A Journal of the Plague Year 2020–chapter 89

Will I be permitted?

Monday and Tuesday, June 8 and 9

To get rid of refuse at the town dump, you must have a permit prominently displayed on your car. On the East Hampton Town website, it says the old permits remain good “until further notice.” But this morning, when I went to the dump, I was told by a staffer at the gatehouse that this was inaccurate. I must apply for a new permit—mine would be expiring on June 15. 

This can only be done by mail, since all Town offices are closed due to the COVID-19 lockdown. You must fill out an application, send a check for the required fee, and include a copy of the relevant documents demonstrating that you are indeed a resident of the Town.

There’s the rub: The required document is a copy of your auto’s state registration, showing a local address. But where to get a photocopy made, since many businesses remain closed? I spent the morning in a fury at this assinine requirement as I searched around for a copier—and that meant going out more in public than I have for many weeks. There was no copy machine at the post office, nor at the nearby CVS drugstore, although someone there said she thought there was a place on Newtown Lane near the Stop & Shop supermarket. I tried a computer fix-it place, and they said to try the UPS store down the street. Success! And after only four once-discouraged conversations.

Got the xerox copy, swung by the Chase Bank ATM to get some much-needed cash, then back to the P.O. to mail in the recycling-center form. Oh, and while at CVS I snagged some TOILET PAPER!!!

The center of East Hampton appeared about as busy as any other weekday woud be in any other month of June. Many stores remain closed, but there were plenty of cars in the main parking lot and apparently lots of business going on. At the post office and UPS, there were lines of people—most wearing masks, many waiting to mail large packages. Stuff they had bought online and were now returning, perhaps?

I did all this while wearing my snazzy tartan face mask and lavender rubber gloves, beneath a coif befitting a cast member from the musical Hair. Except there were no gray mop tops in the ‘60s love-rock song fest.  No geezers allowed in the Age of Aquarius.

Will there be anyone at the town clerk’s office to receive my letter and mail me the dump sticker? Only time will tell, but I doubt that this drama will be concluded by the 15th.

Tonight: London broil, marinated in red wine, garlic, and olive oil, plus baked potatoes with sour cream, and green salad with avocado. Sounds artery-clogging and all-American for sure.

Entertainment: Polish alt-history thriller 1983.

A Journal of the Plague Year 2020–chapter 58

Signs of the times at the East Hampton Recyling Center.

Tuesday, May 5

Maybe I’ll start carving slashes in the wall to mark off the days….

You remember those movies. Humphrey Bogart or some such hardboiled type is thrown into the clink—likely on trumped up charges. In his loneliness, he makes a pet of a cockroach. Then, using a purloined spoon, each day he hews marks on the wall so he won’t lose track of how long he’s been in confinement.

Not to overdramatize or anything.

But in our confinement, one does lose track of time, and the future stretches out dauntingly. News reports say that even the mentally challenged Trump administration admits that daily fatalities may double in the next few weeks. Even the most optimistic of realists say they imagine the quarantine stretching out to the end of June. Few of my contacts would be surprised if it lasted longer, and Emily’s college-student niece, soon to be a senior, is wondering if her actual classes will ever resume. His other daughter, currently living in Colorado, has applied for a job in their home state of Massachusetts supervising “contact tracing.” I can’t imagine just what skills are needed for such a post.

I’m putting this quote from the Times here so I don’t lose track of it: “Dr. Michael T. Osterholm, the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, published an analysis last week describing three possible pandemic wave scenarios through the end of 2021: a series of repetitive smaller waves that gradually diminish over time; a sharp rise in cases in the fall and one or more subsequent smaller waves; and a ‘slow burn’ of continuing transmission, without a clear wave pattern.”

Last night’s telephone conversation with Emily’s brother underscored just how lucky we—and other retirees—are. We have health care, thanks to Medicare and Medicare supplements. With a little bit of stress on our memories, we can arrange for all our bills to be paid. So our only hardships are frivolous—getting groceries and accepting lengthy hair that makes one appear to be in need of love beads and bell-bottom pants. Hey, let’s listen to the White Album again!

Soon, I will venture out, accoutered in my disposable, made-in-China face mask. Of the three masks Emily ordered from Etsy, only one has arrived—and given its gaudy pattern, I’m not sure I want to be seen wearing it.

Outdoors, there’s that irony that I’m getting a bit used to: Electric green trees and flowering magenta shrubs are detonating with vigorous health, amid the possible decline and fall of the human race. There are few cars on the road, although the street-repair crews and utilities linemen have been very beaverish lately, forcing drivers into patterns of intermittent yielding and lane-weaving. The recycling center is not crowded, and everyone present maintains a proper social distance, as they are instructed to do by prominent signs.

At the small shopping area called Amagansett Square, there are also plenty of signs about precautions to be taken during the pandemic. The fancy cheese store turns out to be closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. The restaurant called Meeting House is likewise clearly closed, but exotic pop music resounds from an outdoor speaker. Coffee seller Jack’s, however, is busy attending to a dozen customers. One of the workers there says the store has been “crazy busy,” she doesn’t know why. Most everything else in Amagansett, except for the liquor store, is closed. Essential supplies, coffee and liquor.

Two weeks from now, we’re supposed to start getting warm weather.

I can recall some depressing summers from the past. Generally, I think I felt that way when the near future was very unknown. Inevitably, the coming summer will also be suffused in mystery about the shape of things to come.

Dinner: canned Progresso split pea soup, corn muffins, baked potatoes, and green salad.

Entertainment: I’m still into the Norwegian thriller Occupied, but its suspense doesn’t compare with the suspense we experience on a daily basis.