Everyday Orinda – May 2020

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The “P” in the Pool

    Flashback to summer days of early childhood, frolicking in the shallow end of a crowded swimming pool while our mothers sat in the shade nearby, smoking a Belair.
    Anybody ever play that game where you’d bounce on your tiptoes, down the sloping floor of the pool, inching into deeper and deeper water, face and chin upturned to the sky, enabling you to gulp, goldfish-style, for air until the last possible moment? Eventually, the water would cover your head, fill your nostrils with chlorinated pool water, and you’d backpaddle to safety.
    That’s exactly how I’ve been feeling. I’m clearly in the deeper water, missing the buoyancy and security of the shallow end. 
    The challenges began in October. We faced an impending city-wide power shutdown as a wildfire prevention measure. We were all edgy and inconvenienced, but in retrospect, we still had plenty of toilet paper. And, we needn’t pretend to be plucky characters in a post-WWI novel in a valiant attempt to remain unphased by shortages and bare shelves at the grocery store.
    Just as the PG&E issue subsided, the horrific Halloween night Airbnb shootings occurred. The water was definitely creeping up past my earlobes now.
    Fast forward to the coronavirus pandemic, the “P” in the pool. It’s shoved us all into the deep end and forced us to play water polo with our big brother’s obnoxious friend, the one who thinks it’s funny to dunk people.
    Initially I thought to highlight some of our local soldiers on the front line, the clerks at the Orinda Safeway, who we have all come to know — sadly, I’m realizing, in a very non-meaningful sort of way — over the years.
    In other words, we “know” one another from avocado small-talk, but I’ve never asked about whether they have kids, their hometown or their favorite ice cream. And now, here they are, risking their health so we can have food on our table.
    Lori, a manager, politely informed me Safeway employees are not allowed to speak to the press at this time. Although her mask covered half her face, her expressive eyes were smiling, but firm. No photographs permitted either, even if only for a salute. 
    Plan B was to pester BevMo in hope of obtaining an amusing quote about alcohol sales flourishing in Orinda, or perhaps discuss the new-found abundance of available parking spaces in their lot now that families are no longer pretending not to use it as a communal carpool rendezvous. 
    Thwarted again. At BevMo, not only are employees forbidden from speaking to the press, customers are not even allowed to step inside the store to wander the aisles and reminisce about the good-old days when we drank for pleasure.
    Instead, customers must place an order online, then show up outside the store later to pick it up. I asked if I could at least scan the army of labeled, pre-packaged orders and snoop for familiar surnames of my friends. But the store clerk was not amused. So much for aggressive reporting. 
    I was all set to ponder additional angels on the front lines when the universe decided to offer up a suggestion, by way of my orange tabby/pandemic coping mechanism suddenly becoming severely ill. And we are talking far more than the usual poorly-timed feline barf on the living room carpet, four minutes before Book Club arrives, PP (Pre-Pandemic). 
    As I rushed to make Chad comfortable and initiate a visit to front-line angel Dr. Richard Johnson at Rheem Veterinary Hospital, I had a “straw that broke the camel’s back” moment, resulting in a hearty ugly cry. 
    This unexpected outburst ended up producing a rare, spontaneous hug from one daughter and a legitimate attempt to unload the dishwasher from another. My husband didn’t even raise his usual objections to rushing off to the vet. He hails from the “wait and see” approach to veterinary intervention, advocated in 19th century Farmer’s Almanacs and Old Yeller.
    This day, however, in a familiar moment of coronavirus “Blursday,” he had forgotten the correct day of the week, and accidently ingested a double dose of blood pressure medication. He was too mellow to care. 
    Our cat, who we should nickname Hey because he’s only friendly when he feels like it, was the poster child for my tears for many additional recent events: the draped corpses filling refrigerated trucks in New York, the infinite food lines, the staggering job losses, the students mourning the evaporation of anticipated joy, the brutal susceptibility to the virus among the elderly, the astoundingly beautiful way we have all attempted to be kind and lift each other up. The nauseating confusion of it all.
    Our lives have shifted from Marco Polo to the 200-meter butterfly. Chad returns home after three days in the hospital. A heartfelt thank you to the dedicated staff at Rheem Veterinary Clinic.  Strength and peace to all.

(Mimi Bommarito, Photographer)
Dr. Richard Johnson of Rheem Veterinary Medical Hospital interacts with his feline patient Chad, while wearing a protective face mask during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many local pet owners are greatly relieved to know veterinary hospitals are deemed essential services.

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