Six months later
Well, at least I can get toilet paper, hand santizer, and a hair cut. It's become a different world for many the country's citizens. Social distancing, no mass gatherings, and I can't enter a place of business without a mask. But it's better than it was at the beginning as I remember seeing store after store closed up and I wondered to myself
"what if I need underwear?"
"what if I need new shoes?"
"what if I have a major problem with my health?"
That's what it was like for a couple months. The mall parking lots were empty. I couldn't get a cup of coffee. My favorite restaurants were all closed and a few did take out only. I would look in the mirror and my hair was shaggy as shit. The last time I had hair like that was in the 70s. My girlfriend was in extreme lockdown because of her autoimmune disorder. With me being in the service industry, she was worried that I would come in contact with people. Coming in contact with others as it turned out didn't become a major problem. I would walk up to an account and there would be sign on the door that non essential people wouldn't be premitted into the building. If I was permitted, it was a checking of my temperature and signing a waiver. I would wear my mask and walk into a barely functioning workplace. We weren't happy being apart, but back then so little was know about the novel coronavirus and there was the constant conflicting reports from the media.
"wearing a mask isn't necessary"
"wearing a mask might help"
It became so annoying, because the CDC constantly contradicted itself. I didn't know anyone that got the virus but I know several that later said they had the worst flu or had a nagging cough that didn't go away for weeks. All of this happened to them before March. Back then we knew so little about this novel virus. All I remember is secretly hiding my bottle of Purcell santizer in my work truck and wondering how much longer will it last. I would try to use as little as possible, because you had a better chance of winning Powerball than scoring a bottle of it.
Then there was the time I ran into the girl who cuts my hair at Target and her telling me in March that there were rumors of her salon getting shut down. My appointment was the following week. As we talked, we looked at two people walk by with masks and gloves on. She looked at me and rolled her eyes and I snickered. As it turns out they were on to something. Because the following week on everything got shut down and masks would became the norm.
Slowly things started get back to normal in May. My girlfriend and I were finally able to see one another. The state gradually allowed businesses to open. Many were under huge pressure, especially small businesses. But it was different. I had to text both the salon and dentist when I arrived. I sat my car and waited as they disinfected my chair. When I entered it felt like entering some high tech lab as there was a sign at the door
You must wear a mask upon entering
If you feel sick please don't enter
I finally got my mop chopped as I listened to the trimmer struggling to cut and seeing the clumps of hair dropping to the floor. Trying to have a conversation which the hairdresser was a chore as our masks muffled our voices. The middle seat was empty as it would have violated the 6' space rule. I was just happy to get my hair cut. I asked the girl who's been cutting my hair for the past 4 years what she did during her time off and her reply was
"Drinking a lot of wine and gaining weight"
I was able to see the dentist to get my teeth cleaned and the hygienist came in practically wearing a bio-hazard suit. But, more importantly I was able to buy underwear.
We're heading into an election year and the country is sitting on a huge powder keg. Riots over black people being killed by the police, dissatisfication with Trump, and people fed up that this virus refuses to go away. I still have my three tickets for the Stones in my phone. We were supposed to go back in June as it was a gift for my girlfriends son's 16th birthday. When will it happen? I have no clue? Knowing our luck, either Keith, Charlie, or Mick could kick the bucket next year. But if heavy drug usage didn't kill them, I had my doubts that Covid-19 would do them in. It sucks, because I enjoy going out to concerts during the summer. I have a feeling concerts won't happen for a very long time.
The only thing that had kept me going was fishing. The spring steelhead season was great, but I wrapped it up earlier than usual, because I started to get busy with work. That was a blessing because unlike many Americans, I was rolling in cash. With all of the hard work, I was rewarded with a chance to go walleye fishing. One of the guys I fish with offered me a seat on a boat as his brother and family couldn't make it because of travel restrictions since he was from Texas. The trip would take place over the July 4th weekend.
I woke up at 3:30 in the morning which took a monumental effort to get out of bed. With no time to even get coffee or eat, I drive from girlfriend's place to my friend's place in Bay Village which is a 35 minute drive. I meet him and his son-in-law and we get another person. It's still dark when we're on the highway heading to Port Clinton which dubs itself "Walleye Capital of the World". That might be true as of now, because Lake Erie is bursting at the seams full of walleye. Numbers are at historic highs as I've heard reports from numerous people of limiting out in under an hour. Even the land lubbers in spring and early summer were scoring big numbers of fish from the local breakwalls.
We arrive in Port Clinton and pull into a private marina. There we see Bubba's friend Dick and the captain prepping the boat. We get out and mingle as we're waiting for a couple more guys that I fish with for steelhead. Earlier in the year, charter fishing trips were banned. They also closed a lot of parks on the Maumee River which attracts a lot of anglers as walleye head upstream to spawn. I remember seeing guys literally shoulder to shoulder in some places. Under state rules, that was a no-no, Also anglers from out of state had to self quarantine for 2 weeks and a lot of them ended up cancelling trips all together. That meant a lot of walleye ended up spawning and heading back to the lake without ever seeing a hook or landing in a frying pan. But for charters, it meant no income. The spring was usually a busy time for them and with the restrictions many thought the whole season would be a bust. Many worried as they wouldn't be able to make their boat payments as the boat we would be on was over $100,000. But in June the state lifted the ban and allowed trips to resume under certains requirements. The boat was big enough to accommodate all of us and we could be at least 6' apart.
