In order to escape the very serious, perhaps deadly consequences of Covid 19, I have been forced to live most of the day like a nun cloistered in a convent. Okay, so it’s a convent with nice furniture, a laptop, tv, music and plenty of food and closets full of clothes. I can’t complain that I’m living a Spartan existence. But I can complain that getting there have been some complications and inconveniences that in times past, I would have addressed by picking up the phone to request service or by driving to a store. In the blink of an eye, the matter would have been resolved.
But in the age of the novel corona virus, it is possible that blinking an eye could create an aerosol transmission of virus germs. Has anyone checked with the CDC, Twitter, Facebook or any other popular source of virus facts, fiction or fantasy? Suffice it to say that at this point in time, I’m hunkering down and avoiding human, animal or extraterrestrial contact to the greatest extent possible. But my life is destined to mirror the oft quoted line of poem by the Scottish poet Robert Burns. Roughly translated it is: The best laid plans of mice and men oft go astray. Just amend it to say: The best laid plans of Melanie are destined to crash and burn.
First, there was my plan to switch to grocery shopping through a delivery service. I soon found out that the calendars for delivery apps and store services were booked so far ahead that I would successfully achieve delivery only in the year 2022. Accordingly, I scrapped the delivery plan and instead decided to go to the grocery store just once a week during the senior hour to get fresh vegetables, fruits, and other perishables. To make the trip as short as possible, I decided to do my shopping at the grocery store that is just two blocks from where I live.
Unfortunately, although the store is convenient to me, it is also used by the dozens of the paid shoppers who fill the delivery orders of the wise customers who apparently submitted their grocery lists back in 2018. This means that my access to a shelf is often blocked by these shoppers who have to consult their iPhones to (1) figure out what products they needed to pull off the shelf for the consumer, (2) compare the products to the pictures on the shopping list to assure that they have the exact size and variety of the product, and (3) to scan in the price. It did not help that in the first month or so of the stay at home orders, the majority of these shoppers did not wear masks. This meant that not only were they blocking your access to products, they were potentially breathing virus germs into the air that surrounded you. A number of store employees also were not wearing masks. Would it surprise you to learn that around week 2 of the stay at home edict, two of the employees at this store tested positive for the virus?
I decided to take my business to a store a little farther away, a store where there were no personal shoppers and all the employees wore masks and gloves, wiped down cart handles for you, and wiped down the self-scan registers after each use.
Then there was my quest to make sure my HVAC system was up to the challenge of keeping my condo cool this summer. I get a lot of sun exposure in my unit, and even a day with just a high of 60 degrees may mean that my air conditioning will be on a number of times to keep the temperature and humidity level appropriate for a heart patient. I have a service contract on the unit which means visits twice a year to make sure that it is in good operating order.
But in the pandemic era, this presents the issue of having the technician – a person who potentially could be asymptomatic for Covid – in my unit. I discussed the risk/benefit ration at a recent on-line medical appointment. My heart failure doctor agreed with me that having the system checked was a good idea, and I would just need to make sure the technician wore a mask and that I wiped down surfaces after the technician left. I scheduled the service for that week. The good news was that the technician found that the system was in good working order. The bad news was that he confirmed my concern that my connection to the building drainpipe had a crack and needed to be fixed.
I made an appointment for the repair to be made the next week. Unfortunately, when the repair person came, in an animated voice he loudly exclaimed “I was afraid of this” when he looked at the connection. It wasn’t just that he needed a different size of PVC pipe. He also needed access to the unit below me. He temporarily fixed the pipe with those reliable substances – glue and electrical tape. He said that his company would give me an estimate for making the permanent fix.
Early the next week, I followed up with the company to see if the estimate was ready. They put me in touch with the supervisor, who said that they would need to reach out to the management of my building so that they could access the unit below me. It took a few days, but eventually I got a call that permission had been granted, and an appointment was made to make the fix. On that day, the same HVAC technician showed up with a plumber from the company. They removed the old drainpipe connection. Then the plumber went to the unit below while the HVAC technician was in my unit. The task involved pushing the PVC pipe through the hole into the floor into the other unit to fit into a sleeve or some type of fitting that is in that unit.
This apparently was easier said than done. For 10 minutes, I heard the following comments over and over from the HVAC technician: Oh, my God! Oh, my back! Oh, we’re screwed”. None of this was inspiring confidence in the customer (me). Finally, the HVAC technician came into my unit on his way to consult the plumber in the unit below. He looked at me and said “oh, this is not good”. I looked at him and said, “You know I have a heart problem, and you’re not helping it.” He responded: “Oh, I know, my wife always says I’m giving her a heart attack.” With that, he left my unit for about 10 minutes.
