Eavesdropping and emotional noise

Lots of Teams and Zoom meetings this week. I do enjoy seeing other faces because I am rather isolated working at home. From my desk in the downtown office I was able to overhear activities and conversations and get a general feel for what is going on. And I never realized how valuable a source of information that is until I started working from home. My boss is pretty easy to work for and I have no major complaints — but he does not share much with me so I only know what is going on with our department from conversations overhead over the cubicle wall. Working from home, I am in the dark about a lot of things.

Outside of work, I also seem to rely on overhearing conversations. Whenever I chat with other people who live in my apartment building, I am stunned at how much they know about planned building maintenance and policy changes, long before I get an official announcement in the mail. Where do they get this stuff from? And they always seem to be on first-name terms with people who I have hardly ever met. Amazing! So when I notice two or more people having a lengthy discussion outside, I am often tempted to eavesdrop in case it is something I might need to know about.

When I read our local community blog, which actually serves as the local newspaper (it is operated by two professional journalists with decades of experience covering Seattle news in print, radio and TV media and is excellent as a news source), I do actually read the comment threads. I know some people consider that a waste of time. Just read the article and ignore the comments which are just full of idiotic remarks from people with nothing better to do. Well, I find it useful to get a barometer of the overall reaction to a piece of news. For example, whenever a new Covid-19 measure is implemented, I obviously need to know what is expected of me. But it is equally important for me to be able to assess the level of potential anger out there — so that I can perhaps avoid public places where confrontations might be expected.

Perhaps eavesdropping allows me to anticipate the level and nature of emotional noise that I will have to contend with. Emotional noise has been a big challenge during the pandemic. Even though things appear to have returned to normal operations in Seattle, albeit with an indoor-mask mandate, they do not feel normal. I was enjoying visiting coffee shops and bars for a few months — when people were able to sit outside and I had plenty of space inside. But now that the summer weather is gone, more people are sitting inside — and bars and restaurants are now required to check for proof of vaccination. So I am not going out to pubs anymore. Witnessing a confrontation between staff and customer would spoil the experience.

However, yesterday I found myself in a Starbucks where the emotional noise was surprisingly comfortable. I had ordered my latte and pastry via the mobile app and was prepared to take it somewhere else. But there were plenty of empty tables so I decided to stay. In one corner was a young woman working on a laptop (it looked like she was studying rather than casual browsing.) At the next table was another young woman with a little girl. The little girl was enjoying looking through a picture book. And closer to me was an elderly man who had brought a chunky hard-back book but spent about twenty minutes scrolling on his smartphone before putting it away and just looking out the window — which is what I was doing. There was a steady stream of customers coming in and going out. It reminded me of the energy I reliably encountered in coffee shops twenty years ago. It is nice to know that pockets of such energy can still emerge and survive for an hour or so — so I guess I will just enjoy it when I can find it!

October all year round

Today was Labor Day, the last holiday of American summer, and the weather was perfect in Seattle. I enjoyed a long walk along the waterfront of West Seattle, looking across Elliott Bay to downtown Seattle. Although there were a few masks in sight, you could almost imagine that there had never been a pandemic and that this was a normal holiday.

Many years ago, I worked at a gift shop in Pioneer Square. And on Labor Day, the crowds would be thick everywhere you went. Long lines for coffee and takeout food. Underground Tour participants taking up all the space at intersections. And lots of people milling about in our store. And then if the Mariners were playing, there was the baseball crowd on top of that. It was always utter mayhem!

Looking across to the Smith Tower, I could imagine that same mayhem today. Perhaps it really is different now. But I was glad to not have to be over there anyway. The place I worked at still exists, and it was hard enough in those days to get customers to cooperate with our request that food and drinks not be brought into the store. It is amazing how many people get quite emotionally unhinged when told they can not do something. I would hate to have to be policing masks. Although Seattle is operating under minimal restrictions, indoor mask mandates were reinstated a couple of weeks ago.

Labor Day ushers in my favorite time of year. I make no secret of the fact that I really do not care for summer. It is not just the heat that bothers me, but the late sunsets. We can still get a heatwave in September, but it is much less likely AND the sun sets well before 8pm, so hot days cool off more quickly. So I go from my least favorite part of the year (June/July/August) to my favorite part of the year (Sept/Oct/Nov/Dec) in the space of a few days.

Then in January begins my second least favorite part of the year (January/February). But this has nothing to do with the weather. It is just that in my job, I get bombarded with really annoying reporting tasks as we close out the old year. AND, I have to gear up for filing incoming taxes, something I dread even though my taxes are fairly simple. My impaired executive function fails me frequently at this time. Anyway, I always try to get my taxes filed by the end of February. And then I have March, April and May to enjoy (sort of) before the dreaded summer returns.

I really wish it could be October all year round.

Normal Saturday

Washington State lifted all COVID-19 restrictions on June 30. So for the last two weekends, my Seattle neighborhood has largely reopened for business. And I have been most happy to resume my Saturday visit to a taproom. It has actually been open for several months under capacity and social distancing restrictions, but that meant limited seating at tables for four. And as I am usually a party of one, I don’t feel comfortable taking up a table by myself. But now, the stools are back at the bar and along the perimeter shelves — and I have been able to take up my favorite perch from where I can see the whole bar area, the TV, and the street outside.

Social distancing was actually hard on us parties of one because so much casual seating was done away with in order to provide adequately spaced tables for groups.