Prior to heading out I popped a Dramamine because I'm susceptible to sea sickness and Western Lake Erie is notorious for choppy water. However, the boat taking us out is fairly large. It's a 30' Sportscraft and they're the boat of choice for charters on Lake Erie. We exit the marina and slowly head out into the lake. Once we're pass the no wake zone the captain opens the boat up and the engine roars to life. To the east, the sun is rising and it's a fiery red ball. As we head out, I can see South Bass and Kelley's island. South Bass island is home to Put-In-Bay which is a hugely popular place in the summer. It's more noted for its large number of bars. Just this past week, over 30 people contracted the virus at one bar as it was later reported the bar failed to have proper social distancing requirements. I've never been to Put-In-Bay because it caters more to the younger crowds and party animals. Plus I couldn't bear the thought of standing in a pool bar with over 100 people drinking heavily and we all know none of them are leaving to go use the bathroom. The breeze felt refreshing as the weather all week has been hot and humid. In the distance, I can see the pack of boats already getting a start on fishing.
We make it to the reefs and I asked how are we going to troll considering all of the boats are confined in one area. Dick, one of the old timers I fish with laughed and said on this side of lake, trollers wear skirts. On the western part of the lake it's strictly casting. I was perfectly fine with that as I usually find trolling boring. We take our spots on the boat and we grab a nightcrawler from the box. The rods are very short, no longer than 6' and spooled with dacron. The gear is basically a worm harness with a gold spinner blade and sinker about a foot above. The key to finding fish is using a countdown method of either 5, 7, 10, or 12 seconds. Then retrieving slowly and swinging it across as the boat drifted along the reef. There were plenty of boats scattered about, but there was enough room for everybody. I casted out and counted to 7 and started reeling in slowly. At first, my harness would tangle as I failed to pull the line taut once it hit the water. This wasn't the method of walleye fishing that I was use to. In my native Canada as it was simply anchoring over a shoal and dropping a jig tipped with a minnow. I cast back out at a 45 degree angle and count to 7 and slowly reel in. As I reeled I felt the rod bounce a couple times and I quickly set the hook. It felt decent and surprisely it fought well. As it got closer to the boat, I caught as glimpse of a walleye fighting to get back into the depths. The captain netted it and was a typical Lake Erie walleye about 4 pounds. He removed the hook and dumped it into the live well.
The action was fast and furious as we got into fish. I was the multi species specialist as I caught several channel cats, sheepsheads, and white perch. The sheepshead were a blast as some were fairly large. While I was fishing I could hear the chatter over the radio of several captains getting the pulse of the morning bite. Some were doing well and others were grinding it out. The numbers continued to pile up and the limit on Lake Erie is 6 walleye per person. The captain had the counter in his hand and we were at 40. We needed 2 more and the bite was getting tougher. I was getting a little fatigued as my legs had to counter the waves as I tried to stay balanced. We finally get our limit and it's not even late morning. We could have fished more as the captain can technically have his limit even though he wasn't fishing. But everyone is satisfied with the results and we back to the marina.
We take the fish out and place them a stand for a photo shoot. All of the fish are lined up and we gather behind. The captain takes several pictures with phones and after that we wait for the fish cleaner to pick them up. We all headed to Dick's duck hunting club and had lunch. It felt like the pandemic never existed as we talked about the past steelheading season. We get the call that the fish were ready and headed over. The cleaner had 15 pounds of fillets for everyone. On the way back, I conked out and slept half of the way. That evening, I cooked up some walleye tacos. Butter, chili powder, salt, and pepper. I made some salsa and wolfed down at least 2 pounds of fish. Sadly, I would consume all of my walleye in a couple of weeks.
While the fishing trip was fun, it turned out to be the only positive event. The rest of the year turned to shit. Later in the month my girlfriend lost her father to cancer. Several months ago he was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. The prognosis wasn't good as the cancer was spreading and the radiation had weaken him. He became so ill that he was admitted to hospital and he never left. He was on a ventilator and sedated. During his time in the hospital he contracted pneumonia and sepsis. What should have been a quick death, he actually fought off the both of them. But it took a toll on him and the doctors said that there wasn't much they could do and suggested that he be placed in hospice. She flew back and forth from Florida and wasn't thrilled being packed into a plane full of people. Her dad was placed in hospice and it didn't take long. Later that day, I get a call from her that he passed away, he was only 75 years old. She was devastated.
Then in August, I got attacked by a dog at a person's house while doing a job. I was lucky considering it was a pit bull. My left index finger was badly mangled and I also got chomped on my leg. I call the office and tell them what happened and I was heading back and going straight to the hospital. The dog's owner was freaking out and asking if there was anything she could do. I told her to get me a bag of ice. I didn't even give her the bill and quickly left. With adrenaline pumping I wasn't in much pain. I walk into ER and my white work shirt is covered in blood and the bag of ice with my hand in it is red. I sat in the ER waiting room, filling out forms and listening to other misberable people upset having to wait so long. After filling out my forms, I'm googling what is the typical payout for a dog bite and the average settlement from a claim was over $43,000. The wheels in my head start turning, but luckily worker's comp will be paying for all of medical bills.
