Pandemic Day 312

I count.

Asked how I’m dealing with the pandemic, I rarely admit this truth. That my coping mechanism for things I can’t control is to count. To track. To schedule.

Because it sounds a little weird, don’t you think?

I remember 30 years ago, crawling into the passenger seat to drive to the grocery store with my father-in-law. He adjusted the driver’s seat, started the car, and then scribbled a note on a piece of paper he’d pulled from the cupholder in his door.

“What did we forget? Ice cream?” I asked. Looked like the grocery list to me.

Not likely. My wife’s parents were starting to forget things, but not when it came to the core essentials: ice cream, mixed nuts, and red wine.

“It’s my seat tracker,” Edward answered. “I log how many times I drive with the seat in each position. Forward. Back. Forward recline. Back recline. Up, down…you know, so I make sure and use them all equally.”

I often recall this incident to rationalize my current behavior. I share it with you to demonstrate self-awareness. I know what weird looks like.

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And it’s not that I didn’t gravitate toward a routine before the pandemic. I spent 30 years and one month in the Air Force. Some of the time, I was responding with a “checked, checked, checked,” to the copilot’s checklist queries. Most of the time, I sat behind my desk (or a folding table under a tent while in the desert) and put X’s in the little boxes I’d made on my long “to-do” lists. Just a diagonal if I’d started an item but not finished it.

Not weird. Meticulous.

Then, boom. Retirement and a pandemic hit like a one-two combo. The retirement punch hadn’t been an issue. I started helping with my boys’ wrestling club, joined Chaffee County Search & Rescue, and, after a severe arm-twist, won an election for a board position on our homeowner’s association (unopposed—imagine that!). Enough involvement to keep from being one of those post-retirement heart attack statistics.

But that second punch? The pandemic? Oof! Houston, we have a problem.

It isn’t like our family feels we can’t do anything. We do tons. We hike. We climb mountains, we fixed up the camper van and use it. A lot. The problem is that at the end of the day, I pull up my news feed (which so conveniently remembers the news I tend to read) and none of that news is good. And there is nothing I can do about it.

When I worked, I felt like I had a micro influence on the rest of the world. When I retired, I felt like I had a micro influence on my community. During the pandemic? Feeling kind of powerless.

So, I count. And track. And schedule.

My 2020 day planner will surely inspire in my grandkids the same kind of strange look I initially gave my father-in-law after the “seat tracker” incident.

– 41 fishing trips—165 fish caught*

– 10 14er’s climbed

– 33 nights in the camper

– 22 Search & Rescue calls

– 15 snowshoe hikes

And the list continues. You get the point, even without me adding in our miles hiked, ping pong games, tennis matches with my wife (hard to track victories on that one…), etc.

Day planners aren’t a problem, right? But I’ve moved my 2020 data over to a spreadsheet on the computer. I’ve got 2021 set up in the same template with the same categories as last year. And a few more. Aiming to break some of 2020’s records.

So, when people ask how I’m dealing with the pandemic and all, I give them my stock answer.

“Enjoying the time with the family.”

But now you know the truth.

I count.

* Note for the game warden and math majors—most trips included my boys!

Cam Torrens recently retired from the US Air Force and lives in Buena Vista, Colorado.