Saturday, June 27, 2020

Worst Birthday Ever

Broken Arm, part 1 (of who knows how many parts)

Blame it on COVID-19.

Blame it on the lockdown.

Blame  it on my trying to be a good citizen.

But there I was, celebrating my birthday with a freshly broken right arm.

Personally, I definitely blame it on the coronavirus and the tumult it caused.  Because I wouldn't have been doing what I was doing when I broke my arm if not for that damn virus, if not for the lockdown.

Now I know you are all expecting me to get right to the point and tell this story as quickly as possible, with no tangents.  That is, after all, my brand.  But this one time, I will take my time and tell my story in the most detailed fashion possible, leaving nothing out.  So It may take me some time.  But no more than three dozen posts, tops.

The day it happened was April 21, which happens to be the day before my birthday.  It was already destined to be my worst birthday ever, long before I had the brilliant plan to break my arm.  The shutdown started in CA in mid-March, and it had been weeks since I'd been out.  And I definitely had no plans to go out for my birthday. It wouldn't have been legal, anyway.  I was basically under house arrest, as all Californians were at the time.  You could only leave your house for grocery shopping and medical emergencies. 

For over a month, there had been no Saturday poker excursions.  No seeing my friends, no seeing my family.  Inasmuch as I live alone, it was a pretty miserable existence.  I don't mind having a lot of alone time, but being alone 24/7, seven days a week was a bit much even for me.

So it was not going to be a fun birthday, spending yet another day in total isolation, instead of doing—well, anything—for my birthday.

To set the stage for what happened on April 21, we have to go back a few weeks earlier.  When the lockdown first started, I was leaving the house once a week to get food.  At least as best I could.  As you know, some items were in short supply or missing off the shelves entirely.  Each weekly to visit Walmart or the local super-market was more and more frustrating and depressing.  Plus, when I did find the items I wanted, there were often limits on the quantities you could buy.  Being able to buy one of an item that you use three of in a week seemed to be encouraging people to go shopping more often.  And the more you went out to a public place, like a market, the greater the increase in the risk of catching the virus, no?

Anyway, when they shut the world down in mid-March, I distinctly remember the plan was to shut down for a couple of weeks to "flatten the curve" so that hospitals wouldn't be overwhelmed.  Anyone else remember that phrase, "15 days to flatten the curve"?  There was also, "15 days to slow the spread."

But somehow, we went way past the 15 days and nothing was reopening.  In fact, they kept extending the shutdown, and then even came up with newer, harsher restrictions.  This despite that it appeared at the time that we had indeed flattened the curve.  Nowhere in the country were hospitals overrun with more COVID-19 cases than they could handle.  It kind of seemed like we had been lied to.

And then a few weeks before April 21, the local authorities in CA and Los Angeles (and I think maybe the President of the United States, i.e. Dr. Anthony Fauci, too) said we were coming up to a real critical time in our battle with the virus.  Local officials went on TV and pleaded with us not to go out, not even to go grocery shopping.  They begged us to try to have all our groceries delivered for the next couple of weeks.

On top of that, they started telling us that we had to wear masks when we went out, when we went to a grocery story.  In fact, grocery stores were encouraged to refuse entry to people not wearing a mask.

The trouble with that is that, at this time, it was almost impossible to buy a mask.  A lot of people did get creative and made their own masks.  But I am not capable of making a mask.  Plus I didn't have any material around my house with which to make a mask.  I would have needed to go to a store to get material to make a mask.

Which I couldn’t do without a mask.  I believe that's known as a Catch-22.

I ordered some masks online, but they were all back-ordered because everyone needed masks.  They were almost as hard to find as toilet paper.

I kind of had no choice but to be a good citizen, obey the city, state and Federal leaders and get my groceries delivered for a couple of weeks.

I was familiar with the process because I had indeed ordered groceries delivered a few years ago when I was recovering from my triple by-pass and couldn't drive.  But it was not a problem then, because not many people were having their groceries delivered.

But in April of 2020, everyone wanted (or was forced to have) their groceries delivered.  Thus, it was almost impossible to find a store that had an open delivery slot.  They just couldn't keep up with the demand.  I mean, what would you expect when the Governor and the Mayor go on TV and beg everyone to get their groceries delivered?

I finally figured out how to play the system to get food delivered.  But each week it was a new puzzle to solve.  Once I had to go to my fifth choice market for my food—and it was expensive. And that is not even taking into account the delivery charge.  Sadly, Walmart insisted I was out of their delivery area and would not deliver to me.  I had to deal with an actual, retail Supermarket. 

