Quarantine Chronicles Day 4: A quest for escape loopholes is foiled

I don’t know where you get your coronavirus advice, but I was on the Women’s Health Magazine website looking for advice on whether I can take my dogs for a walk and, if so, I would assume I could also go for a walk without my dogs, in which case I would further assume I could get in my car and head out to the El Dorado Nature Center for a nice hike and to kill the day by getting some sun and air and working up a bit of pastoral Thoreauian philosophy which would be excellent if florid fodder for a nice, bucolic Quarantine Chronicle installment.

Anyhow, from Women’s Health Magazine:

“First off, if you have not been told to self-isolate and do not have the symptoms of the virus, then you are fine to take your fluffy charges for trots as usual. This is provided you are out in the open air and are not stopping for a pitstop at your local boozer.”

OK, I don’t know what canine demographic Women’s Health is striving to capture, but my dogs aren’t “fluffy charges.” They’re military-grade killing machines. Maybe I should be getting my dog-walking advice from Soldier of Fortune, which, actually, does have a bit of COVID-19 info, but nothing about hiking in the woods.

But Women’s Health continues by citing a health expert who says, “Unfortunately, you cannot walk the dog if you self isolate. Self isolating would mean that you would stay home and not be near the general public.”

Understood. But I’m self-isolating not because I have symptoms of COVID-19, but rather for the sole reason that Gov. Gavin Newsom proclaimed that people 65 and older should self-isolate, and I am, tragically, 65, though I’ve been told by many people I could pass for 64 or even, if I shave and dress up, 63. If Newsom had made the age cut-off at 66 instead of 65, I’d still be out frolicking in the real world hoarding paper products and hand-sanitizer.

My quest for a source willing to green-light my trip to the nature center took me to the PDSA website. I don’t know where you get your pet news, but the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals has been around since 1917 and is the UK’s leading veterinary charity, and if I have to go abroad to get a walk-in-the-park permit, I’m happy to do so.

Sadly, the PDSA advice was brutally British in its bluntness and lack of fanfare:

“You shouldn’t leave your house while self-isolating, so this would include taking your dog for a walk.”

So, then, another day of self-isolation. Oh, to be 64 again.

Then, all of a sudden….

THE MAILMAN CAME! At first it looked like the usual stuff. Grocery store coupons, home remodel offers, a packet from my financial adviser that could be a suicide note, and, wow! A Census 2020 questionnaire, sent to Resident, and boy, does that ever describe me these days.

I’m practically crying tears of gratitude for the fact that the government has sent me a fun activity to keep me occupied for what I hoped would be a few blissful hours. I curled up on the sofa and read every delicious word of the letter, even the Frequently Asked Questions. I was like your dad. “Hold on a second, I’m not signing nothing till I read the whole thing. These crooks’ll do anything to stick it to the little guy.”

Filling out the form online only slaughtered 10 minutes of boredom with some  thrilling (for me; you may experience different results) questions about my heritage, which is American for five generations, but the Census wanted more, so I gave it Switzerland, the only other country in the world where you might find the odd Grobaty, though frequently misspelled.

The only real trouble I had was answering the question, “On April 1, 2020, will you be living or staying at this address?”

It’s a bad time in this world’s history to be confidently predicting your health (or, rather, existence) more than 10 days from now. Maybe if the tyrannical people at Women’s Health and PDSA had allowed me to visit the El Dorado Nature Center I’d have been able to cook up some sort of meditative and meaningful answer to the Census question. But, stuck here at home, I just checked “Yes.” Where else would I be?

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Tim Grobaty is a columnist and opinions editor for the Long Beach Post. He began his newspaper career at the Press-Telegram in 1976 as a copy boy and moved on to feature writer, music critic, TV critic, copy editor and daily columnist. He’s the author of several books, including I’m Dyin’ Here, and he lives in Long Beach.
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