It Wouldn’t Fly In Fiction

No one would believe it if I wrote it into one of my novels. That’s what I find myself saying more and more these days. From the shutdown over Covid-19 to Hollywood stars actually believing they are smart enough and politically savvy enough to tell us how we should live, real life is something even fiction would disavow. So what is a novelist to do?

That’s a question I asked myself several times yesterday. I’m still fighting horrible allergies and the ensuring migraines and near migraines. But those have to be put on hold do deal with real life consequences from the Covid-19 shutdown. My almost 90-year-old mother had a number of doctor appointments postponed because of the overreaction to the virus. Those appointments were rescheduled and we started making the rounds last two weeks.

First came the retinologist. Except, as we were ready to leave, we realized it was Memorial Day. Yes, we’d received the automated confirmation call the day before. Yes, we had the notes we’d made when we rescheduled the original appointment when they called to say that, because of Covid-19, the office was closed. But would they really be there on a national holiday?

The answer was no. Fortunately for all parties involved, we called before making the trek to Dallas. the next morning, Mom called and the appointments clerk didn’t so much as offer an apology. She simply reset the appointment and said she couldn’t figure out how the appointment had been made for the previous day.

Then came the appointment with her regular eye doctor. At least they called–a real person mind you–and not only confirmed that particular appointment but explained the hoops that had to be jumped through just to come to the appointment. We had to wear masks. We might be asked to wait downstairs in the lobby if there were too many people in the waiting room. Mom’s temperature would be taken before she was allowed to see the doctor. Oh, and I might or might not be allowed back.

That is where the next level of frustration came in. After sitting in the waiting room for a few minutes, waiting for Mom to be called back, the tech finally appeared and told her it was her turn. But, because I wasn’t her “caretaker”, I couldn’t go back with her. Forget about the fact she has macular degeneration and once her eyes are dilated, she can’t read anything. Forget that she is almost 90 and I’ve been going back with her for her appointments for the last two years. Oh, and let’s not have any consistent policy in place. Something that became evident as the next two patients were shown back and their spouses were allowed with them.

But we survived and made it home.

Next up, Mom’s PCP. At least they had a consistent policy in place. If you weren’t a caretaker, you were not allowed back with the patient. in fact, you weren’t allowed in the waiting area at all. Fortunately–this is Texas in June after all–there was a place to wait by the elevators. But, we still had to be masked and we still had to maintain social distancing.

Then came yesterday and it was time to finally see the retinologist. Let’s say, neither of us were looking forward to the appointment. These appointments are always mentally trying for both of us. If Mom’s eyes are worse, she faces getting a shot in one of them. Yep, you read that right. A needle in the eye. We’ve been extremely lucky and the treatment she’s received has prevented that for some several years. But it is the unknown and it does weigh on you.

Add to that the following: when we got the call confirming the appointment, part of the spiel was that we might have to wait “in the car” if there were too many people already at the office. Again, this is Texas in June. Sitting in the car usually isn’t a safe option. But a doctor’s office is advocating for it. Hmm.

This office is located inside an office tower at one of the local hospitals. So we parked and headed inside. Now, like so many other buildings right now, all foot traffic was funneled in through a single entrance point. Just inside the door, we were stopped by a masked and gloved nurse who took our temperatures and secured bands on our wrists to confirm we were “safe” to enter.

As we made our way to the elevators, I looked around. The chairs lining one side of the corridor had not been marked off like they were at the hospital’s main campus where Mom’s other doctors are. In fact, out of a 9 or 10 foot span of chairs, only one had been marked off. There were no markings on the floor about where folks should stand. A small sign, easily overlooked, noted that only four people were allowed on the elevator at any one time.

Upstairs, there was nothing on the door to the doctor’s office about what precautions or limits were in place. Inside, none of the chairs had been removed or marked off to insure social distancing. And no one was monitoring where people sat. At the time, maybe a quarter of the seats were taken but, if you were worried about social distancing, that was still too many considering the layout of the chairs and where people were sitting.

