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  • Writer's pictureNikki Mantell

Covid Calculations

In some ways, the pandemic means many of us have more time freed up: we don’t have to commute to work, host dinner parties, we cancelled all travel plans, etc. Which would be great, except for the fact that all that time not doing routine things is now taken up weighing myriad decisions forced upon us by a pandemic that makes every aspect of life a conundrum.

This struck me after I spent an hour pacing my kitchen this summer trying to figure out if joining three other local ladies on a dock was “the right thing to do.” In normal times, that’s a no-brainer (yes!), but I had to craft a Venn diagram in my head to make a simple decision.

Twenty minutes before leaving, a friend whose family was in our ‘bubble’ texted to say a friend in her ‘bubble’ had texted her to say that her kids were coughing and snotty and she was on her way to the clinic to get tested. Crap. And so the mental hurdle race began: Were my friend’s kids showing symptoms? “Sort of.” Crap. Were my kids showing symptoms? None. That’s good, right? I should be fine, right? I really wanted to spend some time with other grownups I’m not related to! But what if I were infected? The kitchen pacing started: What to do… what to do...?

After forcing my husband into a 15-minute discussion weighing the pros and cons, I grabbed my phone and texted the dock host my regrets, explaining the business about the ‘bubble’ friend and the snotty noses and the tests. Ok, decision made, with the added bonus of appearing uber responsible (virtue signalling, anyone?). Or not! With a jolt, the third circle of my mental Venn diagram reared up in my brain: one of those ladies I was meeting on the dock had put her kids in the same summer camp as my kids. Crap. What if the dock host told the other friend that my kids might have COVID? What if the other friend then told the camp host? What if both of them told me I can’t bring my kids to camp? Dear god, I’d been waiting 16 goddamn weeks to get my kids out of the house so I could get some work done! No, that could not happen. Fifteen more minutes of kitchen pacing. More calls to the friend-of-the-friend whose kids went for testing. Another fifteen minutes discussing the fine details of snot and coughing. After deducing the friend-of-the-friend was somewhat of a hypochondriac and no one had a fever, I grabbed my phone, again. It is imperative – imperative! – that I signal to the dock ladies that my previous decision to stay home was over-zealous caution and yes, damnit, I will be on that dock. (And dammit, my kids will be at that camp!)

It took almost an hour to come full circle to the original decision. An hour of my life lost to what I call “Covid Calculations.”

Such exhausting calculations are happening at every turn as we try to navigate our lives under this pandemic. Extended family is coming from out of town for an outdoor barbecue – and it suddenly rains all day. Do we cancel and wait another six months to see them or risk it indoors? Covid Calculations. Is the daily power struggle to force my kids into the shower the moment they get home from school worth potentially saving grandma’s life from the increased exposure? Covid Calculations. Does going to the grocery store require getting out of my jogging pants and into a bra? (We’ve been at home so long, who knows anymore?) Covid Calculations.

To all those frontline workers whose Covid Calculations are far more serious and exhausting than mine, I salute you. Now let’s all go take a nap.


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