Phone Conversation During the Pandemic


Phone rings. I pick it up.

Me: "James Bow speaking."

(Long pause, then) Caller: "Hello. Can I speak to the computer user of this house?"

Me (knowing full well where this is going): "Suuuuuure."

(Pause) Caller: "Hello. I am calling from Microsoft and I am sorry to say that we have detected an error on your computer."

Me (thinking, "I wonder how long I can string this along, like those other guys in those videos I've seen. They keep thes guys tied up for hours!"): Oh?

(Pause) Caller: "We have been trying to install updates on your computer to fix this problem, and have sent you alerts for two weeks with no response. Have you not received these alerts, sir? If you could just go to your computer, sir and--"

Me (thinking, "Nah, I don't have the improvisational skills to pull it off"): "Well, one reason you may be having trouble there is because I have a Mac."

(Sudden silence)

(Line goes dead)

Me (checks watch): Well, I kept that guy nattering on unproductively for two minutes. I guess that's a start. (hangs up)

(The image above is by Stomchak and is used in accordance with its Creative Commons Copyright).

In Memory

Fifteen years ago today, Erin and I learned that her sister Wendy had drowned during a vacation in Mexico. We don’t know exactly what happened, and we probably never will.

Erin was five-months pregnant with Vivian at the time. In the therapy that followed, the therapist reminded Erin that her child wouldn’t be born grieving, no matter how much we were, and to respect that. However, we have taken pains to tell our children about their aunt, and celebrate her life on this day that we now call “Sisters Day”, to remind them, and ourselves, of how important she was in the lives of those who loved her, and of the importance of our siblings.

The kids have, in the past, taken to this day as an excuse to share cupcakes, or make milkshakes. They were not born mourning. However, I did hear Eleanor talk about her aunt when she was speaking with her online instructor during an art course.

Seeing how Vivian and Eleanor are doing with their art, I do feel sad that they never got a chance to share time and that art with their aunt. It would have been something that would have connected them; I know she would have cheered them on.

They do look up to her. And perhaps we can honour her with their art.


I Saw the Stars in April


Image courtesy NASA.

An exceptionally clear night a couple of years ago made me stop and stare. There was a star that was so bright that I wondered for a moment if it was a plane. “Don’t be silly,” I thought, “Plane trips are way down.” Besides, it was white, it wasn’t flashing, and it wasn’t moving.

I realized later that it was Venus. And I could see other stars as well — dimmer, but still there. I’m nowhere near enough of a star gazer to pick out constellations, but I was impressed that this was the first time in a while that I could actually see the stars.

Of course, I immediately thought that this was due to the substantial reduction in air pollution resulting from us staying home and sheltering in place, and it may well have been.

But I also realized that, honestly, that until January 31st, there was no way I could reasonably see stars. Thanks to my cataracts, I was hard pressed to see the Moon with any clarity. And this had been developing slowly but steadily over the previous two years that I’d just forgotten that the stars were out there. Just like I didn’t realize that I was looking at the world through a yellow haze until the haze disappeared from my left eye following the first surgery. The world did not suddenly get a lot brighter, it just seemed that way.

In other news, it’s now been six days since I last saw the inside of a grocery store. For someone who went out to the store often to get small things for meals and supplies as they were needed, this has been a pretty big adjustment. But thanks to Erin’s meal planning, we’ve done well, I think. We have plenty of things still to eat, even eggs and bacon and toilet paper.

The limiting factor appears to be milk. Apparently, two four-litre bags of milk aren’t enough to hold a family of four for a whole week, even if we purchase two cartons of soy for our tea and coffee. Ah, well. A third bag should do the trick, at least.

Though I must say, if anybody wants to bring back daily curbside delivery of milk, I am in.

Back When We Could Roam

It’s only been six weeks, but it seems like a lot longer that I was able to step away from my house and take ground public transit all the way to Boston to ride their MBTA. Here’s a video of the things I saw when I got there on Sunday, February 16.

Today is day (checks notes) twenty of our lockdown. Like the other responsible people in the world we are, where possible, trying to stay home as much as possible. I’ve only been out in the general public once a week or so to get groceries, and it’s interesting seeing what is still in shortage, and where.

In order to get everything I needed to get, I had to go to three stores, unfortunately. My local Sobeys was well stocked up with bread and milk, but was out of flour and, three weeks on, still out of toilet paper. The pasta aisles were also pretty much cleared out, although it’s the flour that I found most worrying. Eleanor has been making use of her time at home baking, and has given us fresh bread on more than one occasion.

The local Shoppers Drug Mart was similar: no toilet paper, and short on eggs. The local Food Basics, however, had eggs, some flour, and toilet paper. They were limiting customers to one package each, but it was still nice to see. And everybody was as calm as on Day 4 of this lockdown, and practising social distancing as much as was possible.

The kids have been troopers, but they’ve been freaked out as much as we’ve been freaked out. Though we don’t always show it, they can tell. And Eleanor confessed that she’s bummed out over how this will almost certainly still be ongoing when we get to her birthday on April 27, and how much is that going to suck?

Well, it is. But maybe we can assuage things by ordering Chinese food for delivery on that day, and making plans for having a fun outing once the restrictions lift. I’m already thinking of where I can go once it is safe to do so. Maybe Calgary and Edmonton for a four-day weekend?

Quarantine Journal, Day 4


I'm not actually under quarantine, but we are practising social distancing in order to do our part in slowing the spread of the virus. My workplace has been very progressive in this regard, enabling us to work from home, and also encouraging us to take time with the family, including kids who might be quietly freaking out over this.

We bought plenty of supplies on Friday -- enough to cover our meals for the next week or so, and as I said in my previous post, the stores were busy but calm. We ran short of milk today, however, so I went out to get some, keeping away from people and touching surfaces as infrequently as possible.

I can say that, at the Shoppers Drug Mart, I found plenty of fresh milk, bread, chocolate, medicines and cleaning supplies. And absolutely no toilet paper. I still don't know what motivated people to hoard toilet paper.

As it happens, we have plenty of toilet paper at home. A series of miscommunications with my mother-in-law and her husband, who were staying with us at the time, led me to inadvertantly bring home up to four large packages of toilet paper. Oh, well. At least these things don't have expiry dates.

That was January. We still have enough toilet paper to last us until late next week. Give that the number of packages I accidentally supplied was enough to supply a family of four -- at times six -- for two months straight makes me wonder how much the panicked peoples' stash is going to last.

They'll probably run out of food before they run out of it.

Giving this update, I'm reminded of a line from the classic series, Red Dwarf, where Holly, the ship's computer, reports, "We've got enough food to last three thousand years but we've only got one After Eight mint left... ...and everyone's too polite to take it."


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