I made a grocery run today–wearing my face mask, of course, and by myself because only one household member is allowed in the grocery stores. When I entered the first aisle, I thought I was back in January.

The entire store looked like this with mostly full shelves–except the aisle with toilet paper, hand sanitizers, soap, Lysol, and bleach. I think the hoarders must have their cupboards full. The latest shortage is yeast. A store employee told me they haven’t had any for a week, but are expecting some this weekend. Will I be a lucky shopper who finds yeast?

Ted and I are retired and have no need to conduct business via Zoom or other platforms, but I’ve marked the Video Chat Bingo squares representing home-based workers we’ve seen on TV. To be honest, we did not see the pantsless spouse–we exceeded that. Trevor Noah’s Daily [Social Distancing] Show shared a moment of Zen that featured a female California news reporter.

Melinda Meza, a correspondent for KCRA 3 in Sacramento was filing a live report from her bathroom, demonstrating how to give yourself a DIY lockdown haircut. She could be seen cutting her own hair while her naked husband was in the glass-doored shower and clearly visible in the mirror behind her.

I’m so glad I worked in education and not in big business. Today, I had to deal with the corporate sector, something I always dread.

Last week, I received an email from our gas company informing me that they are changing to a different computer system. To continue my autopay payments, I was instructed to go into my gas company account, unenroll from autopay, then re-enroll in it so that my account will be switched to the new system. What a pain, but ok, I went into my account to do that, but I was unable to re-enroll. Error message: We were unable to enroll your account in paperless billing at this time. Please try again later. I did. Same result.

I called to speak with a live person and was told to call back during regular business hours–which were not specified. Before calling back the next day, I tried to set up an account myself once more. Still no luck after 20 minutes. I was becoming frustrated, so Ted suggested I try scr** you as a password to see if that works. I tried calling again instead.

Luckily, early afternoon apparently falls within the regular (but unspecified) business hours, and I was able to speak with Keith. According to him, there is no record of my autopay account in the company’s system. Since I’ve been using autopay for years and have not had the gas shut off, I find it hard to believe that there is no record of my account. Keith, however, insisted it doesn’t exist in the records and advised me to set up a new account. I tried, but I couldn’t get past the “enter your password” screen.

Switch to Rob. Rob informed me that he is working from home, sitting on the sofa in his pjs beside his wife and petting his cat. (Professional? I think not.) Rob told me I’m having trouble because there’s a dot in the first part of my email address and the system doesn’t recognize that format. I’ve been getting emails from the gas company at that address for years, but . . . . After working with me for a few minutes, Rob decided to contact an IT specialist, so he put me on hold while he sent a message. The voice on the wait-time recording asked, “Have you signed up for paperless billing? It’s easy! Just go to Spire.com to see how effortless this is.” We English majors call this “irony.”

For twenty-five minutes, while Rob and I–and his wife and cat–waited to hear back from the IT guy, Rob and I chatted about places we’ve been and how good the beignets are at Cafe du Monde in New Orleans. His wife and I both played clarinet in school, yet she never heard of Pete Fountain, a reknowned Dixieland clarinetist. After more trivial exchanges, the IT guy finally sent Rob a message saying he had set up the account for me and there was nothing else I needed to do. If my May gas bill gets paid automatically, he’s right.

This process was so “easy” and so “effortless,” it only took 45 minutes of unsuccessful attempts on my part and a little more than an hour of phone time with Keith and Rob to set this up! Aaaarrrrgggghhhh!

This is my dad/Grandpa Pete. I don’t remember the hat and I can’t tell what the pin says. I can’t even remember Dad ever wearing a cowboy-style hat, but pictures don’t lie. Or they didn’t in 1979.

Sticking with the 1979 cowboy theme, this is Ted’s Aunt Verna, his brother Gary, and his mom on our new front porch. (We moved into this house in July 1979.) I don’t remember Gary’s cowboy phase either, but it looks like Sheriff Brett Maverick has come to visit. Maybe he went shopping with my dad.

When we bought a bike for Jeff, he didn’t want to practice riding it. He told me he didn’t see any point in practicing, since all the kids who were six already knew how to ride. His plan was to wait until he was six and then get on his bike and go. It wasn’t easy to convince him that the six-year-olds could ride their bikes because they had practiced. He’s seven in this picture trying out his new, larger bike, and it looks like he’s happy to have mastered that skill.

