The Work, Travel and Everyday Life Newsletter
from Randy Lewis
About four months ago I sent you a message telling you what Carol and I were doing to try to stay safe from the coronavirus pandemic.
Back then we were staying in our home, taking a few short trips around town to get food and eat using the drive-through lanes of various fast food outlets. We were allowing a few service people into our home from time to time. I was exercising outside without a mask. Carol and I were not wearing a mask anywhere unless it was a requirement. We were doing our best to social distance.
I’m going to take a moment to tell you what we are doing now in the face of COVID-19 about four months after it became a pretty big deal.
After you read what “we’ve been doing,” I’d like to hear what you’ve been doing. Four months ago I had a good friend tell me that he wasn’t going to be leaving his house for much of anything until a vaccine was at the ready. I don’t know if his plan has changed or not.
Back when all of this started, we had a very good response from people from all over the world telling us how they were reacting to COVID-19. I would love to hear from each of those people as well as everybody who didn’t take the time to respond previously. If you think you got a lot out of the experiences of others either from an educational or an entertainment point of view or both, then it only seems fair that you should share your experiences as well.
Do you have any personal experience with COVID? What has your town/state been doing to slow the spread? Anything unusual with your experiences in the “new world” up to now?
I will tell you this. I am very confident that virtually everyone on this list could benefit from having an interest-only mortgage, an electric car and solar panels. I’m not quite as confident that everyone should follow my experiences as regards COVID-19 behavior. After you see what we’ve been up to, you’ll probably agree with that assessment!
Our main strategy is to wash our hands (I am now a professional hand washer because of a handwashing video I found on YouTube!), social distance and wear a mask. We are working hard to make sure that our exposure to other people is limited. What I’ve read is that the longer you have direct exposure to anyone without social distancing, the greater the risk. However, I am suspecting that how I do all of this, and Carol is with me much of the time, is just a little bit different than the normal person.
We’ve been “eating out” about every other night since the beginning of the pandemic. At the beginning, it was always a drive-through or pick up the food and then go to one of our favorite spots with a great San Clemente ocean view and enjoy our meal together. This was a great way to “catch up on our day”.
We have “graduated” to eating at restaurants. Most of those restaurants have been outdoor-patio dining. We have only eaten inside a restaurant a few times.
I had my first haircut about six weeks ago. I wore a mask. My barber wore a mask, a face shield and gloves. Yesterday the governor of California closed down all of the state’s barbershops. I didn’t know he had done that. However, with the rise in COVID-19 cases, I was suspecting that barbershops could be next on the closure list. I randomly showed up at my barber. His front door was closed. Nevertheless, I tried it and found him inside.
This was going to be his last day of doing any hair cutting. Even though he was supposed to close yesterday, he had a few appointments today and was taking the opportunity to clean up the shop. He told me that the last shutdown had them closed for three months. He was thinking that this closure might last even longer than that. Based upon his prognosis I told him to cut my hair just a little bit shorter than normal! My haircuts don’t cost very much. I pay only 13 bucks for each of my haircuts. Today I gave my barber a $50 bill. I told him that should cover us in case I didn’t see him for a while.
Carol is an avid exerciser (above on Slovakia trackchasing trip) and goes to the gym multiple times each week. Her gym has been closed until this last week. They have actually closed several of their outlets all around Southern California permanently. A couple of days ago she went to her first yoga class. Then yesterday gyms were closed again by the state of California. Yep. She’s pissed. Don’t even get her started on COVID-19 and the government. I’m warning you. No…I really am warning you.
Carol and I had taken a trackchasing trip in January for three weeks to France and Italy. Both of those countries were hard hit by the coronavirus shortly thereafter. Then I spent the first week of March in Sweden. When I returned from Sweden, I learned that my flight was the last international flight allowed back into the United States without various COVID-19 restrictions.
My normal lifestyle has me flying somewhere about 40 weekends/weeks a year. A lot of the travel is for my trackchasing/racing hobby. A lot of our adventures are just pleasure trips that Carol and I take.
During the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, I wasn’t traveling at all. People kept asking me how the “no travel situation” was affecting me. I told them it was no big deal for one simple reason. There was no place to travel to. Any place that I would want to have visited was closed. That being the case, not traveling didn’t bother me because I really had no good options that I would want to visit.
Then a couple of months ago, the racing scene began to open up just a little bit. Now I was getting antsy because there WAS somewhere to travel to. So what did I do? I started traveling.
I have flown on an airplane all across the United States for each of the last SEVEN weekends. I doubt many people reading this message are doing anything close to that. I don’t really feel unsafe traveling on planes. This is how I look at it.
Much of my hobby, and actually my lifestyle in general, supports social distancing. If I’m going to take a trackchasing trip, it almost always includes going to the airport. I drive my car to the airport all by myself unless Carol is with me. I walk by myself from the parking garage to the airport. Once I’m in the airport, there are virtually no times when I am within six feet of another person. If I am, it’s only briefly.
The airlines have been very good about blocking the middle seats on their planes. I’ve probably flown on 20-25 planes in the last seven weeks. On all but one of those flights, I had either a window or an aisle seat with an open middle seat.