While he was gone, I made the following conclusions: The guy is always a bit animated. When he said
“Oh, we’re screwed” it didn’t mean me the home owner was screwed. It meant that he and the plumber were screwed because this had morphed from an easy job into a much more difficult job. I was sure that they would get it done, especially after he consulted with the plumber. Indeed, it was just another 10 or 15 minutes to get the pipe all the way through the floor and to connect everything to the building drain pipe. And then they were gone – at least for that day.
Alas, four days later, and on the long holiday weekend, I went out to check the HVAC closet. There was a puddle of water on the floor under the unit. I could see a slow drip coming from the unit. I took the cover off of the unit compartment and guess what? The condensation hose was disconnected! I do not know if the work that was done four days before had somehow loosened the hose, but the connection definitely needed to be hooked up! I called the company and they could not get anyone out to my condo to fix it till Sunday morning. In the meantime, a friend was able to temporarily hook up the connection and I was able to mop up the floor so it would not leak to the units below. But I made sure that I took a picture of the water on the floor in case anyone doubted that there had been a leak.
Sunday morning the same HVAC technician who had been here twice before called me on his way to the condo. He said “Wasn’t I there earlier this week?” I said, “Well yes, you were. But the pipe is now disconnected.” He said “I knew I should have checked that hose one more time before we left.” I had already independently reached that conclusion! He arrived about 45 minutes later. I watched carefully while he unhooked the clamp on the hose, and then took several tries to finally get hose well up under the lip of the drain pan. I watched as he secured the hose in place really tight. He also gently tugged on the hose and showed me that “It's not going anywhere.”
He did not try to blame this on the other guy - he definitely said it was his fault and he should have checked it one more time. I always appreciate that when someone admits it was their fault. But having been burned once, I have been periodically checking inside the closet. Thankfully - for over a week, the hose remains connected and no more water has appeared on the floor. Hopefully this will be the last visit with me and the HVAC people for a while.
But of course, the comic complications in condo land continue! I purchased a new washer dryer in late February. I had been using it for a few months and had no complaints. I normally use a warm or cool temperature when I wash my clothes. But I had to wash some outerwear using cold water. I realized as the washer was filling that I forgot to put something in. I went to lift up the lid, and it seemed very odd to me that the lid felt very warm to the touch. I reached inside and it was hot water – on a cool temperature setting. Over the next few days, I did laundry on all the temperature settings and concluded that the people who installed the washer/dryer switched the hoses.
I described the problem to a neighbor in the building, and he said it reminded him of the Three Stooges episode. The Three Stooges “fixed” the plumbing so that when you turned on the stove, water came out of the burners! A very appropriate comparison, in that it seems like my appliance installers were descended from the Three Stooges. Having enough people traipsing through my condo to fix the HVAC, I just figured I would just switch the temperature settings which has seemed to work fine.
Then I noticed that it was getting hard to close the dryer door. Like seriously – this is a new stacked unit. Should I be having all these issues within 3 months of purchase? I concluded that the plastic piece that fits over the latch on the dryer to close the door had a tendency to move out of place. Again, it’s a risk benefit ratio. Can I make minor adaptations on my own to avoid getting other people in here who for all I know may be asymptomatic for Covid or for the Three Stooges virus? Yep – I’ll adjust by making sure the plastic piece is in the appropriate place when I close the door.
I have also reached the conclusion that as hard as I try to be perfect, I am only human. I have always taken great pride in my ability to create and adhere to healthy routines, and this includes my knack for being punctual and accurate in taking my medications. Alas, one day a few weeks ago, I came to the unfortunate conclusion that I am now suffering from pandemic amnesia! I had somehow taken two doses of my evening meds on the same night. I don’t know how – I guess I just forgot I had already reached for the pill box earlier. I did not pick up on the fact that the pills I took were for the next evening.
I had to admit – I goofed. It was not till the next day that I realized my mistake, and I felt fine. The biggest side effect was that I was angry at myself for messing up something so simple. My friends pointed out that with the disruption to our routines, it is common to have trouble remembering. Plus, the purpose of the study is to see if the drug works in real life situations and that includes sometimes forgetting or making mistakes. It doesn’t get much more real than that! The end result was a data point for the study researchers and a humbling moment for me – both of which I am sure have value.
Yep – that appears to be my life in the pandemic era – one big Three Stooges episode filled with comical, bumbling and humbling moments. But it is kind of heartwarming to have funny stories to tell and laugh at in a very tense time. I’ll take my life as a comedy and not as a Shakespeare tragedy!
Melanie discovered that she had heart failure in 2013. She spent the next 7 years learning how to live with the condition, and how to achieve balance and personal growth. Then in October 2020, she received a heart transplant. This blog is about her journey of the heart.