by Sheila McCormick
My husband, Paul, and I are both retired. Since we don’t face many of the problems others are having during this crisis, it seems strange to write about our experiences – but Ken Katz asked for contributions, so here goes. Although I can’t browse in thrift stores, or go to museums, both things I enjoy, our lives aren’t otherwise that much changed. I already cooked a fair bit, watched 1-2 hours of TV in the evening, and my editing for eLIFE, a science journal, and the Twitter feed for The Plant Journal continues. I have to say that I am overwhelmed with “The 79 movies you can watch now on Netflix,” “The 36 best things to watch on Amazon,” “Tour these National Parks virtually,” etc. The magazines still keep stacking up unread. In theory there should be more time for such things, but it seems not!
We like to volunteer and things sure have changed there. I am on the board of the Friends of the Oakland Library and do a lot of social media for them. I typically went to The Bookmark Bookstore three to four times per week to photograph books for posting on Instagram and/or Facebook and to collect books that warranted price checks for potential Amazon listings, etc. I haven’t been to the store since March 8. I was also about to start leading a monthly “Social Media Help for Seniors” session at the Lakeview Branch Library – the first one was to have been March 13, but it was cancelled, as are the April and May sessions. Maybe I will be able to start this in June.
Paul volunteered as a tutor in an ESL class at Laney on Monday afternoons, and he helped people do their taxes at Cesar Chavez Branch library on Thursdays and Fridays. The tax help is cancelled, but after spring break the ESL class started back up online and he helps with that on Monday and Wednesday afternoons. He’s also been sewing masks and donating them. I would have liked to volunteer to deliver meals, work at the food bank, etc. – but they don’t want people over 65.
Maybe because we are scientists, we started taking Covid-19 seriously earlier than some. On March 8, I emailed my grant-writing class students at Berkeley to cancel in-person meetings. The last time we ate at a restaurant (Flippers, for burgers) was March 11. We wore masks and gloves at stores and the gas station starting that week as well, and Paul wore a mask for his last in-person tax help meetings on March 12 and 13.
I had a cough for 3+ weeks, from March 9 to March 31 (unlikely to be Covid-19, no fever, no other symptoms, and Paul didn’t catch it – so all that hand-washing paid off!). I kept a cough diary (since I had plenty of time to do so).
We quickly gave up on walking one of our favorite routes (too many people at the lake) and instead now drive to different residential neighborhoods (Oakland, Alameda, Berkeley), where there are few pedestrians. I take pictures of flowers, etc. on the walks and post them to Instagram or Facebook.
1 gas station fill-up: April 24, $2.19/gallon (previous purchase was March 8, $3.09/gallon).
3 online purchases: pots and pans, slide scanner, blood pressure monitor. I bought the pots because of the cheery colors, the scanner to digitize slides dating back 40+ years, and the monitor since you can’t go to Kaiser for such things right now.
3.5 takeout meals (so far), with enough food for multiple meals: Guru Curry House, The Ark in Alameda, Café Colucci, Smoking Woods BBQ (ribs for Paul).
5 on-line performances (so far): Saturday Seder, Shotgun Theater’s Beowulf, National Theatre’s Treasure Island, The Marsh Game Night (Bingo with Josh Kornbluth), and Romeo and Juliet (Seattle Shakespeare Company).
5 books purchased from Walden Pond: we certainly do not need more books, but wanted to help them out.
9 trips to stores (so far): Berkeley Bowl West (1), Target (1), Smart and Final (1), Lakeshore Produce (1), Trader Joe’s (2), Lucky’s (1), Walgreens (2).
17 front porch sing-alongs (so far): See Keila Diehl’s photo essay.
Editor’s Note: Sheila is an Adjunct Professor Emerita in Cal’s Department of Plant and Microbial Biology. Prior to her retirement in January 2016, she had a research lab at the USDA/ARS-UC-Berkeley Plant Gene Expression Center in Albany, studying the molecular biology of plant reproduction. When he retired from UC-Berkeley, Sheila’s husband, Paul Herzmark, was a Research Specialist in Cal’s Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, where he specialized in two-photon microscopy in an immunology lab. Before that he was in the Department of Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology at UCSF. Sheila has also contributed articles to the Splash Pad News including a series of neighborhood walks and continues to regularly help with editing.