We checked Mom in, which included me filling out a Covid-19 screening sheet because I dared come in from the car. Not that they were going to let me go back with Mom. So, while she went back to meet with the doctor, I waited and watched and listened (hey, I’m a writer. it’s what I do). What I saw showed the idiocy of our current situation.

A gentleman came in a few minutes after Mom had gone back. Like the rest of us, he was masked. He checked in and had to be helped with the paperwork because–duh–he has eye problems. But his wife was in the car since they’d told them at his last appointment she needed to wait there due to Covid-19 precautions and social distancing.

In the car, with the temperatures nearing the mid-90s and no breeze and little to no shade.

Worse, a doctor’s office was telling its patients to put loved ones’ lives in danger by staying in a locked car in the heat. Oh, but they could run the A/C in the car if they got too hot.

You can’t make this shit up.

If I put all this in a book and kept it as a serious scene, no one would believe it. Make it a farce, and it flies.

So that’s what we have to realize. Right now, we are living in a very bad face. It is up to us to make sure we don’t use today as a template for a normal day in the life of our characters unless they, too, are living in a farce. Usually, that’s easy to remember. But some days, you have to wonder when we’re going to wake up and find this has all been a bad dream brought on by that slice of three-day-old pizza we ate the night before.

Featured image by lcarissimi from Pixabay

24 comments

  1. Yeah it’s a farce alright. Was working in a grocery store until last week. Back around the end of APRIL they instituted the list of “Questions”, starting with “Have you recently returned from travel outside of Canada. Considering that our borders were practically closed since the beginning of the month. The list of five questions went downhill from there. Had to go through the same damned questions every time I showed up for work. It was “required” due to “laws”. Then there were the face shields and face masks. Got sick of the whole pandemic theater after the second week of that crap.

    1. I don”t blame you. The screening questions to get into the medical building yesterday were basically: 1. Have you traveled outside of the country in the last 30 days? 2. Do you have a headache, sniffles or trouble breathing? I wasn’t a smart ass and I didn’t reply “Yes” to all of #2 because it is allergy season down here which means headaches, sniffles, sore throat and trouble breathing.

  2. As I was telling the Dragonette this morning, the worst part of all of this is that in another 10 years we’ll have another pandemic. And no one will take it seriously because Winnie the Flu has been so over-hyped, we won’t believe half of what the WHO and CDC tell us about it, and will believe maybe a tenth of what the Media tells us. And with the way life works, the next one will be the one that makes the Spanish Flu look like a mild cold.

    1. Yep. And yet if we wrote it like that–and tried to sell it to a trad pub–we’d be rejected before they finished reading the query letter.

      1. I wonder how effective our anti-bacterials are going to be after all this. I thought overuse of hand sanitizers and such contributed to resistant strains of bacteria, or did that get debunked?

  3. I’d be very curious to see how much of this is driven by actual medical observation and evidence, how much by hysteria, and how much by (the alas quite reasonable) fear of lawsuits and liability claims. [One of the packing plants in this region has been sued for several US Billion dollars because three workers got sick and one of them died.]

    1. Imagine a bureaucratic comedy of errors, where some vital effort is completely derailed because of paperwork that attempts to mitigate some of the related liability.

      Everyone: “That’s not funny.”

    2. I can tell you that more than half of what I see here in Morontario is pure theater masquerading as infection control.

      I had to take Maximum Maxwell to the vet for his rabies shot, and you would think that a vet would have some form of clue about viruses. But no, most of their preparations was traffic cones to keep people away from the reception desk and making you wait in the car. No gowns, no gloves, no masks, and you have a face-to-face with the vet in a tiny room. But traffic cones. And caution tape.

      Basically it doesn’t matter what a business does, as long as they are visibly doing something to keep Karen happy. 100% fear of lawsuits, and Canada doesn’t have lawsuit-friendly courts.

