On masking up

Some good news: the mask panic attacks, after four days at school where I had to have one on for hours, appear to be subsiding. I have ended up landing on this one as my preferred mask, and the only complaint I have about it is that it rides up on my eyes a little more than I’d like it to, so I’m probably touching it and adjusting it more than I would like to.

I’ve been thinking more lately about what it’s going to mean to be “done” with Covid. It’s been made pretty clear that there’s a certain subset of the population who are going to have to be dragged kicking and screaming into vaccination, and to the best of my knowledge there is as of yet no shot that has been approved for use with middle school kids. So masking up at school is likely to remain a thing for a fair bit of time longer than masking up in general is going to be, especially since I live in a red state.

Thing is, it’s not like the masks are doing my kids any good, because as I suspected they cannot be convinced to wear them properly. Four days of in-person instruction in, I have reminded kids to cover their noses or their mouths with their masks approximately 123,425,208 times. And I’m probably still not doing it as often as I should, because there is literally someone without their mask on properly in my classroom 100% of the time, even with our current seriously-reduced number of students. I think I’ve been pretty consistent about this from the beginning: I hate wearing a mask, and wearing a mask genuinely fucks with me, but I’m going to do it anyway for as long as it’s necessary to do it. But hell if it’s not difficult to conclude that it’s safest for me to keep wearing one at work when I’m fully vaccinated and the kids around me are wearing theirs in a way that is literally not doing any good at all.

In general, I’m trying to be attentive to how much of my current behavior is reasonable and how much of it is basically quarantine-driven paranoia and, frankly, claustrophobia. I think it’s reasonable at this point to say that if you’re outside, unless you’re having a conversation in close quarters, you’re probably all good, and even in the building I tend to not put my mask on until I actually see another human being– if I can make it from my car to my classroom without wearing it, and frequently I can, I don’t put it on. But how long is it going to be until I feel okay going into a restaurant again? Like, I don’t even really have a guideline for what might make me decide “okay, this is all right now.” I got invited out for a drink with a couple of other teachers after work on Friday and turned it down. I’ve turned down multiple other such invitations over the course of the year. And I don’t even know what the plan is for when I might decide that sort of thing is okay again.

Actually, I do know one thing that would help: I don’t think there’s a solid consensus yet on whether vaccinated people can spread the virus easily. I know I’m not immune to catching Covid, it’s mostly just that if I do get it it is much, much more likely to be a minor case. But that doesn’t mean I can’t spread it to my father-in-law if I end up asymptomatic, and I’d prefer not to spread it to any strangers, either. But, like, if I spend the next six or seven weeks in a poorly-ventilated classroom and in near-constant contact with middle school kids who aren’t wearing their masks right (because, again, none of them wear their masks right) and don’t catch it, I feel like that’s pretty good evidence that I can at least, like, go to the store without having to wear one. Sitting in a restaurant? I dunno. Going into the gas station to buy a candy bar and pay for my gas and leave? When there’s plexiglass between me and the dude behind the counter? Is that okay?

I dunno. I’m kind of talking in circles about that, but that’s because I’m thinking in circles about it too. I need the people who are making this a political issue to walk into the ocean so that the rest of us can come up with a reasonable set of standards for when we let our guard down a little bit, and if they’re not going to walk into the ocean, the least we should be doing is employing government snipers with dart guns to vaccinate these idiots so they can stop fucking things up for the rest of us.

Biden should put that in the jobs plan, as a matter of fact.

Boom

And I am inoculated. Finally.

It is rare that I feel like things are going completely smoothly so I like to issue praise when they do— the clinic was supposed to start at 9:00, and as I was arriving, roughly fifteen minutes early, there were people leaving already. It is just now 9:00 and I have had my shot and am in one of the Don’t Die Please chairs. This place is so well-oiled it is glistening.

Now if I can just avoid major side effects today…

No, not that way

I ended up accepting $50 from my brother yesterday, enough to pay for a tank of gas and my tolls for the trip, and he bought lunch. When I checked the votes upon arriving at his place yesterday they were pretty overwhelmingly in favor of not charging him, and I apparently phrased the entire thing as more of a fraught decision than it actually was, although I did manage to get him to admit that he didn’t actually expect me to jump at the offer the way I did. I figure we both came out fine; the drive to northern Illinois (what we used to refer to as “north Northytown” when I lived in Actual Chicago all those years ago) is not exciting, but it was definitely nice to get out of the house and it was a fine day to take a long drive one way or another. So all good regardless.

I also got to find out my new nephew’s name, which was surprising but acceptable, which is a nice combination. He’s due in about a month. I’m not sure when we’ll actually get to see the little bugger (although my wife gets her first shot on Tuesday and I get my second one on Thursday, so by the time he’s here we should both be good(*)) but I’m sure it’ll happen soon enough.


I had been tentatively planning on returning to in-person teaching after Spring Break, which is in two weeks. It was “tentative” because me returning means my son also needs to return to in-person instruction at his school, and that’s not a decision I can just cavalierly make on my own, obviously. A week or two ago we got notification from the district that any teachers who were working exclusively from home, all of whom had to provide a doctors’ note to achieve said status, would have to provide a second doctor’s note releasing us to return to work before we’d be allowed back in the buildings.

