Virus exposes people to hills, puppies and even romance

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The pandemic has spawned coronavirus calves, corona jobs, corona dogs, corona boyfriends and as many new corona phenomena as there are corona walkers, and there are plenty out there.

Corona baby walkers, family walkers, joggers, runners, bicyclists, skateboarders, scooters and whatever those things are with three wheels and a handlebar stalk, every last one of them a unique corona story.

Mostly what there are not many of are facemasks, but that’s not news.

Wei Ping of San Mateo, however, is newsworthy.

She emigrated to Atlanta from Shanghai and was back in China visiting relatives when Covid-19 became epidemic there. “Go back to America!” they told her, so she returned to Atlanta. Quickly, the epidemic became pandemic. Her son-in-law and daughter, due with a second grandchild, brought her to San Mateo to shelter in place with them, where she’s been since March.

“I felt like the virus was chasing me!” she said. Every day she shadows four-year-old granddaughter Alexa around the sidewalks of San Mateo. Nowhere to go and nothing to do, the battle cry of the pandemic, they go home whenever Alexa tires of picking things off the ground, pointing at flowers and asking questions.

This story was originally published in the July edition of Climate Magazine. To view the magazine online, click on this link.

Belmont is a place of few sidewalks, where everyone competes for a share of whatever pavement is available. Walkers zigzag into the street around mailboxes, bushes, telephone poles and parked cars. Dogs, bikes, joggers, strollers and small, loose children on curvy, narrow roads make for slow travel. It’s stressful. No one wants to run over anybody. At least, drivers seem to be aware of the possibility.

Hill Country

It’s also hilly. Walkers shun the steepest parts, but two sojourners, Janet Campbell and Steve Waugh, neither of whom knew the other, said they took on the 42nd Avenue hill. It climbs 400 feet in less than a mile.

Campbell, a “hardly employed” singer with the San Francisco Opera, also takes on the Ralston hill up from Carlmont. She hasn’t been active and gained weight during shelter-in-place. Waugh, on the other hand, lost weight and gained good-looking calves.

“My legs are twice as big as before,” he said. “I got sick of people telling me I had chicken legs.”

Six miles a day is bound to bulk up the legs; however, Waugh’s small dog, Avinash, named for the Indian god of indestructibility, hardly has any. His black and white coat is so long it conceals them, so no report available on his calves, if dogs have calves.

“He loves it. I have a lot of time on my hands so I started walking. So it’s in my blood. Got to do it every day now. I’m gonna keep going.” Consequently, so does Avenish.

On the positive side, corona walkers are “friendlier” now, Waugh said. On the negative, “I’ve never seen so much dog feces in my life. People aren’t used to walking their dogs and don’t have the bags.”

An Ohio native with fond memories of friendly Midwesterners, he noted the fact that corona walkers have become much friendlier. Thus it should not have been a shock that he offered a handshake as he left. But it was a shock to obey the instinct to grab his hand.

“Shake hands? I’m not scared of it. Are you? I think I had it in February, anyway,” he said, as he and Avinash moved away.

Viral Knowledge

What? Just another virus experience. That and virus knowledge are plentiful. And also free.

Because Campbell agreed to talk with a stranger on a corona walk it can be reported that the largest opera company in the country, the Metropolitan of New York, is a cheapskate compared to the second-largest, the San Francisco Opera.

The Met took PPP money, the Payroll Protection Plan Congress enacted to keep furloughed and laid-off workers solvent, then fired its singers and musicians. The San Francisco Opera took the money and kept everyone on the payroll through July.

Thanks to that and Zoom, the opera and Campbell still are at work, but it has been difficult, she said.

How does a professional opera choir practice remotely through the Web when the notoriously balky app freezes and plays sound through tinny computer speakers?

“Forty-five of us are on a Zoom meeting and having our conductor waving away and the pianist being heard, but we’re muted.” she said. “We’re just singing with ourselves. We can’t hear anybody else, and neither can he.

“It’s kind of funny though. He’ll say, ‘Sopranos, you were late on that’ and I’m like, ‘How do you know? Watching our mouths?’ It’s funny, but it’s a strange paradigm.”

Campbell also experiences the other side because she teaches remote, private voice lessons.

She tried Zoom, then Facetime, but went back to Zoom because Facetime developed a lag. “Actually, Zoom has improved in just three months, dramatically.”

Still, it’s a pain. First she records the piano accompaniment and sends it to the student. The student downloads and sings to the accompaniment, first muted, then unmuted for the teacher.

“It takes a lot longer. I don’t know why, but one hour of personal interaction is really nice. I enjoy that social thing. “Versus one hour of Zoom,” Campbell added, “it seems like it takes three hours. After four lessons I’m just …”

As for walking, “I don’t know. I don’t feel self-conscious about it. I think some people do — and possibly me, walking around other peoples’ neighborhoods — but everybody’s out here. Kind of cool.”

A Dad and His Sons

Brian Chuck of San Carlos represents the bicycles-plus-kids-plus-work-from-home situation. He and sons Matthew, 5, and Joshua, 7, tried an early morning ride to avoid the heat of the afternoon and the late-day auto traffic.

“We have a younger brother so (mom) walks so it’s too hot for her,” Joshua said. So we always have to go in the night.”

“During the day,” father Brian said, “we’re working at home. It’s been a struggle.”

The trio showed signs of almost four months of intimate isolation — anticipating comments, correcting tiny details and, on the boys’ part, straining to establish distinctions that seemed important under only the most specialized circumstances.

Joshua: “My mom has to actually work in the night because she’s going to quit next week, which means she also has to take several phone calls and also do work at night and in the morning, which is why we’re tired all the time.”

Matthew: “I’m not even tired.”

Joshua: “When dad woke up, we had to actually wake him up.”

Brian: “Yes, I promised them if they could wake up early then we could go out for a morning ride … This is the first time in the morning. Normally the baby gets up six-ish …

Matthew: “This is your second time.”

Brian: “I haven’t gone in the morning. I know, I haven’t gone in the morning …”

Puppy Power

The 13-week-old Australian shepherd pup, Boomer, is corona dog. Brittany Ekleberry and her fiancé have worked from home since March. Halfway through quarantine they decided to get a puppy. As puppies do, Boomer goes all out, until he stops. When he runs out of gas, she takes him home and puts on her running gear. He’s up to frolicking, not cardio.

“We really don’t do much of anything these days except go grocery shopping and playing with him,” Ekleberry said. “He’s occupied a lot of our time.”

She made it sound like a good thing.

The corona boyfriend is Lisette Lugo’s.

“I would not have met him if this didn’t happen,” she said. “We had time. The whole world stopped … I’ve been widowed 25 years. I’ve raised my kids and said, ‘Oh, forget it. I’m going to meet someone during corona?’ “It kind of forced me to stop and get to know someone.”

That’s why she and next-door-neighbor and friend Holly Milligan only walk Monday through Friday mornings, which is the substitute for corona redoing their flower gardens which was a substitute for pre-corona workouts at the Yoga Health Center.

“She has a new corona boyfriend so I don’t see her on the weekends,” Milligan said.

She finished graduate school two days before the corona shutdown and is into corona job search.

“Zoom interviewing, and that’s been weird. I still wear a suit and everything. Actually, it’s not too bad. You get used to it. Work out on Zoom, do classes on Zoom. Everything’s kind of on there.”

Everything but a covid handshake. You can’t get those except on a corona walk.

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