The Old Man & the Contact Tracer

I live in New Jersey and our Governor like most politicians has a Facebook Page. For reasons that are best visited in another post I avoid the page but sometimes I can’t help myself and I have to look.  I find I’m drawn to public Facebook pages lately and I consider that a bad thing.  Sometimes I drop a comment and sometimes I don’t.  But given people’s animosity towards one another these days, Facebook sometimes  tends to deepen my depression.  When I do laugh I’m surprised but recently I had a chuckle.

Our Governor wrote on Facebook one day about “contact tracing” and the need for people to cooperate. For those who don’t know about contact tracing, in involves  reaching out to the contacts of a person who tests positive for Covid-19 to let them know they may have been exposed.

I don’t go out much anyway. I am a contract worker in insurance and my work is strictly remote right now. I haven’t seen friends or relatives since February and we either order food delivery or  will go  food shopping once a week early on a weekday to avoid as many people as possible.  Once in awhile I take the garbage to the trash chute and pick up the mail early in the morning before anyone else is up in the apartment complex.  I make it a goal to avoid people in my complex, again a story for another post.

I got to thinking about my husband’s handling of telemarketers and how it would go if a contract tracer called our home phone (yes we still have a home phone mostly for telemarketers).

My husband is retired now. When telemarketers or unsolicited parties call he gives them such a runaround they terminate the conversation before he does. He has always been stubborn and somewhat ornery as a younger man but now that he is in his 60’s he is more ornery than ever. When the phone rings, I beg him to ignore it and sometimes he does listen by many times he picks up the phone anyway. I grimace and hover but it doesn’t help. If there’s a real live person on the line and not a robo call, I pity the person calling.

During one such call, a man claiming to be from our local hospital was making a pitch for a donation and my husband asked him why they need any money after they got so much from the government. Even when the man tried to explain to him that they received no government money my husband wouldn’t listen. When my husband told the man he’s retired and has no extra money the man recommended a monthly donation of $25.  My husband then asked the man how his $25 monthly donation would be spent. He kept the man on the phone for a good 20 minutes going back and forth. The man was so frustrated he told my husband he had other people to call and hung up.

So after this encounter, I gave it some thought and this is how I think  this would go if in fact a contact tracer or someone who claimed to be a contact tracer called here:

Tracer: “Sir, I am a contract tracer.  We reach out to people who may have been in physical contact with others who have the virus as part of your Governor’s initiative to stop the spread of Covid-19. Sir, you have tested positive for Coronavirus we need to confirm who you have been in contact with”

My husband: “How can I test positive when I haven’t been tested?”

Tracer:  “Oh sorry sir, a contact of yours has tested positive for Coronavirus”

My husband: “How can that be, I’m retired and I have no friends.”

Tracer: “Well we need to know who you have been in contact with.”

My husband: “Nobody”

Tracer: “Are you certain?”

My husband: “Well, there’s my wife but she doesn’t go out anymore”

Tracer: “And what’s her name”

My husband: “I’m not giving you her name. Please explain to me how this works again.”

Tracer: “Sir, I explained this to you when I first called”

My husband: “Oh I must have forgotten. My memory isn’t what it used to be please go over it again and I’ll try to pay attention”

Tracer: “Sir, we are reaching out to those who may have been exposed to the virus”

My husband: “Oh there’s still a virus? I don’t go out anymore and I  stopped watching the news awhile ago, too depressing”

Tracer: “Sir, your Governor requests that you cooperate with us, it’s your civic duty”

My husband: “Oh I really don’t like my Governor, but I am cooperating you just don’t understand what I’m saying”

Tracer: “No sir  you don’t understand what I’m saying”

My husband: “Oh we must have a bad connection then, I’ll hang up and you can call me back see if it’s any clearer.”

See, my husband retired last year with plans to spend most of his time enjoying his retrement and that includes fishing.  He hasn’t been fishing since Covid-19 started because many of the restrictions limit people on the piers where he likes to fish.  So having lively conversation with those making unsolicited calls will  likely be his entertainment while it lasts.

So I feel sorry for contact tracers if they call here.  Luckily we don’t go out much anymore.

Separated by 6 feet: Grocery Shopping during the Coronavirus.

A couple of months ago people joked about the Coronavirus. Then the virus landed in the US and so came the media’s viral panic, everyone flocked to the stores to buy bottled water, hand sanitizer, bleach, toilet paper etc. Shortly hand sanitizer was nowhere to be found unless you wanted to pay outrageous prices from third party sellers or wanted to attempt to make your own (neither advisable).