      Therefore, as usual, I’m taking my own steps to keep the Corona off. Gloves and a proper respirator mask plus handwashing. Because this is a -novel- virus, and catching it twice or three times could easily be a thing.

      But speaking of “science” were y’all aware of this: https://phantomsoapbox.blogspot.com/2020/06/hydroxychloroquine-does-work-on-wuhan.html

      Those “studies” in The Lancet and the New England Journal of Medicine about Hydroxychloroquine? TL/DR, they were pure #OrangeManBad BS. Both studies withdrawn last week.

  4. My mom (also 90) has macular degeneration and has several times had the needle in the eye treatment. Apparently it sounds a lot worse than it is; she barely mentioned it in passing.

  5. I bet if I wrote about a fictional pandemic where the medical authorities wouldn’t let you visit your dying grandmother, but said it was okay for people to gather in thousands for protests, my editor would say it was wildly unrealistic.

    1. Up until last week I’d have thrown it against the wall.

      This week a coherent and reasoned response from authorities will be thrown against the wall.

  6. Worse, a doctor’s office was telling its patients to put loved ones’ lives in danger by staying in a locked car in the heat.

    A few medical professionals have been willing to admit that everything they’re telling us to do right now is some of the worst advice they could give under normal circumstances. I haven’t run into any willing to say, “…and maybe it’s not so good even now,” but I’ll bet a lot of them are thinking it.

    1. Medical professionals, according to my jungle drum readings, are fed the hell up with our lordly medial authorities and Ministry of Health buffoons. You’re going to see more on that later over the next couple of years.

      One reason is that the Ministry of Health -closed- all medical offices since March 17th. They are just starting to re-open now. All the docs in the country are on the hook for three months rent with no income to show for it, just for starters.

      Then there’s the catastrophe of the long-term-care facilities. We had to have the military come to provide care for the people most vulnerable to Corona. Most of the death numbers you see in Canada are from those facilities. Zero PPE and -really- bad staffing are most of the problem.

      Also that they never clean anything. Imagine a care home with carpeting. (No, not kidding.) Now imagine they haven’t steamed that carpet in three years. That’s what we’re talking about.

  7. I’m in Colorado Springs. I just went my local Walmart about half the customers didn’t have masks on. All the workers did. I had a scarf on.

    1. Every time I visit my local mall it’s more crowded and fewer people are wearing masks or following the arrows on the floor.

      1. It went up from a third to a quarter of the stores open, to more than half, and several of the closed stores had signs announcing the date of reopening.

        Hard to judge the parking lots, because more lots were open and so the cars were farther spread out.

    2. Wallyworld and Sammy’s House of Stuff still make all their employees wear masks. But as soon as you leave, or any time when not forced by managers and out of customer sight, the mask a come off.

      The only exception at my work are a couple folks with very frail relatives.

  8. Is “caregiver” some kind of official status where you live, that you can’t simply point out that you’re there to help her through her office visit, but need some kind of official documentation?

    My husband has some appointments coming up, and while it’s not such a big deal for the dental appointment (although I’m thinking seriously about taking a lawn chair and sitting under a tree rather than in the car), it would be a real pain if the podiatrist won’t let me come in with him. Last time, he had trouble getting his socks back on, and afterward he was having pain in the knee he had surgery on. He wants me to go in with him so I can help him with his socks, but now that everything’s changed, who knows.

    OTOH, in a couple of weeks we should know if all the restrictions have been nothing but health theater, or if the danger really was as bad as they claimed.

  9. It may be different in different parts of the country. As I catch up with my way too many doctors appointments, I am being told to mask, my temperature is being checked, and the one time I had to use an elevator there are squares to stand marked in each corner of the elevator. However, my husband has been allowed to come back with me to the actual doctor’s room. So it may be just different doctors. And I will say the insurance has been good about paying for prescriptions, even when I haven’t been able to see the doctor to get my renewals.

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