“I am vilified for being motherly,” I texted my son in New York City. Not vilified, probably. But I think I have become a laughingstock of sorts.
I paid an outrageous amount to send him a four-pack of toilet paper by Express Mail, and other people in the Post Office overheard my remark about the cost.
He was running out, and he said there was no more to be had anywhere reasonably nearby in Manhattan. He’s not supposed to be wandering around looking for it, anyway.
I don’t really care if some people in this little town out west think I’m a little nutty. I love him and want to do what I can to help in a terrible situation. If all I can do is ship toilet paper, that’s what I’ll do.
“Maybe they will understand how bad it is here,” he texted back. “People are just dying.”
It’s true. Nobody has died from COVID-19 yet in Wyoming. But he says he has two friends who have lost their fathers, and he’s just one of how many thousands of people in the city?
He is anxious about his distant parents, who might be at risk in this pandemic. “Don’t go outdoors!” he orders via text message. “Don’t be in contact with anyone! Disinfect all surfaces at home!”
I can understand why he says this, trapped in his typically tiny apartment in Manhattan. Like so many people elsewhere, he has absolutely no concept what it is like where we are.
“I’m taking my life in my hands and going out to walk the dog,” I texted my son yesterday.
“As long as you’re not within 6 feet of anyone,” he wrote back.
Across the highway, I sent back this picture. “Nearest human,” I wrote. “Can you find him?”
He didn’t reply, so I don’t know whether he was able to find the man working up the ladder on that new cabin perhaps 200 yards away.
This week, I hosted a video call with a former team of coworkers whom I managed during the 9/11 crisis in New York. I thought it would be interesting to compare the experiences.
It was so good to see them again!
Over the years, I’d totally forgotten what Josh was like. On the video we saw him taking his temperature now and again, as he proudly told us about his real estate coup. He and his wife had scored a penthouse atop a large apartment building, not far from our former home in Brooklyn.
Unlike most others living in the building, they have a large outdoor deck that allows them to get outside under New York’s lockdown conditions. But as elevator trips are limited to one family per ride, the waits are interminable and he has taken to walking up and down the 17 floors when he needs to pick up a delivery.
Immediately I thought of the others trapped on the floors below, without roof decks, and those in the countless other high-rise buildings in New York City who live in small apartments that are stacked up like shoeboxes on shelves in a warehouse. Many of them have children who are confined inside, kept home from school. And as we know, they are running out of toilet paper.
And then there’s where I live.
A recent article in the Washington Post infuriated me so much that I actually posted on Facebook about it, which I normally resist. It described a geotargeting study based on cellphone data that claimed to measure how well people were complying with social distancing, by analyzing how much their movements have changed since the pandemic began. It graded all of the states. Wyoming got an F.
That’s yet another example of how the rest of the world has no clue what it’s like here, I wrote. Have ranchers changed their rounds when they feed the cattle? Have folks like us who live outside town changed our habits about driving in for mail and groceries? Have I suddenly stopped driving 10 minutes up-mountain to go walking with the dog at Sheridan Creek, just beyond the boundary of the Shoshone National Forest? Would it even make a difference?
Wyoming is the least densely populated state in the nation, and it has the second-lowest number of COVID-19 cases (after South Dakota). There are currently 70 cases in the state, and no deaths. The nearest documented cases are 75 miles away, and they are in a town of some size worth talking about. We are in a tiny village, at the edge of the wilderness.
Two friends Dubois who are sick may be affected and are quarantined, but we don’t know because they can’t get tested yet.
One of my quarantined friends lets her dog out the door and looks across a long lawn shaded by huge trees toward the river. The other looks out her window at the mountains in the distance and the field between, where she can watch the new calves as they romp.
Many people in this town can’t work just now and are doubtless concerned for the future. The Governor has ordered us just to stay at home. We don’t always.
We go for hikes alone on the Scenic Overlook or stroll on the riverwalk, and chat from several feet away if a friend appears coming in the other direction. We wave from our cars and sidle past each other somewhat awkwardly when saying hello in the Post Office and the supermarket. It’s strange, but it’s not awful.
As usual, whatever the current uncertainty, we are protected from much of the stress that currently darkens the lives of people who are living in cities.
Whatever my pleasure at being able to hike as far as I want in the sunshine outdoors, I feel sad to call this a “joy” of living in this remote wilderness location, because there actually isn’t much joy in the current situation. But it is certainly a comfort at a difficult time.
© Lois Wingerson, 2020
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