Post Title: ‘Green Status’ Feels like a New Mobility Start – Part Two
Last week, I shared my philosophy of life with Covid-19. The governor of Pennsylvania had chosen June 26, 2020 for us to move from the yellow phase (stay at home) to the green phase, which meant we could move about more freely. If you missed that post, you can read it here.
My childhood friend and longtime lunch companion I’ll call Carlie (not her real name) and I planned to go to our favorite Chinese sit down buffet to celebrate the status change. We had not seen each other in four months and needed desperately to catch up. Talking on the phone didn’t provide the same open communication as our lunches out did.
Carlie always picks me up. Early that morning, she texted me. 11:30 or 1? It’s always good to be flexible so I left it up to her. When she sent me the next text, LET’S DO 1, I agreed. At the time, it was nearly 11:30. I stopped writing and prepared to leave – slung my purse over my shoulder, put on my mask, and picked up my white cane. Eleven-thirty came. But my friend didn’t. Ten minutes passed, then fifteen. I went back inside and picked up my cell phone, which I had forgotten to take with me, to see if the plans had changed.
Ahhhh – let’s do 1 probably meant one o’clock, not Option 1. Rolling my eyes, I texted Carlie of the misunderstanding. I imagine she had as good a chuckle on her end as I did on mine.
WILL DEF BE READY BY 1, I texted back, still chuckling.
But by one o’clock, I was deeply immersed in my current WIP (work in progress). The toot-toot of Carlie’s horn caught me by surprise. As I rushed down the steps to meet my ride outside, I didn’t see one of the cats stretched out on one of the steps. I caught my foot on her and went air-born in a most unladylike jump. Landing four steps below on the tile—two feet and one arm to the floor—resembled the untimely crash landing of a plane, its wing touching down at the same time as its landing gear hit the tarmac. Assessing the damage: One fleeing, screeching cat. One shaken survivor. No casualties. Grateful to be alive, I threw open the garage door, swiftly swung my cane ahead and made it to the door of Carlie’s shiny red SUV.
Our greeting was low-key, which suited me fine as I was still in the I’ve-crashed-but-my-heart-is-still-ticking mode.
Carlie looked amused. “You don’t need to wear that mask right now,” she remarked. “It’s just us. I don’t mind if you don’t.”
“Oh, yeah, I guess not.” Was I being too cautious? I felt a bit silly. But didn’t everyone wear a mask around other people?
Carlie parked her vehicle near the Chinese Restaurant. I stepped outside the passenger door and paused in the sun to fasten my mask. Unfortunately, I mistakenly put it on upside down. But when I eased the elastic off my right ear, it got caught in the wiring of my hearing aid. I untangled the two. Then I pulled it off the elastic from my left ear, also twisted in my hearing aid wire. It took me a couple of attempts before I properly donned my mask.
In the process, my white cane toppled over. When I went to pick it up, the mask fell on the ground. When I bent over to pick up the cloth, my shoulder bag knocked my cane over again. As I retrieved my cane, already bent from past incidents, I swear I saw Lucille Ball’s face in the reflection of the side mirror.
My face heated up. This clumsy me was not the norm, or how I saw myself on that auspicious day of moving into the green phase, an expert, easing others into transition.
I knew how to put on a simple mask. It wasn’t as if I were a newbie, after all. Why did it have to catch both hearing aids on the day we went green?
I giggled. Such was my life.
The Chinese Restaurant was in transition between Erie County’s former COVID-19 ‘yellow’ code and the new ‘green.’ Open, but not fully. Consequently, we had to order take-out food. The small print menu was impossible for me to read, so I simplified my task and ordered the sweet and sour lunch special. They had to have that, right?
Back in the SUV, Carlie frowned. “Amy, you don’t need your seat belt.” She pulled over to a different spot in the parking lot. “We’re already here.” She handed over my carton of sweet and sour chicken. Then she slid the plastic container of rice over to me. “Hot. Hot! HOT!” I imagined myself throwing the bowl of rice onto the windshield and all over the front seat. But I didn’t do that since the dark plastic seemed to fuse together with my legs. “Ahhhh!”
With quick reflexes, my friend threw over a round circle of cardboard. I don’t know where she got that, but I ripped the dish away from my tender, now red bare legs. Surely the top layer of skin went with the bowl!