Politicians first gave uplifting speeches about how the virus could be managed. Wash your hands for 20 seconds, hand sanitizer only if you can’t get to a faucet,wipe down all surfaces, wear gloves etc, don’t travel if you are ill, don’t travel to effected countries, think twice before taking that cruise, be smart and be diligent. Later the messages became scarier and more severe. large gatherings were discouraged then canceled, ordering groceries online was no longer for convenience. More cases in more states.

There was the deployment of the National Guard in New Rochelle. parades and gatherings cancelled. College and professional sports games played to empty stadiums then cancelled seasons. Major League Baseball cancelled Spring Training games and postponed opening day. Churches cancelled Mass and other events.

Schools closed for cleaning and some”indefinitely” and switched to a remote schedule. We were told that we should stay in, work from home and order what we needed online. If we had to go out we needed to socially distance ourselves keeping 6 feet of separation between us and other people. Not everyone respects someone’s space and for them its no different in a Pandemic.

Today I went grocery shopping with my husband. Online shopping slots were sold out for this week so we decided to go this morning. We thought this would be a quick trip on a Friday. Not so. The store was a madhouse! Parking was difficult to find and I witnessed arguments over parking spaces. My husband managed however to find a space.

Inside people displayed the usual rudeness I find with large crowds lately but with the added edge of rudeness to people who coughed or sneezed. These same people never gave anyone space and were right on the heels of that person and others walking down the grocery aisles and cut in front of others to get the last item on the shelf. I wore gloves, I had a mini hand sanitizer in my purse (my husband warned me not to say that too loud lest I get mugged for my sanitizer-even now he says that this is not a joke)when taking off the gloves.

I tried but nowhere could I find an area to stay 6 feet away from anyone. At the deli counter, people crowded into one another waiting to order. The aisles were filled with people. Maybe I could stay 3 feet apart there but 6 was not to be.

In the grocery lines people were right on top of one another. There was no way to move 6 feet away from someone without blocking the aisles. One person joked that 6 feet of separation in the grocery store was impossible on any day and I have to agree.

Overall I got my food shopping done in a little under 2 hours, got our car out of the parking lot without any incident and headed straight home where I will stay for the rest of the day. I’m just glad I got my food shopping done unscathed. Stay safe everyone.

My Apartment Life

Today we had a fire alarm go off in our apartment complex. There was no fire thank goodness but after interacting with a few of the neighbors it reminded us that this complex is the last place we want to be long term. I’m home now between my contract assignments and my husband is retired so the alarm caught us in lounge clothes after lunch. Luckily it was not in the shower. After exiting the door, we gravitated to the front of the complex and watched as the other tenants who are home during the day exited the building. Many of the people looked right through us many gravitated to their own groups. We offered help but noone else did. One woman at the end of the hall looked right through me as she gathered her car keys and folders and snuck out the side door on her way to work. Sadly that’s the norm here and I am not surprised.

So we are going on one year of an 18 month lease and I’m counting down the 6 remaining months. After selling our home of 25 years last year and the new owners practically pushing us outside the door, in a whirlwind of stress and activity, we wound up in an apartment complex, a multiplex (the only available apartment before our closing) with people above to the side across and below us. The hallways sometimes look like a scene from out of “The Shining” especially early in the morning or late at night (oh the horror of it all!) and lets just say people above us are inconsiderate as evidenced by my ongoing saga of the noise from above.

Even with the high rent which has turned out to be 1 and 1/2 times my mortgage (for which family and friends have chastised me) sadly enough, we pay for parking (between my husband son and I we have 3 cars) water, electric and garbage. We thought spending this much money we wouldn’t have to worry about issues such as noise a dirty trash room and packages that disappeared, rude neighbors etc but no such luck. We can’t even get food delivery to our door(2nd floor middle apartment)which makes no sense since we have never had a problem getting food delivered to a hotel room on the 4th floor.

We managed to work through some of the issues, but the noise continues. You never think that this will happen to you and are disappointed when it does.

The noise has now been going on for almost 12 months of an 18 month lease ( I know what were we thinking?). After going through two property managers, we have gotten nowhere. The most recent one telling us a couple of months ago that this apartment living as if we were too naive to comprehend it. The two options we were given: 1. go to court with them to have the tenant upstairs evicted which seemed extreme or 2. break our lease without penalty only if we move within 30 days. Neither option was acceptable for us at this time so here we sit listening to the noise overhead drowning it out as best we can (ear plugs at night and a large box fan work well) and just hoping these people get tired of it so that we can have some peace at least until we’re able to move.

