In the news only days previously we had read the Canadian government’s advice to expatriates to return to Canada within ten days to avoid the risk of a border closing. We reasoned it would not in any event apply to Canadian citizens such as ourselves. The advice – which as I say we had initially esteemed permissive not mandatory – became incontrovertible upon receiving a subsequent notification from our vacation health care insurers that they intended to cancel coverage within the same timeline. Presumably the insurers relied upon a contractual exemption for pandemic infection since otherwise the unilateral termination would have been illegal. Our last health care bill in Florida in February 2017 had been in the vicinity of US$850,000 so it wasn’t a time for enquiry, debate or equivocation. Reluctantly – that is, with the instinct of escaping a collapsing roof – on Thursday, March 19th we ended our tenancy, closed our account with Florida Power & Light, packed up and precipitously left Longboat Key to commence our two-overnight and three-day motor vehicle trip northward to Canada. We arrived on Saturday, March 21st approximately one month earlier than planned. Within days we received an email from the Board of Directors of our Florida residence that the pool had been closed. Florida was shutting down as well. To have lingered would have proven anti-social quite apart from the pervasive isolation of humanity and services.
When crossing the border we had been told to quarantine for two weeks – this in spite of no evident signs of sickness. It wasn’t however until Tuesday next (March 24th) that I began my complete isolation. On the Sunday following our return home I gassed up the car; on Monday following I visited the car dealership to have the tyres pumped. It was only then I fully comprehended the necessity of unqualified isolation. The restrictive social-distancing which we had practiced on Longboat Key for weeks – while enthusiastic by local standards – clearly did not meet the Canadian model. This to my embarrassment. Though weeks earlier we had gleaned from email communications with friends that circumstances in Canada were being taken more aggressively than in the United States of America our transition from the Florida template was yet incomplete. I continued to construe isolation as social-distancing not entire quarantine – perhaps especially so because we had no signs of illness. It was also because I failed to recognize that my character had unwittingly changed overnight from that of a palatable resident to that of a diabolical foreign interloper. The shift to the new paradigm was further obstructed by our having come from what was then predominantly a benign region and which therefore gave at least the ephemeral impression of security.
Contrary to the quip about how time flies, the past week of self-isolation has been for me one of the longest on record. I won’t say it has been either boring or uncomfortable. And thanks to Baker Bob the meals have been superlative! But the limited scope of my occupation is evident. The repetition of my hobbies has become a default, not a prize.
Lest it were imagined that for some pie-in-the-sky reason I object to the triviality of my existence, it is not so! I am quite proud of my frivolousness. One of the remarkable and winning distinctions of retirement is the shamelessness which attends even blatant indolence. Never for example shall I say that chitter-chatter over the kitchen table is codswallop! The quarantine does however amount to the deprivation of driving my car (I could easily have added another 500kms by now) and getting it washed, bicycling down a country road (again, at least 10kms per day) and the social advantage of grocery shopping. I have similarly read of friends who miss going for coffee at the local shops; it is for the elderly a tradition equivalent to the morning constitutional.
The thorough knowledge I have garnered during the past week of isolation is no guarantee I shall survive the week that is to follow. It is new exploration. The term “stir-crazy” has arisen in my quieter moments. Thus far I have enabled myself to side-step that particular absorption. Instead I prefer to acquaint myself with less disturbing accompaniment – such as reading anything out of copyright, playing the piano, listening to Apple Music recommendations (“For You“) and wondering why Nanaimo Bars are so divine!