So for two or three weeks I had my groceries delivered.  This of course was problematic since they were out of so many things.  And I am not good on substitutions.  I am a fussy eater.  They substituted stuff I would never eat for stuff I ordered.  At least the first time, before I figured out how to deal with that—or so I thought.

Well, the powers that be never made the announcement that we were opening up, or that the two-week crucial period had passed and we were ok to at least go out shopping again.  But I decided on my own that I had had enough.  In order to make sure I got a delivery time for this particular week, I had reserved it the week before and placed a small order.  By the time the next week started, I decided I was done with this delivery stuff.  I thought about cancelling my order and going out shopping instead for that week—by this time the masks I had ordered had arrived from Amazon.  But I decided that since I already had the order scheduled, I would keep it for this one last time, and then resume my own shopping the next week.

That decision was a huge mistake.

So now it was April 21, a Tuesday, the day before my birthday, and I was expecting what I hoped to be my last delivery of groceries for the time being.

When placing the order I had put in instructions about substitutions and requested that the shopper text me with any possible substitutions necessary.  The delivery was scheduled for between 2pm-4pm.  But at around 1:45pm I started getting texts from the shopper saying X was out and he was replacing it with Y. Well, Y was almost always something I wouldn't buy if my life depended on it.  I texted him back no and asked him about other possible substitutions.  I didn't get any response, only a text about yet another item they were out of.

The delivery system was "no-contact" meaning that they would just leave the groceries at your front door (or in my case, at my gate).  But I wanted to somewhat greet the shopper and have him put all the groceries in the trunk of my car.  I would sort thru it and bring the perishables inside to put in the fridge, and leave the rest in the trunk for a day or two.

I suddenly remembered that I had a case of water still in my trunk from last time.  I wanted to bring that in my house so he'd have room for all the groceries.  And based on the texts the guy was sending me, it seemed like he was pretty close to done and would be at my house soon.  I never could figure out how long it would take once they got started.  Sometimes it seemed like they would get there in no time and other times it would take over an hour.

But I wanted to be sure that case of water was out of the way. I had been lying on my couch after my lunch when I realized I needed to move with some alacrity.

Now, when you enter my house, there is a big piece of marble you step onto.  It might not actually be marble, it might just be tile, but I can assure you that it is a extremely hard surface.  If you bear left when you step in, you have no choice but to climb up the stairs to the second floor.  If you bear right, you will very shortly need to take one step down into the living room. So from the living room, which is where I was, you have to take one step up to get on that marble tile, and either head out the door (which you better open first) or take the stairs to the second floor.

As I said, I was suddenly in a hurry. I reached the marble tile, and in my haste, did not raise my foot quite high enough to clear that one measly step.  I've taken that step thousands (millions?) of times since I've lived here and never had a problem clearing it.  But this time, somehow, I missed it.  My foot hit the side of the marble, and since I was moving fast, the momentum my body had kept my forward motion going.  Next thing I know, I was flat on my face on the hard marble tile.

And in pain.  I think the first thing I noticed hurting was my right knee.  I must have landed right on it.  My whole right leg was hurting, up to my thigh. But my knew was especially bad.  Ugh.  But then I realized I hadn't landed on my knee—not entirely.  Because as I tried to get up, I couldn't use my right arm to boost myself upright.  It hurt like hell.

I managed to get up and although my leg hurt like hell, I could walk.  Or at least hobble around.  But my right arm was killing me.  And basically useless.  I couldn't move it without experiencing excruciating pain.

The only time I'd ever had a broken limb was a long, long time ago.  I was 2 or 3 years old, so I don’t quite remember what it felt like.  But that too, was my right arm.

I couldn't be 100% sure, but honestly, this really felt like a broken arm to me.  The pain was so severe, and the fact that I couldn't move it without screaming in even more pain, were pretty big  clues.

Recall what I said at the outset.  Blame it on the virus.  Without the virus, the lockdown, without me trying to be a good citizen and help prevent the "spread," I wouldn't have been hurrying to bring something in from my car. And therefore wouldn't have taken that nasty fall. Perhaps I should be counted somehow in the COVID-19 statistics?

What to do, what to do?  Well, you'll have to come back next time for my visit to the ER.  Or at least the beginning of said visit.  But at least I've answered the question, "How did you break your arm, Rob?"

Part 2 is here.