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Published March 24, 2020

THE VIEW FROM MY SEAT

Self-isolation isn’t as easy as it seems

By Ernie Williamson / The Bulletin

Greetings from self-isolation.

Please relax. I don’t have COVID-19 and have not, as far as I know, been exposed to a carrier.

Reading this newspaper is still safe. We are, after all, socially distant.

I have put myself in self-isolation because I am among those most at risk from COVID-19, the coronavirus. I am elderly and I have an underlying health issue.

In the parlance of our day, I’m staying home out of an “abundance of caution.”

In truth, self-isolation is not new to me. I have been in an involuntary partial isolation for eight years, ever since coming down with transverse myelitis, a rare neurological disorder that has left me a paraplegic in a wheelchair.

While luckier than many disabled people because I can drive and move around, I still can’t do things I once enjoyed. No tennis. No biking. No running around with the grandkids.

Unfortunately, thanks to COVID-19, able-bodied Americans are waking up to a brand-new world, a world in which disabled people already live. It’s a world in which your basic activities are limited, disabled or not.

For the sake of the country’s health, Americans are being urged to make sacrifices and change their lifestyles. No live sporting events. No Broadway plays. No hanging out at the bar with friends. No handshakes. No church.

I thought this self-isolation would be easier for someone like me. Limiting my already-limited activities didn’t seem like a big hurdle.
And, after all, I have experience in boredom … and I had a plan to combat it.

I figured that if I had to be in this more drastic self-isolation, this was a good time, particularly for a sports fan like me.

The Rockets were limping toward the playoffs. The Astros were in spring training getting ready for a season without their trusty trash can. And the quest for college basketball’s national championship was beginning.

Days of viewing great sporting events on TV would help pass the time. I loaded up on snacks, located the remote and settled into my recliner.

The best thing about this plan was that I didn’t feel the usual guilt that comes from watching television and not going to therapy. In fact, I convinced myself that, by staying completely isolated, I was doing my civic duty. It felt patriotic.

Little did I know that off-the-court March Madness would blow up my game plan.

Within hours of an NBA player being diagnosed with coronavirus, almost all sporting events were canceled or postponed because of the pandemic.

There were no live sporting events to watch on TV. ESPN’s Sports Center was reduced to running reruns of its reruns.

What to do now to relieve the boredom?

I switched to Plan B and watched the news. With the exception of the ubiquitous Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the madness reigned there, too. News footage showed people preparing for self-isolation standing in lines with complete strangers to buy toilet paper. Go figure.

I tried the business channels. The stock market was down by 2000 points. Watching any more of that and I really would be sick.

I grabbed my book club’s monthly offering. The book, “Maybe you should talk to someone,” is touted as the true story of a therapist helping patients explore the “inner chambers of their patients’ lives.” Not exactly the page-turner I was hoping for in these stressful times.

In desperation for something to relieve the boredom, I thought I would sneak out to the Pearland natatorium and do my water therapy when the pool was not crowded.

Just as I was about to leave the house, I was halted by an “abundance of caution” e-mail. The parks and recreation folks notified me that their facilities would close for at least 10 days.

I then considered going to see the grandkids. I quickly dismissed that idea because, although they weren’t sick, I had little idea who they had been exposed to in school or at play.

Finally, my wife proudly announced that she found something constructive for me to do. She handed me a just-arrived Census form to fill out. It’s come to this?

Self-isolation isn’t easy. And, as of this writing, we have weeks to go.

I wish everyone good luck. And remember to wash your hands.

(Ernie Williamson welcomes reader input. Please contact Ernie at williamsonernie@gmail.com. Or, send letters in care of The Bulletin, PO Box 2426, Angleton, TX. 77516)