Have you wondered lately whether you’ll still be able to carry on an in-person conversation with real human beings when life returns to normal? Will our social skills be so stunted by more than a year of isolation that we’ll eventually wander out dazed and bewildered, incapable of making small talk or actually having something to talk about? As a baby boomer in the vulnerable over-seventy age group, I’ve been particularly careful about leaving my home and risking contamination. With no end in sight, we’re all going a bit squirrely and beginning to suspect we’ve lost actual brain cells and are deteriorating faster than would be expected at our age. It is a genuine concern that was brought home this week in a very personal way.
The last time I visited my hairdresser was in the fall of 2020, just before the latest series of lockdowns was implemented. At that time, my mall-based hairdresser was preparing for the worst so he gave me his personal cellphone number in case I needed a trim at some point in the future. I was reluctant to bother him, but after months of COVID hair, I was desperate and finally gave him a call. He was working from home, taking individual clients in an isolated room of his house with all appropriate sanitizing and masking protocols in place. Hallelujah! I booked an appointment for two weeks later, which was the soonest he could take me.
Friday was my big day, my coming out . . . or I guess I should call it my going out. I was beside myself, thrilled with the anticipation of having something outside my home to do that didn’t involve curbside grocery pickup. Deciding to make a special day of my outing, I planned to swing by a Tim Horton’s drive-thru on the way to my hairdresser’s house and order myself a large steeped tea with milk. It’s an old habit I rarely get to indulge in these days. Driving somewhere with a Timmie’s steeped tea or a McDonald’s fountain Diet Coke in my console is one of the lovely driving pleasures I like to treat myself to—or I used to.
As I pulled into Timmie’s parking lot I was just a’ shakin’ with the excitement of it all—until I found myself accidentally trapped in Wendy’s drive-thru lineup instead of Timmie’s. I was so disappointed and frustrated that I had to wait for about half a dozen cars ahead of me to pick up their burgers and fries before I could escape the line. Those concrete curbs are not conducive to driving over no matter how “off-road” your SUV is.
So, when I finally snaked my way around the parking lot and got myself oriented in the correct lineup for Timmie’s I was so overwhelmed with excitement that I completely bypassed the order kiosk and found myself at the pickup window without an order. The only double-double I got was a double blunder. Very embarrassing. Fortunately, the kind lady working there didn’t yell at me or shame me. She gently took my order and sent me on my way. I was worried sick that I’d be late for my overdue hair appointment and my stylist was on a very tight schedule. Old ladies don’t bear that kind of stress easily anymore.
During the trip from Timmie’s to my hairdressers and then home, I was super-conscious of my driving skills. I found myself constantly checking my blind spot and rear-view mirror. My senses were on high alert in case my driving had deteriorated like my navigation skills in Timmie’s parking lot. Things seem a lot more complicated now that I’m not out in the world on a regular basis. When I related my experience to my girlfriends, they assured me that I was merely experiencing COVID brain and it was a normal occurrence.
Then, this morning I threw in a load of laundry and returned to the living room to read the paper. Later, when I noticed my husband passing the laundry room, I asked him to take the sheets out of the washer and throw them in the dryer. “They feel dry already”, he said, while doing as he was instructed. “That’s because the spin cycle is really efficient” I replied. A couple of minutes later I could hear the dryer shut off. That’s odd. So, I went in to investigate and, yes, the sheets were dry. When I checked the washer, I’d forgotten to push “Start” on the washer and they had never been washed. Lordy, lordy. I am losing brain cells.
Obviously, I’m not to be trusted to handle everyday activities or go out in public without supervision from now on. My husband and I are constantly cross-checking each other whenever one of us uses the stove or puts the dog out. Let’s just say we’ve already had a couple of bad experiences on both fronts that require a new level of awareness. Fortunately, we can still figure out how to use the TV remote control and can boil the kettle for tea, but we’re conscious of that earlier stove issue, so we’re constantly on guard. I sincerely hope that when COVID eases up so will the accompanying COVID brain. Hopefully, simple, everyday activities will no longer be an intellectual challenge. Otherwise, this boomer is in for big trouble. Maybe I should start researching PSWs. The future is sooner than we think.