, but she is not shy about offering her opinion. As quirks go, though, it is still more lovable than annoying.

Except today. As we pulled into the driveway at home, I turned to Clemencia and said: “Mi amor, I would feel less stressd and safer overall if I did the shopping alone during the remainder of the sheltering-in-place orders.” Through her mask I could hear her say, “Good!” and something else, but I couldn’t quite make it out, but it sounded a little like another Colombian expression we studied earlier in this blog series, “Que gueva!”

Our second outing of the day came just before noon. We had to take the Girls to the vet for their vaccinations. Did you know that veterinary clinics are considered essential businesses? I didn’t know it, but Clemencia did. I guess it makes sense.

Madison and Dolly patiently waiting to be patients at the vet clinic. Not much expression…yet.

We had a very nice trip to the see the vet. We pulled up out front, called the front desk, and then two vet techs came out to retrieve the Girls from their secure places in the backseat. (Thankfully, the techs were in gowns and masks or there would have been a flurry of lips and eyeballs again.) A few minutes later one of the vet techs returned and said, “The doctor wanted me to tell you that Dolly and Madison’s anal glands need to be expressed. Would you like him to do that now?” Acting like we knew what that was about, we said, “Absolutely!” and as far we knew, they were expressed.

While we were waiting on the Girls to come back to us with their vaccinations completed and glands expressed, I couldn’t help but think about the term “anal gland expression.” What a fascinating term! I wasn’t exactly sure what it meant so I looked it up.

There are somethings it is better not to know. You’ve got to love the second sentence though: “You could do this for your dog at home…” I assume this means “could” as in “it is possible for you to do this for your dog at home.” Indeed it is. But is it “probable?” Nope. No. Uh-uh. Ain’t gonna happen. I love Dolly and Madison but…no.

Kudos to Carla!

Carla White and Lady Liberty

Our friend Carla White (who also used to work for the CDC) has one of the neatest COVID-19 masks we’ve seen. Take a close look. It has the Statue of Liberty on it. Carla was referenced in an earlier blog as well. She has a business, Serenity Communications, doing graphic design, editing, photography, and other wonderfully creative thing for people and organizations who aren’t so graphically creative. She is a native of New York City but lives now in Maine with her husband Ned…who has beaten me badly in every game of pool we’ve ever played. Not that it still matters.

Stay safe, be well, keep calm, keep washing your hands, and keep doing all those things to be safe that you know Clemencia would remind you about if she were your personal epidemiologist.


Author: Tom Klaus

My name is Tom Klaus and I am the founder and president of Tenacious Change. I am convinced the secret to almost any good thing happening among people is relational trust. Want to be loved by your spouse, children, and family? Want to work well with others? Want to be an effective leader? Want to help your neighborhood, community, state, or country change for the good? Want world peace...actually, peace with anyone? Building relational trust is when fear, animosity, conflict, and the status quo begins to transform into cooperation, respect, collaboration, peace, and working together for social change and the greater good of all. A good day for me is when I can help social profit, nonprofit, and public leaders and their organizations grasp the importance of relational trust, let it guide their decision making, and inform their strategy. This is just one of the ways that I am animating and equipping leaders, organizations, and communities to lead change for the greater good. Tenacious Change is about changing forward into a future that prioritizes the greater good for all. We can do this better together. Come on along!

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