By Assunta Ng
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
“Let’s have lunch,” said my friends after I told them I got my COVID vaccine. Before saying “yes,” I have pondered some practical tips after lockdown.
We have all missed our friends after months of isolation. We can’t wait to see them face-to-face. Some consider sitting next to outsiders as “intimate,” as there is no social distancing in restaurants. “Intimate” or not, I do terribly miss laughing and gossiping together with my friends, looking them in their eyes, and seeing their faces. We think we are safe after being inoculated. But it’s not 100% foolproof when death and infection rates are climbing up in many states.
What should we do? Do we not go out? Can we not have fun? Yes, we can go out and have fun. We deserve it after being locked down for over a year. However, we need to ponder how we can do it while protecting ourselves and other people as COVID now has many variants, which are highly contagious.
There is no hurry to accomplish everything you want to do. After all, you were able to put everything on hold for a year. It’s okay to do one thing at a time! When in haste, you make mistakes that you may regret for the rest of your life. Just take time to plan and think it through.
While I love to dine with friends, I wouldn’t schedule them back-to-back. I designate every Friday at noon for dining out. That means I dine out only once a week with people outside my household. And I would not compromise my schedule. Lunch is what I prefer and not dinner, so it won’t affect my bedtime. My health is top priority.
Develop a new mindset, making wellness your goal. Even if you have been vaccinated, you can still get sick, perhaps not with COVID, but with other illnesses. Take great care of yourself and your loved ones. Some hospitals are so overwhelmed with COVID patients that you might not be able to have the surgery and care you need. Think of the protection you need when you dine out or travel.
“Have you been vaccinated?”
It‘s smart to ask your friends if they have been inoculated when you plan to go out with them. It’s not a rude question, it‘s a life-and-death one. You have the right to ask so you can decide who to go out with or not. I posed the question to an important business acquaintance. His secretary did check with him. Yes, she said. We shouldn’t have to wonder during the meeting whether or not he is.
If they have not had the vaccine yet, ask when they plan to do it. That way, you can set up dates with them later. Or you and your friends would need to have masks on when you are together. It’s not a good idea to dine together though.
Although I was excited to dine with my friends in a restaurant on April 9, I made sure that our party had no more than four people. I had not dined with anyone besides my family for months.
And I will be uncomfortable dining indoors with a big group. That means I will not attend a big party unless Gov. Jay Inslee says it’s safe to do so. When Hong Kong, a city with a population of 7 million, first opened up, the limit was four people per table, plus social distancing. Perhaps, in a couple more months, six people to a table will be safe.
When I was dining with two friends last week, the table next to us was empty. After we finished eating and were talking, the hostess brought in a table of five guests next to us, too close. I got up and said goodbye. Now, I have a new rule. Don’t sit in a restaurant for more than one and a half hours. The longer you sit, the more you increase your risk.
The other day, my husband and I dined out. The hostess took us to the bar instead of the dining room. I got it. Management wanted to entice us to order drinks and also make the restaurant look more full from the outside window. I said no. Its dining room had few guests, and I felt at ease.
The Center for Disease Control advises that we shouldn’t travel now unless it’s for essential purposes. But most people don’t listen. Sea-Tac Airport had over 2,500 passengers in one day in March. On Easter Sunday, there were over 6 million travelers nationwide.
Despite the fact that I am sick and tired of being stuck in Seattle for 16 months, I convinced myself to travel later, “Be patient. Be wise.”
If you are over 65, don’t be ambitious. Pick somewhere closer to home to enjoy a change of scenery. Make your stay shorter. I will not travel to Egypt now, even though it is an exciting place to be. Don’t venture to a strange land, where language might be an issue. Be less adventurous for now, for safety’s sake and your peace of mind.
For the young people who are fed up with lockdown—did you hear the recent COVID spike affects the 20 to 40 age group? So don’t think you are immune. Proceed with caution anywhere you go.
It’s not a bad idea to wear double masks when you travel.
The pandemic changes everything from home to work to public. Most of my employees do remote work. Prior to COVID, I would not have agreed to that arrangement. But now, the word “can’t” is not in my vocabulary. My employees like it, and I kind of like it, too. It’s more relaxed for everyone, especially for those who have families, and live outside Seattle. Some employees actually work more as they send me their articles on weekends. Remote work actually enhances productivity.
But I do miss my interactions and collaboration with them. For instance, if I need help with technology, I always go to my teacher, Han Bui, layout editor of Northwest Asian Weekly. If I need help in brainstorming ideas, I go to everyone in the office.
Yet, the office is as bare and silent as an abandoned warehouse. In the past, visitors and readers enjoyed dropping by. Now, we won’t let anyone in. Our mail slot becomes our transactional tool for any ads or letters they send us. When we chat, we have to do it outside the office. Our conversations are usually brief. These days, it’s easier to talk on the phone than face-to-face.
I am surprised and grateful that we can accomplish so much through Zoom meetings, computers, and cell phones. Despite obstacles, we have found innovations to get things done.
Grateful for everything
I know the feeling that everyone has of wanting to get out as much as possible. The only reason I don‘t mind staying home patiently is that I am grateful for everything I have and can do so much during the pandemic.
I am grateful to have a job and my employees can keep their jobs.
“Work can cure almost anything,” stated Nobel Prize author Ernest Hemingway. Imagine if I don’t have a purpose, I could hardly survive.
I am also grateful that my family and loved ones are safe. I consider myself fortunate without the stress of having to apply for all types of assistance, since I’ve received my social security checks recently.
It might be madness some days during COVID, but creativity certainly helps me to pull through the challenges. We have learned that there’s more than one way to do things. COVID is the best time to think outside the box.
Being a journalist, I am blessed with writing tasks every week. Writing is an expression of creativity. It boosts mental and emotional skills. With the production of the Asian Weekly, I love being part of the layout process. Laying out a newspaper is like creating an artwork—not with paint, but with headlines, photos, content, and graphics as materials. It’s the most artistic and fun role in the Asian Weekly, which can highlight or downplay a story. I don’t do the layout, but my input is evident. My job is to improve the product so I make several changes on the print and less on the online version (pretty standard by itself). One time, I literally turned the paper upside down, a story inside was switched to the front, and another one shifted down the page. So glad my people are patient with me as I made as many as 13 changes in one issue. It’s nothing personal. I serve as another pair of eyes. However, I review the issue like a regular and often critical reader, and not as a publisher. If I don’t understand it, how could we expect readers to be able to follow!
Even when I make my bed and fold my blankets, I think of numerous ways to turn a mundane task into an art. Cooking is a wonderful way to develop creativity. Rearranging your home furniture and decor from time to time is stimulating and smart living. You don’t have to be an artist to do art. So make art in your daily life, and you will feel amazing.
Madness won’t be here for too long, so hang in there a little longer.
Assunta can be reached at email@example.com.