Ed and Rita are friends of mine who live on the Old West Side. They are political activists and environmentalists. Ed and Rita make an effort to be informed and they were eager to share what they’ve learned from paying attention to expert advice. I was particularly struck by Rita’s comment (toward the end) about how a voice connection is “a little more human” than text/email. Many of us are feeling the loss of that human connection. You can read the text below, or get the more “human” version in the video link.
This is part of a series of interviews with Ann Arbor residents, talking about personal experiences adjusting to (and adapting during) the COVID-19 crisis. Interviewed April 3, 2020
I’m talking to my friends, Ed and Rita. Hi, Ed! Hi, Rita! (both) Hi! So I am asking people: how has your lifestyle changed since our community, our whole country, is dealing with the COVID-19 crisis? How has your lifestyle changed? Ed: Well, I mean, we certainly don’t go… there’s a group of us that had birthday parties together… any social contact at all, it’s all been stopped. Rita: Well, it’s by phone or sometimes video conference with friends, that’s different. Ed: Yeah, that’s how we’ve gotten around it but it’s still a lot different to not be in… you know, having a party at someone’s house or going out together someplace. And shopping, of course, has changed a lot. Arbor Farms created “senior hours” from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. in the morning every day, so that’s when I go shopping. Very careful, I bring my own bottle of alcohol and paper towels to wipe the cart. Also, there’s a doctor in northern Michigan who showed how to deal with groceries or anything that you bring into your house (the boxes). That video’s on YouTube. Also, Sanjay Gupta reiterated it on CNN. He did his own version, he gave credit to this doctor in… Rita: I think the doctor in Michigan did a better job! He was very specific. Ed: Yeah So what exactly are you doing then, can you describe it? Rita: So Ed brings in the food and I mostly do the cleanup. So I actually wash— with soap and water— some of the fruit, THE fruit (ALL the fruit) that we bring in. So, like, grapefruits, I wash, apples… Ed: Wait, this wouldn’t be a normal conversation if I didn’t interrupt you so Rita: Oh yeah, ok Ed: So we use Dr. Bronner’s soap, which has — for hand soap and for dish soap and all of that— and all of their formulations have zero or very few chemicals in them. They’re mostly oils and sodium hydroxide, so that’s what we use to wash fruit. Rita: Right, and sometimes we either leave boxed items out on the porch or in our garage and then bring them in after a couple days or we pull the containers out. So if it’s like a box of crackers, we pull out the inside and throw away the cardboard. So it’s pretty simply stuff but it is different from how we have done things before, which was just pull them out of the bag and throw them in the refrigerator. It’s a little more time-consuming that way. Ed: So I remember the name of the doctor. He’s, I think, in Grand Rapids, his name is Dan Wingham and I’m sure that video is all over the place now. But yeah he’s basically air-chambering what comes into the house. You can let it sit for three or four days, he says the virus doesn’t last much longer than that on surfaces. It lasts longer on plastic— I remember plastic and metal— I guess hard surfaces. It lasts for a shorter time on the softer surfaces. But anyway, letting it sit. Also, if we have to bring at least a small container— not a big container— in the house, if we’re keeping the container: wipe the outside with alcohol. Otherwise, open the container, dump whatever’s in it in, you know, something clean and toss the container. So, would you say that you’re going out as frequently as you did before? Rita: No. I would say we’re much less spontaneous than we were. You know, it’s because we would just occasionally go out and visit friends or, for me in particular, I used to participate in public meetings: City Council, some commission meetings. I don’t do those because they aren’t even available. So one of the big learning curves was to pick up on ZOOM or other software approaches to sharing meetings or being in touch with people. It’s definitely less spontaneous. Ed: And an important one along those lines: VNP, Voters Not Politicians, was going to have (I hope they still do) a big Get Out the Vote campaign this summer, probably would have started pretty soon. Of course that can’t happen, so it’s going to be either really good or really bad what’s going to happen with voting this year and getting out the vote. It’s nothing that… well, I was going to say “not directly affects us” but it sure does in the long-term. Rita: And the May voting in Michigan is going to be all by mail, is my understanding of it from the Secretary of State. So that’s a really, I think that’s a GOOD thing. We won’t have any elections here in Ann Arbor but I like the idea of everyone getting a ballot instead of having to request it. That’s pretty cool, and a variation on the absentee— expanding the absentee voting— process that started in 2018. So, I’m hearing some residents complain that when they look around the community, they feel like some folks are NOT changing their lifestyle. Do you have any advice for people, maybe people who are feeling really isolated and cooped up and wish they could go about their lives like they once were? Do you have any advice for them about how you’re coping? Ed: Yes, in fact, one thing that’s happening to me— this sounds totally counter-intuitive— is I’m getting more exercise. We luckily have a friend a block away who walks her dog every day so we walk with her, every day. Luckily, we have a canoe so we’ll be canoeing, you know, probably start in a couple of days, also. We see lots of people walking in the parks. People are— it’s not just us— people are definitely getting out more. Rita: But in terms of answering Elizabeth’s question… you know, I do see people— in terms of reaching out to others— I guess I have heard and I have tried to practice this a little more: just to actually phone someone, because I’ve gotten in the habit of using text and email instead of voice. I’ve been making more efforts to be in touch with people by actually phoning them. I think that kind of connection is a little more human. But it does take a little more effort and it’s breaking something that some people have gotten used to (like me!) Ed: And, actually, we’ve been talking about painting the inside of our house— we got the outside the last two or three years—but we’ve been talking about painting the inside for about ten years now so maybe this summer we actually will! Well, I thank you for talking to me, I think I’ve got enough. I’ve appreciated our conversation! Rita: Thanks, Elizabeth!