On a weekend trip to Sioux Falls for a cross-country meet, I entered a terribly crowded food place for the first time since March of last year.
We’d had a nice family day. A granddaughter ran in the meet. Another granddaughter hosted lunch. Nancy and I watched the rest of the family do a photo shoot. When someone suggested a meal before we headed home, well why not. It seemed so natural that I had a meal in front of me before I noticed how many people were packed into the place.
One of the family members is a nurse, so I asked, “Is this a situation that makes you worry about COVID-19?’’
He said he’d just been thinking that. Usually, he said, he avoids such situations, vaccinated or not. He also said it’s a situation in which people must decide the amount of risk they’re willing to accept, worrisome as that is.
If I were doing it again, I think I’d have stayed outside. It was so easy, though, just to walk into the place with the rest of the family. It caught me off guard, one of the few times that’s happened during the pandemic. I’ll probably be fine. It was just more risk than I’ve taken for a long while.
Nancy and I haven’t been complete hermits, although we’ve mostly hunkered down at our place by the river. We avoided crowds. We didn’t dine out. She made quick trips to the grocery store - masked, gloved and ready with a supply of hand sanitizer. My social life was even less active than that.
One of our granddaughters did virtual learning the first quarter last year as we watched how things played out in school. She sat out of cross country, too, and I think she missed that a lot.
Every morning she’d post up at our kitchen table with books and a tablet, getting assignments online, dialing in to Zoom classes whenever they were scheduled.
She missed her friends. I even think she missed math class, although she’d probably deny that. It was nice when she was able to return to class, masked as were the other students. We missed having her at the kitchen table, but she was happier. When a grandchild is happy, a grandparent is happy.
This fall she’s back in the swing of things, including cross country. We’ve gone to all the meets. They are outdoors, and the spectators are usually fairly well spread across whichever golf course is hosting the meet. Even at the Sioux Falls meet, the throng of people existed mostly at the start and finish. I feel pretty safe in those conditions.
The crowded food place was something else. I walked in without a second thought, and we made it out. I confess that on Monday morning I started a mental count of how many days must pass before I’m relatively confident I didn’t pick up COVID or flu or even a cold. And I made a mental note not to get into that situation again for a long time. I’d hate to catch something. Even more than that, I’d hate to be an asymptomatic carrier and infect another person.
It’s all about risk assessment, I suppose. You take all of the best information you can gather and decide how much risk you’re willing to assume. Some people seem to have no limit and scant consideration of those around them. Others make more conservative decisions, falling at various point along a scale from “No Risk’’ to “Anything Goes.’’
Risk is part of life, for sure. On Monday morning, as lightning flashed and thunder boomed outside our home (it had been doing that for 30 or 45 minutes) I saw a fishing boat with a lone occupant speeding upstream toward the marina. At some point in his fishing trip, that guy had made a risk assessment, a more liberal one than I’d have made.
The difference between the fishing guy’s risk and the COVID risk is that, assuming he made it safely to shore, he didn’t have to worry for the next eight or 10 days whether the lightning would come back to strike him.