We are no strangers to neighbors from hell. When we owned our home, we had a 5 year saga with a woman and her children ending with their eventual eviction only after the home was condemned.

When we sold our home last year an apartment seemed like a good idea. We were no strangers to apartment living. Unfortunately some of the issues we have encountered are causing us to look forward to moving again and, even though we thought we wouldn’t consider it, possibly buying another smaller home.

The people above us are neighbors from hell and managment allows their bad behavior. And so it appears that neighbors from hell come in many shapes and sizes and are everywhere. This unfortunately is my apartment life until the next chapter.

4 walls, a door and T-Rex stomping overhead.

Last year we sold our home of 25 years and moved to an apartment. Every time I told someone our house sold, I received congratulations but what I was looking for was condolences. While the circumstances that lead to the sale of our home seemed meant to be, in the end, I regretted the sale and wished I had never signed that Real Estate contract on the dotted line.

Our home with all it’s imperfections sold within 3 months and there was a firm closing date that had us stressed and scrambling to find a place to live that wouldn’t break the bank before we had some money from the home sale.

Our adult son decided he was not much for living on his own and was willing to become a roommate and share a portion of the rent. So we found a 2 bedroom apartment in the area. One that while it was expensive, didn’t need much down, one that we could move into right away. To save money we signed an 18 month lease. It was move in ready 2 weeks before closing which allowed us time to move so it seemed perfect.

I’ve learned in life that nothing is perfect. The noise was only minor in the beginning. Sounded like someone on a stair stepper or rolling a ball against the wood floor for half an hour in the evening. We shrugged it off. As we settled in the person above appeared unhappy we were beneath him and the stomping became more pronounced.

Normal living noise is acceptable. What is not acceptable and has not been acceptable is the ongoing noise they make. Constant and pervasive until the late hours of the evening and the early hours of the morning. This has been going on since the week we moved in almost 6 months ago. It’s something they tell us that they aren’t doing (with a smirk on their faces) and later when the noise continues 24/7, they tell the landlord it isn’t them. We are starting to think we have made a huge mistake and are sorry we signed an 18 month lease. But we have to weather it for now and do our time so we drown it out with an air purifier, ocean sounds and for me ear plugs.

Funny thing about apartment living,you either love it or you hate it. There doesn’t seem to be an in between. Especially in an apartment complex. I hate it and won’t renew this lease if I can help it. We will move and this upstairs neighbor can torment the next group of people.

We sold our home. If I could go back in time and stop us from doing it I would. We didn’t think anyone would buy our house. It was old and needed work. We were wrong.

Selling our house? Yes we are!

24 years ago my husband and I bought the house we live in now in northern New Jersey. A small house on the corner, it was supposed to be our starter home. The goal was to work on it and move out in 10 years. Well we did some work and things happened and more work had to be done then the housing market crashed and so we remain here 24 years later.

My husband retires next year and money is beyond tight right now when you factor in household maintenance, the taxes and the multitude of things that can go wrong, it makes sense to sell the house as is and hopefully walk away with our shirts. Unlike others we have nothing extra to rely on. No family and no stash of cash somewhere.

We have almost paid the house off, our claim to fame is that we pay our bills and on time. What did it get us? More debt to make sure the house stayed in good shape more stress trying to keep our heads above water. So moving seemed the right thing to do but after 24 years is such a chore after all.

So the end of April we put the house on the market with a pretty good Realtor. He was optimistic. As is he said, it will sell and for our area it seemed likely. We had a lot of interest. I was fielding Realtor calls daily and sometimes late at night. That and work had me stressed to the max.

We almost had the house sold then the buyer got cold feet after attorney review. Old house = a lot of work go figure. So he bailed and we almost did too.

We pulled the house off the market. Our panic got the best of us. We have no money for repairs. What were we thinking? We talked it out. Hey we could pay the house in less than 5 years and either live in it or sell it then. Or take a construction loan and work on it but do we really want to do this? Well, no, we need to move on.

The house remains on the market and we did do a few minor repairs. Hopefully this will work out this time. If it doesn’t? Well God has a plan after all I’m sure and hopefully we will have another home.

New job not a good fit.

Well, I’ve been bad about blogging I know but I have a good excuse. I haven’t blogged for awhile because I started a new job over a month ago.

I truly wish I could say I love it and that it will provide me with professional growth  but alas,  that is not the case.  I am 54 years old, a time when I should be into my second act but unfortunately I wasn’t done with my first. This job has opened my eyes. It has suddenly dawned on me in my current state of despair that for all the complaints I had, my career choice (insurance) was, in fact, my passion.