Okay, cool. Kind of an annoying hoop to have to jump through but my doctor didn’t throw up any roadblocks about the first letter so there’s no reason she’s going to get stubborn about the second one. I mentally filed it away on my List of Adulting To Accomplish and decided to ignore it for the time being.

Then, on Friday, at 4:30– so after everybody would have left the buildings and gone home for the day– we all got a letter from the district informing us that everyone was being “recalled to campuses” after Spring Break, no mention of doctors’ notes made. There was a snotty addendum that if your doctor still doesn’t think you should be on campus to contact Human Resources, but no mention of what had been described to us as a requirement just a couple of weeks before.

And, like, it’s okay to be pissed about this, right? I mean, I was gonna go back that day anyway, but it’s both deeply annoying and entirely in line with the typical way this district operates that we were first told we had to have our doctors clear us to return into a viral hot zone and then in less than two weeks that requirement was summarily tossed out in favor of an affirmative requirement that we return to school. This after not remotely enough time to collect any data about how things are going in the small handful of buildings that are piloting the four-day returns in the first place.

So, which is it? Did the lawyers decide the district didn’t need their butts covered after all? Was the initial requirement just HR deciding to create a minor pain-in-the-ass task for those of us planning to return just because they could? How much fight is the district planning on putting up when teachers who were allowed to stay home when there were fewer students in-building to be exposed to balk at returning with twice as many students in place?

Has anybody thought about any of this? At all? Bueller?

I don’t understand how we’ve cycled through multiple superintendents, multiple HR directors, multiple School Boards, multiple everything in the time I’ve been working for this district and this pervasive sense of poorly-communicated halfassedness continues no matter what else changes.

But yeah. I’ll be back in a couple of weeks regardless. So will my son, I guess.

(*) I am still unclear as to whether the shots confer any degree of noncontagiousness or simply that they keep the effects of the disease from being that big of a deal if it’s contracted. I know to keep wearing masks and such, and that’s not a problem, but I need to look into whether we’re safe to be around a newborn even if all the adults, at least, are properly vaccinated, and I bet there’s not a ton of data available about that. So it could be a while before we see him in any way other than over Zoom, and I’m not about to try and talk the parents into anything they’re not 100% comfortable with.

Thirteen years and one year

This is not, objectively speaking, that great of a picture. Bek has pretty clearly just emerged from the shower, I don’t even look like I have showered– my beard is an utter Goddamned abomination– and none of us are looking at the camera for some reason, which is odd because I seem to be holding it, so you’d think I’d know where to look. I like it anyway.

Roughly thirteen years ago, I got married to that lady on the right there. Why roughly? Our anniversary is February 29, meaning that for three out of every four years I correctly celebrate our anniversary on the 28th of February and my wife incorrectly insists that our anniversary is March 1st. I finally won this argument free and clear this year, when she fucked up and accidentally advocated my position for a few minutes, forgetting that she has always been the March person. I will never, ever allow her to forget it, either.

At any rate, asking her to marry me remains the best decision I’ve ever made, as I Married Up in every conceivable fashion. The jury may still be out on her decision to marry me, but I’d like to think it’s worked out okay.

We aren’t doing anything for our anniversary this year. Last year we went to C2E2 on our anniversary. Covid-19 was a concern already, but at the time there were less than 60 cases nationwide and we figured it was as safe as it ever was. I tried my damnedest to keep my hands in my pockets as much as I possibly could and we washed our hands whenever we had a chance to. We had dinner with a friend at a Potbellies in Hyde Park and then came home.

And then I was sick for a month anyway, not quite “as sick as I’ve ever been” levels but I literally was trashed for the entire month of March, and by the time that was done we were in lockdown. That Potbellies dinner was the last time I had dinner in a restaurant. That dinner was the last time we made plans with anybody to do anything fun. And 500,000 people are dead in the United States alone, with another two million gone worldwide.

So, yeah, this year we’re staying home. We’re having Hamburger Helper for dinner. Why? Because Bek used to make it all the time and has stopped in the last couple of years for some reason, and I’m so Goddamn starved for novelty that having Hamburger Helper for the first time in probably seven or eight months seemed like something worth getting excited about. None of us have had shots yet; we’re too young to qualify yet, and Indiana is explicitly hoping at least a few more teachers die of this thing before they vaccinate any of us.

Maybe next year, if we’re able to, we’ll celebrate on the 28th and the 1st.

In which I need to make “tired” a category

I am a vile, achy mess today, and I don’t know what I did to deserve it. Last night was all stress dreams, and I woke up with a headache; all day I’ve been having to remind myself to relax my jaw. Other than … y’know … all this (waves vaguely) I don’t have anything in particular to be stressed about, like, nothing’s happened, and there’s no reason for me to be trying to break my damn teeth.

There was about a 10-minute break after the word happened just then, where I just sort of stared off into space, not doing anything.

I would like my shots now. I have to get out of this house. Fucking Indiana.