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Stuck in Late Middle: The pandemic puzzle

Day Whatever of our forced “staycation.”

Wasn’t it only a year or so ago that this sort of time off was hyped as being chic? Who knew? Time to get out the jigsaws, figure out that game someone gave you for Christmas a couple of years ago, and catch up on those movies you haven’t watched for years. I only recently learned (sort-of) how to stream those favorite TV shows of yore … now is the time to binge watch old CSIs. We never so much as saw a Seinfeld back in the day (in those days our evenings were spent feeding, bathing, and getting our daughters to bed); maybe now is our chance? The Empress (TE … my usually averse to much TV spouse) and I are up to date on The Crown, and it’s been fascinating catching up with ET et al on Ancient Aliens. Once we’ve worn out the TV, heck, we might even read a good book! Maybe I’ll write one. And in case you have obstetrician friends, they’ll be cancelling their vacation plans for The Holidays! Just sayin’.

Now the coronavirus is absolutely a very, very real concern and I have no intention of minimizing the need for proper caution, but neither am I given to hysteria, and I haven’t much patience with any of the media’s headline-mongering hyperbole. And never mind about social media; trolls of every persuasion are clogging everyone’s bandwidth with opinion and tripe. If ever there was a time for a bit of rational common sense … which, of course, has rarely been even remotely common, much less rational … it is now. How about “… the facts, ma’am. Just the facts.” We need Jack Webb to remind us!

An abundance of caution is smart. Hoarding toilet paper is not … it’s respiratory, not intestinal. And for goodness sake wash your hands often and very thoroughly. And please stay home. If you just must go out, practice keeping your distance and remember that others not so healthy as you think you are don’t need whatever you may be spreading.

So if we are going to be staying home, many of us will be doing more cooking-for-two. TE dug out “Betty Crocker’s Cooking for Two Cookbook” which dates back about 40 years. We’ve become so accustomed to fresh produce and fish and so forth year-around, that it’s interesting to read (and remember) about many of Betty’s ingredients: frozen vegetables, frozen fruit, canned meat, etc. etc. Guess what? They work! And ordinarily we certainly waste too much and need to pay better attention to using our leftovers. If anything good can come out of all of this, let it be that we all pay better attention to simple daily wisdom and careful, responsible usage.

Our current jigsaw puzzle, an evil concoction given to us by a once-beloved relative (she will pay for this!), may well kill us before any illness does. It depicts a 1983 “New Yorker” cover featuring a bicycle shop scene drawn by French cartoonist Jean-Jacque Sempé. It shows row upon row of bicycle frames and wheels, all spokes, rims and tires, stacked one over the next. The color palate is mostly tan, ecru and white with, here and there, a black tire and a random narrow arc of colorful fender. There is nothing rational or sane about it; it is diabolical. When the pandemic has passed, you just may find our desiccated remains glaring blankly at the puzzle table, victims of frustration rather than any virus.

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Lightning columnist Bill Humleker writes about family, children, grandchildren and parents and life in what he likes to call "HendoRock."