So here I am doing a job that is outside of my field, losing my skills  and brain cells, one  at a time, with a company that is the definition of micromanagement on steroids .  There are strict time constraints and long hours too.  This is not going over well with my elderly mother when I told her I am no longer at her beck and call (the only benefit to this job as I see it)  Doctor’s appointments and unplanned car repairs or illness (mine or my family’s) must wait for those 90  probationary  days to be over and even then it’s tentative at best.

That aside I thought I was doing pretty well.  Accepting my lot in life but then my 30 day review came back  with “critical points to consider” and while I am open to criticism, this was over the top. I’m an “Introductory Employee”, not temp not perm but all employees are treated like children so I do see this is a trend with this company.   My manager is clearly a person  who is trying too hard to justify her position with a person too new to make waves.

So I signed the review and made a goal to “get out of Dodge” and updated my resume this weekend.  I’m searching for a new job in my field. I need the pay check for now so I will show up and do the job and will find a new one hopefully soon.



Winter of My Discontent

I was born in mid January during a major snow storm in 1964.  My mother likes to tell that story whenever the occasion arises usually around my birthday.  The story has morphed over time but as my mother tells it, she went into labor the day before, the forecast was for snow what came was a Northeaster with 40 mph winds and snow in excess of a foot in some areas, 2 in others.   She and my father lived in a rural area at the time where you drove a distance to pick up milk so getting to the hospital would be a lengthy trip, the snow making it harder.

My father got  stuck more than once but they made it  and the next day in the morning I was born. My mother usually includes in the story, the horrible labor she had with me but what stands out is the snow storm and my father’s cursing the snow as he navigated the winds and snow drifts to successfully get my mother to the hospital.

I have never been much of a winter person. Ironic since I was born in winter.   I didn’t hate winter as a child  but as I got older and had to drive to my destinations, I liked it less and less.  There is nothing that will sour your love of snow than get stuck in a snow drift.

The effort involved in clearing the snow and navigating the roads slowly in the winter seems too much these days.  My husband works most snow storms and as he gets older he hates the winters too.  We both dream of a warm destination for retirement which for me is a long way off and for him a bit closer.

This winter has been the winter of my discontent.  In addition to the cold temperatures furnace problems and high electric bills, I have been unemployed since July.  The reason for my unemployment was the ending of a long term contract assignment coinciding with the care taking of an  elderly parent which is a thankless job in and of itself.

My job search resulted no offers and there was no replacement contract work. So to pay the bills I accepted a  job that requires overtime during a time in my life when  I was hoping to have more free time.  Beggars can’t be choosers as they say and I have been out of work for 6 months with no offers within my industry so when they asked me if  weekend overtime would be a problem, I said no and so got the job.

As I write this I am savoring my last day of freedom.  Part of me wants to run away from all the responsibility but the other part knows that is not an option for me.

A few months ago, I would have said at that second interview that overtime would be an issue that I would prefer to come in earlier and leave earlier instead of working their core hours which puts me in heavy traffic on the way to and from.  But that was then and this is now and right now I need a job in an economy that favors employers and saying that would have resulted in my continued unemployment which is not an option.

The winter isn’t over.  We have milder weather right now where I am on the East Coast  but I am sure the cold temperatures  and snow will be coming back before winter turns to spring.   My new employer asked me at that last interview if I can drive in snow. They were concerned that I may call out in the event of a snow storm and they made it clear that would not be acceptable.  I have driven in blizzards so I told them honestly that yes I can drive in snow.  In my mind I am cringing because I know I don’t want to.  Ah, the winter of my discontent.  And so it goes.


Writing in a world of confusion.

This is my first post of 2018.  I realize we are on day 8 of the new year but I haven’t felt much like writing.  It’s not that I have no ideas, I have plenty. Putting them down on paper  or on the computer screen as the case may be is the thing I have trouble doing.

I don’t think that I am that great a writer anymore. I used to be years ago but have somehow lost that flair.  Years in the corporate world and watching the world  we live in evolve into something I no longer recognize has made it difficult to gather my thoughts.  I know that I had an opinion once, that I was not afraid of what other’s thought.   When I find a box of old essays and stories or letters to the editor that I have written in the past, I am in awe of the writer I was the power that resonated in those words in print. That girl….or woman does not seem to exist anymore.

As a teenager I wrote short stories and plays. My papers were given A’s and B’s, my articles were published in the school paper. Now  in my mid 50’s that part of my life has faded away and changed shape,   but  I  know it’s true, that I did write with conviction, because I have a box with a few of those clippings and reports/essays.