This is Kathy in first grade. If I remember correctly, her class did a unit about Native Americans and she made this costume.

Thom (Tommy in 1979) is three years old and already in love with trucks. His career goal for many years was to drive an 18-wheeler, and he could recognize semi cabs from behind, as in “Well, only a Kenworth has a smokestack like that.”

Here’s one-year-old Kari with her Christmas doll, Kelly. Kelly came with her fluffy elephant friend named Elly.

It’s July 1979 and it’s hot outside. The building on the left is a day care center. Our house was the first residence built in this plat of the subdivision. See the swimming pool complex in the background? This picture must have been taken within the first two weeks of moving to our new house, because Ted and Jeff walked to the pool to buy a membership for us a few days after we moved in. After that, we didn’t use this backyard swimming pool. With nothing between us and the pool complex, we could sit in our back yard and hear the music blasting out of the concession stand to the accompaniment of the twang! of the diving board.

I think this must be the picture we sent with our Christmas cards in 1979. Check out Tommy’s colorful belt. All my life, I wanted to learn to play the piano. My early career goal was to play like Liberace (I watched his TV show every week), but my parents never had a piano. Ted bought this one for me for Valentine’s day in 1974 and I took piano lessons for five years. During that time, Thom and Kari were born and my practice time disappeared. That’s a 60-inch long console stereo against the far wall in the dining room. After a bedroom set and a kitchen table and chairs, that was the first piece of furniture Ted and I bought after we got married. It had a spindle that held six LP records, an AM-FM radio, and a tape deck to hold Ted’s reel-to-reel tape recorder to play tapes. And all in stereo sound!

Do you think the shipping community is running out of small boxes? FedEx left this box at our door. The box is a 13-inch cube, so it has 1,728 cubic inches of space inside.

This is what was inside the box–two small boxes that were 4 x 3 x 3 inches each for a total of 72 cubic inches. No filler material included. I hope we didn’t have to pay shipping for the extra 1,656 cubic inches of air inside.

The CDC has changed its mind and suggested that we all wear masks to provide some level of protection from COVID-19. A kerchief or homemade mask is fine (a few weeks ago, it was deemed useless), but we should save the truly protective masks for the medical professionals.

Today I went to Joann Fabrics to buy the makings for some masks. This was the line.

I was at the end of the line when I took the picture, and more people kept coming. After I’d stood in the cold 40-degree weather (wind chill in the low 30s), for about 25 minutes, an employee walked the line to inform us that (1) anyone who arrived after 2:00 p.m. (I arrived at 1:55) was not guaranteed to get into the store before closing at 4:00 p.m.; (2) they were out of fusible interfacing; and (3) there is no elastic in the store or online. At that point, several people (including me) left, so some of those who came after me could probably expect to get inside before closing.

I went to Wal-Mart and, even though they were admitting a limited number of customers, I walked right in. At least 3/4 of the shoppers were wearing face masks. I felt so unprotected!

So many people were buying fabric that the lady working the paint counter had a cutting mat at her station and was cutting fabric over there. I bought fabric and interfacing (there wasn’t much interfacing left), but was told there is no elastic in any store right now. I have several yards of elastic at home, but I bought some wide rubber bands in case I need more.

When I got home, I started making masks. Ted and I are now either protected or not, depending on what the CDC’s latest update is on the efficacy of homemade face masks.

Gerry Hofstetter is a light artist who is projecting images of support and hope on the Matterhorn during the coronavirus crisis.

This picture shows the city of Zermatt, Switzerland. The hotel where we stayed last summer is just out of sight at the lower right of the picture.

I was looking for a particular photo that I wanted to print, but I couldn’t find it, so I started opening folders I thought I might have moved it to. I never found that specific photo, but I found an interesting folder. Here are some of the pictures from that folder.

This is the most boring one to look at, but it was fun to read.

I think I took this picture in LaCrosse, WI. Ted and I were taking a walk after checking into our hotel and, when I saw this, I thought of Shel Silverstein’s book Where the Sidewalk Ends. This is the place.