The one and only time I had an aisle seat with the middle seat occupied, the guy in the middle seat was a real treat. He had on a mask, a face shield, gloves and a huge ski jacket zipped fully to the top. I wanted to tell him that I thought the ski jacket was just a bit much considering we were landing into a 95° heat-wave city. I wanted to point out that this was a respiratory disease and that a ski jacket wasn’t likely to protect him all that much.
You all know airline passenger traffic is way down. It’s pretty amazing to me to walk around airports that are typically jampacked and now look like ghost towns. I think there are two reasons people are not flying. First, of course, people think flying might make them sick; and they will die. Secondly, and very importantly, there’s nothing going on in the places people would like to fly to. Most tourist attractions and sporting events are closed. Grandma or the grandkids don’t want to see you in person right now either!
When I land I walk by myself from the airport to the rental car location. I pick up my rental car, and I’m all by myself during that part of the trip. When I show up at the racetrack it’s not that difficult to sit in the space where no one is closer than six feet.
I went about three months without shaking anyone’s hands. I had pretty much resigned myself to being a “no handshake person” for the rest of my life. Then I ventured down to Oklahoma. A couple of very friendly folks extended their hand to welcome me. How do you not shake someone’s hand when they are so sincere and friendly? Now I think I have shaken the hands of about six or eight people. I don’t want to make a practice of doing that, but I do have a hard time saying no.
I’ve eaten at the Waffle House a few times. I gave myself a $100 WH gift card for Father’s Day! At one of the Waffle Houses, they had a piece of clear plastic Visqueen separating each table. That’s how a blue-collar restaurant should handle things, right? Most of the time these Waffle Houses and other indoor restaurants have every other table blocked off.
It may be safe to say that the Lewis clan is an adventuresome family. During the past couple of weeks, we met up with our daughter Kristy in Michigan. She and a friend and their FOUR 10-12 years old kids are in the midst of a 61-day, 48-state driving tour of the U.S. To me, that sounds tougher than avoiding the coronavirus!
So that’s pretty much my story. I will tell you one more thing about my experience with the pandemic. Today I took a COVID test. I had to contact my doctor and get him to agree to OK the test.
Getting the test itself was about as simple as anything possibly could be. I drove to the location for my COVID test appointment. This was being done at a hospital in San Clemente that has since closed. When I entered the parking lot, there was only one car ahead of me. They weren’t here to take a test but only to ask a question. I pulled up and told the staff member my name and birthdate. That was it. I didn’t have to show them any identification or anything else.
I was a little apprehensive about taking the test itself. I thought they were going to push some cotton swabs up my nose until those swabs penetrated the back of my brain. That did not seem particularly appealing. My fears were unjustified.
They actually took two swabs and didn’t go through my nose but simply swabbed the back of my throat. They had the swabs inside my mouth for two or three seconds. I couldn’t believe how simple it was. I was told that my doctor will call with results in about five days.
I don’t expect that I have COVID. I, like lots of other people I have talked to, actually felt I might’ve had COVID sometime this winter. When I returned from my trips to Europe, I didn’t feel all that well. However, my doctor tells me there is no way at this point to confirm or not that I had COVID four months ago. I probably didn’t.
So I’ve taken a moment to tell you what my experiences have been with COVID over the past couple of months. In some ways, I suspect the danger is as great today as it was four months ago. I just think that people, including me, have gotten a little more comfortable with whatever danger might exist.
I strongly believe that the danger of COVID is difficult to quantify. I have stayed in a number of hotels during these trips over the past couple of months. I don’t worry about staying in a hotel since it seems as if contaminated surfaces are a very minor contributor to getting COVID. It is a bummer that hotels are no longer offering hot breakfasts.
The airplanes are working hard with their filtration systems and sanitation procedures so I honestly don’t feel that bad when I fly. I believe that by washing my hands, social distancing, wearing a mask and trying to limit the duration of exposure to any other individual is about all I can do. I guess I could do all of that in the comfort of my own home. For me it doesn’t seem that much of a stretch to be able to do all of those things in the comfort of my own airport or hotel room or racetrack.
Luckily, I don’t have any underlying conditions. My doctor tells me I am one of only a couple of his patients of my age that doesn’t take any mandated doctor prescriptions. I’m sort of figuring if I get COVID, I will survive it. If I don’t, I’m here to tell you I’ve lived a really good life.
As I said, I’m pretty confident that each of you should have an interest-only mortgage, buy an electric car and install solar panels. However, I am not recommending you take my approach to living inside the COVID-pandemic world. You probably didn’t need for me to tell you that since you probably have no interest whatsoever in hopping on an airplane anytime soon.
With all of this said, now it’s your turn. Take just a moment and tell me what you and your loved ones have been up to. If there’s anything you don’t want me to share with the group, just tell me. I will abide by your wishes. When we get a lot of people responding, I think everyone will benefit from other’s experiences.
I hope everyone stays safe. I hope you and everyone you care about sails right past COVID-19 and doesn’t have any problems whatsoever.
That’s it. Stay safe and I’ll see you on the flip side.