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  • Writer's pictureKaren L


The new year began a day ago. I read an article about devices for measuring time--for example, grandfather clock, sundial, metronome, stopwatch, timer, apple watch, and the atomic clock. I decided to record the pandemic in shortages, similar to my count of days of the virus, alternatives to documenting time.

The pandemic has been with us for two years. We enter our third winter of the virus. I began counting days of the virus on or about March 13, 2020, approximately when Governor Hogan announced a complete shut-down on the emergency alert system. FYI--we are on day #652.

So back to shortages which seem to be completely random. In 2020, we experienced shortages of toilet paper, wipes, paper towels, and hand sanitizer. I clearly remember the Friday before I began counting. My friend in Irvine, CA was desperate for Purell hand sanitizer, at the time the only brand we recognized. I thought, what the hell, how difficult could it be to locate the stuff which I had scoffed about for years. Germs are good. Dirty is better than too clean. We need to strengthen our immunity system. Needless to say, my daughter, Isabel, and I never found hand sanitizer that blustery March day. On a whim or call it a premonition, I bought small bottles of hand sanitizer in February at Bath and Body Works. So we had some, but none to ship to California.

I picture the images in my mind from that time. The news reported that "older Chinese men" in a far-off province in China became sick and died. I felt reassured, since I am not a man or Chinese. Of course, I had no inkling of what was to come. When the first shutdown occurred, it seemed frightening but surreal, like a blizzard warning. Huh, we'll stay inside, be safe, and all will be well soon.

A few days before the Purell shortage, Isabel and I tried to track down medical gloves and masks. We found gloves in Virginia but masks, no chance. That was the day, Isabel and I attended our last performance in a large indoor theater. Asking for masks was met with nervous laughter by sales clerks.

Luckily, in the early days of COVID-19. we found cheap paper masks sold individually from behind the counter, $1.00 a piece, at our small local CVS. Little did I know that masks--did I say masks?--would become a fashion accessory. One had to consider color; material--cotton or paper; theme--holiday, season, political; and source--country, department store, seamstress, a talented friend, or Amazon? Now we buy KN95 masks by the box. I even succumbed to purchasing self tests.

Shortages--black shoe polish, bleach for color wash, tuna, sandals, holiday decorations, all types of furniture, certain brands of water and soda, canned soup, pasta, multi-vitamins, facial tissue--examples-- nonetheless an indication of something amiss. No American today experiences true hardship when the shelves seem empty. As a consumer, I feel curious. Rationing and a lack of necessities has not occurred in my lifetime. Some Americans do go hungry due to other reasons.

Supply-chain difficulties, including a decrease in longshoremen, truck drivers, and factory workers result in the gaps in the neatly displayed items on supermarket shelves. Are the workers sick, taking unemployment rather than low wages and poor benefits? Probably, yes. Causes include partisan politics; reliance on cheap foreign goods; and a long-standing trend of de-regulation, trickle-down economics, and tax incentives for corporations and the super-wealthy.

A lack of awareness causes me angst. Some fellow citizens do not read warning signs--among them able bodied people unwilling to work for nothing. Leaders shy away from strict short-term mandates for vaccines and masks, so the variants of the virus continue to cause havoc. We have a Bill of Rights; however, our founding mothers and fathers certainly would not condone harming one another. We prize freedom of choice, but should a few obtain options and opportunities without regard to others?

Generosity and hospitality are not in short supply. Many Americans give their time, money, and food to the needy every day. But heeding warning by curtailing appetites seems to be impossible. What about driving the humongous SUVs; flying helter skelter anywhere to "get away," purchasing luxury residences in cities around the world, and non-stop partying and bar hopping? Why do homeowners remain nearsighted to the need for solar panels, the pollution caused by natural gas, or the use of a gas guzzling vehicle to drive a significant distance to bike or hike? Americans rush to buy generators in case of a blackout due to the fear of discomfort; extra freezers to store food for doomsday; and guns to protect and defend, But they do not consider the risk of accidental shootings and the "opportunity" for suicide attempts, as well as the pollution caused by extra large appliances, especially those hooked up to gas lines.

A few days ago, I saw videos of raging wildfires in Colorado in late December! The sky displayed an eery orange glow, and the landscape parched to a dull brown. The area, adjacent to Boulder, is not the desert, yet it resembled one. The video switched to a panicky scene in Chucky Cheese. Young families scrambled to grab coats and children and ran out into a weird wind/smokestorm. The families jumped into their SUV's, young ones safely buckled in, and drove off. The kids stared out the windows. No one said a word. If this does not scare you, I am dumbfounded.

© 2022Karen Levi

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