She looked at me calmly, “Be careful with the sweet and sour chicken. That could really burn you.”
The chicken! What about the rice? Didn’t she already see my blistering legs? Didn’t she hear the scream that could be heard around the world?
As if nothing had happened, I set the circle of cardboard on my legs, then balanced the dishes on my lap and ate a few tentative bites. I had the sinking feeling grains of rice were making their own crash landing onto Carlie’s new car seat. I tried to surreptitiously feel for them, hoping she didn’t see me.
I seemed to have a problem with landings today.
The sauce on the sweet and sour chicken was thick and had probably just come out of an 8,000-degree oven. It burned the roof of my mouth. “Fire! Fire…” I muttered, fanning my mouth with my hand. I tried to shout “Wat—” I coughed, “Water!” My eyes darted in several directions, trying to locate a fire hydrant. Yes, that’s how badly I needed it to cool the inside of my mouth.
But we didn’t have any. We forgot to order beverages.
Even though I sat with Carlie, a friend that went back decades, I felt captive in her SUV, out of my comfort zone. No napkins. No water. No skin on my legs. Sweat pouring off my brow. Third-degree burns on the roof of my mouth. Shaky hands. Rice scattered somewhere on the cushions. I ate too fast. Couldn’t breathe. I struggled for air.
There was my friend, eating calmly as if we always ate in her gadget-filled shiny red SUV. “Let’s make a stop at Wendy’s Drive-through. I’ll treat. Iced tea?”
“Y-yes,” I croaked.
It seemed as if Carlie were the one guiding me into transition. I had so anticipated the day Erie County changed its status to green and we could leave our houses and get together again. I felt prepared, ready, excited. On equal footing.
Just like with my cane. I needed to perfect my technique. I seemed to always be learning (or re-learning) some truth or behavior. I lagged behind. In my mind, I felt confident. Certain. I had the answers. The winning philosophy. Ms. Adaptability. I had plenty of experience with my cane. Everyone else was a newbie.
So why when I thought myself so smart and prepared, did I have all the problems that day? Why was I having trouble landing on my feet? In the easy quiet of the vehicle where the only sound was the thrum of the motor, I twirled thoughts around in my head.
Unpredictable. That’s what my life was. Completely unpredictable. But was that a bad thing? It certainly gave me a variety of life experiences – near death ones, too – but didn’t it give me a cause to smile? To chuckle? To bolster my tired spirit.
Carlie pulled into my back driveway, “Next time we’ll know not to go out for Chinese.” She laughed. “I never expected this kind of a lunch out.”
“Yeah, we’ll have to see what else is out there.” I waved a cheerful goodbye.
As I smoothly climbed the steps leading to my writing loft and finally sipped my iced tea, the roof of my mouth didn’t burn quite so much. I reflected further on our lunch out. ‘Unpredictable’ could actually be a good thing. Especially within the confines of this Covid-19 era.
I didn’t mind that my lunch out hadn’t unfolded as I predicted it would. Just as when I unfolded my cane and straightened it to its full length, I still had to reach out and sensitize myself to my environment with the tactile tip.
Yes, I can prepare my mind mentally and my body, physically, but real living is based on how we respond to what we find at the tip of our cane, the crash landings, the unexpectedness of the moments in our lives.
Yes, even moving from the yellow to the green phase here in Erie County had its mobility challenges. But it also gave me inspiration. I thought, for once, I was the expert since adaptability was the key. But I focused on perfection and forgot to be adaptable. I also forgot I wasn’t the only one needing to adapt. When I look to my childhood friend, I think she always has it together. Knows what to do and how to do it best. But Carlie wasn’t in her element either. No one really is yet.
We all need to keep experimenting with the direction of our masks, untangling them from anything that hinders, even our preconceptions. We must take those steps, and when the time is right, release our landing gear. Smooth is best. But in the event of emergency, make sure they have lines of adaptability and quick reflexes attached, well-oiled with humor and honesty.
We need to reach out and discover the beauty and unpredictability of life even during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Covid-19 Relatable Lyrics.
When I heard the lyrics “Time of Your Life” by Green Day after my lunch out when Erie County turned green, I could relate to many of the lyrics. A little tongue in cheek for me. But a song that summed up that day. Here, listen for yourself.