Here’s some grocery store art I saw several years ago. Obviously, during the Christmas season. Construction materials: Pepsi, Coke, and Sprite cases.

I found this cartoon.

One of my teachers had this clock in her classroom.

My class site at Pike-Lincoln Technical Center in Eolia had a major fire in 2012. While I was helping my teacher inventory what was left of her classroom, she showed me this. She had a a bunch of red rulers rubber-banded together in a file drawer and they melted down to form this sculpture, which she told me she was going to save as a memento of the fire.

The pile of rulers was lying on its side on the bottom of the drawer and against one side of the drawer, so two sides of the “sculpture” are flat. The large flat side (back of the sculpture) shows the rubber band that survived on the bottom of the pile (you can see where it was in the picture above). It also shows that the melted plastic ran over a pencil and a ball point pen. The markings on the rulers are visible in both pictures. Cool!

This picture was taken at Christmas 2005. The kids were here for my doctoral graduation and someone (probably Kathy or me) gave Thom a Beethoven figure. Kathy and I thought it would be fun to let Beethoven play his “Moonlight Sonata” so we set up this photo op. I still smile when I see it. Maybe Kathy does too. (Remember phone books?)

Continuing the Beethoven theme, I saved another cartoon.

When Ted and I (and Jeff and Kathy) moved to Missouri in 1973, Ted’s office was at Lambert Airport. We bought a house in St. Charles rather than closer to the airport because we knew the STL WSFO (St. Louis Weather Service Forecast Office) was already under construction in St. Peters, a few miles west of St. Charles. At that time, St. Charles was basically a bedroom community for McDonnell-Douglas and St. Charles County was rural, with nothing but farmland and very small towns west of MO Hwy 94. It looked like the pictures below. When the St. Peters WSFO opened in 1974, Ted climbed the radar tower and took pictures of the Cave Springs area around the office.

This photo looks to the northwest. The horizontal road near the horizon (barely visible) is I-70; the diagonal road going to the left side of the photo is Jungermann Road. We moved from St. Charles to St. Peters in 1979 and it was still several years before I met more than two or three cars driving between home and Cave Springs on the two-lane Jungermann Road. Now it’s a 5-lane road and has constantly heavy traffic.

This view faces northeast. In the right center, the black-and-white striped Venture store sign is visible. When Venture was built, it was “out in the country” about six miles west of our house and there were no city lights past MO Hwy 94–just the darkness of rural Missouri. The city lights now extend westward without a break past Warrenton, 32 miles west of MO Hwy 94. In the right foreground, you can see the shadow of the radar tower where Ted is standing with his trusty Pentax camera that he bought in Japan. The WSFO moved from Cave Springs to Weldon Spring in 1993 when it upgraded to Doppler radar.

Here, Ted is facing southeast. When we decided to buy a larger house in 1979, we looked at one in the subdivision visible in the picture. The large building on the left is Cave Springs Lanes. The road running from the left side of the picture toward the lower right corner is Mexico Road. It was a gravel road when the WSFO opened. It’s a five-lane main arterial road now (and paved), and has been for a very long time. Cave Springs used to be described as having three main commercial buildings: The WSFO, the Venture store, and the bowling lanes. Now it’s a major commercial area, offering just about anything you might need. The WSFO building is currently being used by a department of the St. Peters city government. The Venture store was razed, and the site now houses a strip mall with an Office Depot, Northern Freight, Hobby Lobby, and some smaller stores. The bowling ally is still open for business.

The last photo from today’s search was a mystery to me for a few seconds. I’ll give you a moment to look at it and I’ll describe it below.

Those are my sunglasses lying on the poolside picnic table with a lawn chair behind them. They are reflecting the umbrella over the table.

So far, the extra free time I’m finding with the COVID-19 lockdown is still fun.

We scored today at Wal-Mart.

There was a limit of one each, but it wasn’t clear if a package of one roll of paper towels and a package of six rolls of paper towels were equally counted as one item. A small-size package of each item was sufficient for us.

P.S. I saw an article yesterday that many stores are already notifying customers that they will not give credit for critical items purchased during the COVID 19 crisis period. Those hoarders will be well-supplied with toilet paper and hand sanitizers for awhile.