I get called in, but it's only for an X-ray. It takes only a few minutes and I go back to my chair. I feel bad for the elderly man in the wheelchair who's complained non stop about his back pain. The nurse is empathetic, but there's nothing she can do. My name gets called again and I go into a room and nurse comes in takes some vitals and asks what happened. She gets all of the information and tells me a doctor will eventually see me. I sit and wait and wait. Finally a young girl enters and she introduces herself as one of the physican's assistants. She looks like she came straight out of med school, but I don't care, I want the pain to go away. She examines my wound and said I was lucky when I told her it was a pit bull. She injects a numbing agent into my finger and when she removes the gauzing all I see is a bloody mess. I get all squeamish and she on the other hand closely exams my finger. There's a large gaping cut and my fingernail is missing. I ask if the wound will be stitched and she tells me unless my finger was dangling they generally don't stitch wounds from dog bites because of the risk from bacteria getting caught inside. She flushes all of the debris out and after that she examines my leg. I can see several teeth marks, but nothing penetrated the skin. I see some bruising and she tells me it will get worse. She prescribes antibotics and painkillers and a note saying that I'm not able to work for the rest of the week. She also gives me the number for the plastic surgeon who is more of the expert when dealing with dog bites. The X-ray comes back and I have a fractured finger tip. For 51 years I had a streak of never breaking a bone in my body, considering I lost count of all the falls I had as a kid playing sports. The ER doctor comes in and looks at my finger. I give him the same story and he also recommends that I see the plastic surgeon. He tells me that I will be discharged shortly. When it's all said and done I was at the ER for almost four hours. I call my girlfriend that I'm heading over to the drugstore and I would head over to her place. Once the percocet took effect, I was lights out when I got to bed.
Wednesday, I see the plastic surgeon. He enters, sits down, and promptly tears off my bandage which almost made me want to smack him.
"The nail will grow back in 3 months and there's no need to stitch the wound. I'll see you in two weeks"
He puts on some antibotic cream and new bandage. The fractured fingertip would take about a month to heal and he recommends that I wear a splint when sleeping. He said I was lucky to only lose a fingernail and tells me several stories of repairing nasty wounds from dog bites. For the rest of the week I'm on the couch and my leg has a huge bruise. I fucking hate irresponsible dog owners.
If things couldn't get more worse, we have a "training seminar" at the end of September. The owner announces that he sold his company. You could have heard a pin drop in the room. In my mind I was ready to hear him say that because of the pandemic he had no choice but to sell and that he wished everyone goo luck and we would get no severance package. But to everyone's relief, he goes on to say that the company will still remain and that him and his son will continue to run it. It turns out he sold it to a national company and I found out what company it was, I wasn't terribly thrilled. I use to work to for a national company and I hated it. Too many cogs in the machine and no direction from management.
The company I worked for was family owned for 84 years. It survived the second world war when his father served overseas and his mother ran it during that time. It survived the economic upheaval when Cleveland's manufacturing base collapsed in the late 70s. But all of that paled in comparsion to the effect of a virus. The pandemic has been very hard on small businesses. So far the company had lost over $220,000 in revenue. The no end in sight and the slow season approaching he had no choice. If a lifeline wasn't thrown, me and all of my fellow employees would have been unemployed and worrying about how we would pay the bills.
There will be changes, mostly with pay and how I'm paid. I was salary and commission and I loved the hustling. During the busy months, I made some huge commissions. However, during the winter I wasn't as busy and I had to budget accordingly, but money was never an issue. Now I'm hourly and my concern is this upcoming winter. Will I be guaranteed 40 hours a week? I calculated overtime and I could make more in the long term. But now the owner doesn't call the shots and he has to answer to corporate. I guess I'll have to wait and see what happens and go accordingly. But I'm grateful that I still have a job.
What I mention above will pale in comparison when the upcoming elections are over. Either way, we as a country are going to pay for it. If Trump wins, I'll guarantee my left nut that there will be rioting and looting in the streets. If Biden wins, Trump's legal team will tie it up in for months with litigation making Bush vs Gore looking like a walk in a park. Even though I can't vote, I'm hoping that most Americans vote Trump out, because of his handling of the pandemic and his boorish behavior.
All I know is once the colder weather hits, experts are predicting another possible spike in cases as people start moving indoors. I really believe this pandemic will go well into the next year and six months later, I'll be writing another entry. Hopefully by then a vaccine will be out and cases start to drop and eventually we get start getting back to normal. All I want is my concerts, trips, and going out to my favorite restaurants.
2020 will be a year that historians will write about. When I'm old and grey, I'll be telling the younger generation about the pandemic and what it was like to live through it. I can see myself ending the story by saying
"It all started because some dude in China, insisted he had to have bat meat in his soup.