My desire to write comes from my father.  He was a lawyer and a talented writer.  He  was politically outspoken. In addition to his short stories and legal correspondence, he also wrote letters to the editor that  resulted in  back and forth battles in the paper.  He was never afraid of what he put in print of the repercussions. He believed in free speech at any cost and he had strong opinions.  Sometimes his children  paid the price in the form of bullying.

So taking a page from his playbook, I wrote putting my own opinion out there with my heart on my sleeve.  Sometimes I was published sometimes I was not.  But times have changed and now I am cautious about what I put out there for anyone to read.

The world is confusing now. It is not a place I recognize anymore.  Free speech is a matter of perspective.  I begin to type but then think the better of what I will put down for people to see and delete it.  I start again only to change the words. in wanting everyone’s approval,  I  don’t see my talent as a writer anymore. I need to get through this to put the words on paper.  Perhaps the talent is only buried.  That remains to be seen.

Tipping the Holiday Anxiety

It’s the most stressful time of the year for many reasons. Tipping being one of them. For the past few years I’ve not been myself, I’ve been caring for an elderly parent and  the stress  manifested itself in a depressing holiday season. I used to be the one shouting Merry Christmas and excitedly giving people a holiday tip or gift with a smile on my face, now I’m anxiously trying to figure out what to give the garbage men and how it will effect our service if I can’t give much. This year has been a financially difficult one.

In response to the downturn in our personal economy we have canceled many unnecessary services and will be downgrading a few more come January 1st. Sad but necessary. We have stopped going out to eat and we haven’t ordered take out in awhile. We make no unnecessary trips to the store and my hair was last cut in September and I color it at home.   I’m going to grow it out for winter.

I’ve eliminated much of the tipping anxiety by canceling services I no longer need but there are a couple left.

With regard to mail delivery   I never know who is actually delivering the mail on any given day so tipping can be confusing.  I’ve left candy and cookies at certain times and a small gift card and  I may still do that if they put the holiday card in the mail box. Most times though they won’t take anything  anyway (policy) which is a bit of a relief this year.

We pay over $600 a year for garbage pick up to a third party company as our town doesn’t provide trash pick up. There are now only two guys on the truck, the driver and the guy on the back. I feel that they deserve our appreciation for the work they do and I always try to give them something.  I used to leave cookies on top of the can but they usually ignored them.  The same with any cards with cash attached to the can. It’s a wonder nobody else took the money. The past several years I’ve been able to meet them before I left for work or when I’ve been home and have given $20 each in a card. The crew that did our pick up for years retired or were reassigned this past year and there are new guys on the truck but they still do a good job.  And although money is extremely tight this year I will tip but it will be $10 each instead of the usual $20.

Recycling is picked up every two weeks by our town but my son takes his recycling to work now so we only fill  half a can. There is only one guy on the truck and I was going to give him something  but I missed him. I’ll  try at the next pick up if I have it.

Other services? Well  we don’t have any and that’s a good thing this year.  I hope things are better in 2018.

Moving On: relocate

For the first 9 years of our marriage my husband and I moved 4 times.    Because we rented we had no ties and thus had the freedom to move when our lease was up.  We did not to have to deal with difficult neighbors or other issues for more than a finite period of  time. We didn’t have many bills back then either so not much to change our address on. Relocation was easier then.   But then we bought our  house and we stopped moving completely.  We became  trapped.

We have been in our home over 24 years now and dealt with catastrophes and problem neighbors with nothing to show for it except declining house values and more debt and more problem neighbors.  Our house is in need of work again and with no money and no motivation to do it we are  putting  a bandages on issues we would normally jump right in to repair. Nothing major mind you but I can’t be certain that if something major were to arise that I would not put a tarp over it.    The story goes: Young happy couple buys fixer upper fixes house,  saves rest for later years,  middle aged couple deals with major repairs that take life savings and equity and only a few years later older couple throws in towel……. and hopes for the best.

I’m unemployed right now  and  my husband is going to retire soon. On his retirement we can afford a modest apartment and one car so it looks like we will be downsizing sooner rather than later if I don’t find a local job.  We will likely not get near enough for this house in it’s present condition but it doesn’t matter.  I  want to walk away, to start fresh, even if it means going broke  to do it.  I  want neighbors that care and bills that are manageable and I would rather rent than own in this downtrodden economy.

So, if all goes well,  in the coming year  we will sell our house, change our address, settle all our accounts. And through a change of location we may find happiness again. But we are definitely renting this time.

via Daily Prompt: Relocate