The last time I was in this pub, before the COVID-19 shutdown of March 2020, I was waiting on the results of my autism diagnosis. So last weekend was my first back in my old routine since the diagnosis.

Nothing has changed. I still feel like I don’t quite fit in — that I will never be one of the regulars. But I am no longer going to let that spoil the experience. Every once in a while, I do manage to have an enjoyable conversation with a stranger. I don’t think that will happen today. But I have my phone — so can pass the time blogging.

Time well spent

There was a time I headed out each day with only what would fit in the pockets of my coat (in winter) or a small bag (in summer). That amounted to not much more than wallet, keys, cellphone, lip balm and a piece of facial tissue. If I went to a coffee shop, I had no book to read or notebook to write in. This was when laptops weighed as much as eight pounds and before coffee shops had WiFi — and before cellphones were smart. So I would sit and drink coffee and do nothing for the most part. If someone had discarded a newspaper I might pick it up and read.

If I was at a seat in the window, I watched the world outside. If I was near the counter, I watched the staff work and enjoyed the sounds of grinding beans and steaming milk. I eavesdropped on conversations and occasionally took part in one myself. And I did the same thing in pubs when I went for a pint if there was not the distraction of sports on TV. And not once did I ever feel I was wasting time.

Sometime in the last fifteen years I got the idea that time in coffee shops and pubs should be put to some productive use: read a novel; write a short story; write a blog; do some artwork; learn a new skill; write some code; build an application; or at least scroll through Twitter or explore some place with Google Earth. So I started carrying more items with me: books, notebooks, art supplies, e-reader, laptop, iPad — and I had a smartphone to fall back on. So, I always had something to do in a coffee shop or pub — something to make it appear less obvious that I was really just there for a social experience, even it amounted to nothing more than people-watching and eavesdropping. And I also needed to carry a larger bag.

But the Covid-19 restrictions ended my coffee shop/pub habit. I still go out for coffee, but seating is limited inside and weather is not always cooperative for doing anything outside other than simply drinking the coffee. Only recently have my favorite pubs resumed serving customers on premises and most of the seating is on wobbly folding chairs and tables outside.

When the first lockdown started a year ago, I quickly realized I could downsize to a smaller bag. Coffee shops were not filling reusable cups, so that was one less thing to carry with me. Supermarkets were not bagging groceries in reusable bags. Ditto. I was doing all my work at home so there was no need to carry a laptop. It was really nice to carry a smaller bag again.

Now that things are starting to open up, I have decided to revisit my old habit of doing nothing over coffee or a pint. This week I found one of my favorite pubs quiet as I was walking by — so I took the opportunity to enjoy a pint at a table in the window that was fully wide open. I had my phone with me, so I could have amused myself with it, but I let it stay in my bag. I was obviously alone and at a loose end. But I decided not to care about being judged in any way. I was enjoying a rather delicious cider while watching the world outside and inside. I did not produce anything. I did not learn anything. I did not improve myself in any way. I just enjoyed some time out out in the world amongst people.

Sometimes you just need to give yourself permission.

Anniversaries

Here in the USA, March 11 was marked as the official anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic. This month, I am also marking the first anniversary of my autism diagnosis.

March 2020 was a very strange month to be taken up with a diagnosis! I had a series of three appointments, one week apart. And I had quite a lengthy bus ride to get to them, involving my usual bus commute into downtown Seattle followed by a longer bus ride to Bellevue on the East Side; and then a thirty-minute walk to an office park that is not served by transit. But it was a very enjoyable walk.

The day of the first appointment, things were still almost normal. I got to my appointment far too early, because I had allowed myself plenty of time to miss a bus, a bus to be cancelled, or me to get completely lost — or all three! But there was a coffee shop where I was able to kill time with a latte and a donut while enjoying watching ducks on a pond. And when I got back into Seattle later on, I was able to go the library and check out a book that the psychologist had suggested.

The following week, there were far fewer people on each bus I rode. And the coffee shop was still open, but much quieter, and it had been rearranged a bit to encourage social distancing. The third week, I was one of only three people on the bus into Seattle, and the bus to Bellevue was equally quiet. At the office park, the coffee shop was closed, so I had to kill time taking a walk in the lovely spring weather. The office park was largely deserted and I was very gratified that my appointment had not been cancelled — as this was the day I was to get my diagnosis.

Riding back into Seattle, now officially confirmed as autistic, I realized how different the world was going to be from now on. If this appointment had been just a week earlier, I would have stopped at my favorite pub to mark the occasion with a pint of cider while reading my library book. But all such establishments had been shut down as of the previous Tuesday. The day after my diagnosis was a Friday. I went to work as usual — but I started WFH on Monday.

Today I went into the office. It was not the first time since last March. I went downtown back in August for a medical appointment and stopped by the office for a few hours. But it was the first time I revisited my old familiar routine. It was a lovely spring morning and the snow on the Olympic Mountains was tinged with pink in the morning sun. The bus ride to downtown seemed almost normal, other than the lack of a crowd. And although a lot of businesses downtown, especially restaurants, are closed down and some are even boarded up, the few blocks I walked from the bus to the office were not that different than I remembered. And when I got to my desk, I found it pretty much as I left it. When my boss came in, we had a long chat. There were not many people in, but it was really nice to chat in person after a year of Teams meetings and emails. I did not take any lunch with me, so in the early afternoon I ordered a latte and scone from a nearby Starbucks with the app and went out to pick it up. My commute home seemed almost normal too — other than the almost empty bus and the speed with which I got home with no traffic congestion to navigate. I think Metro drivers must be having to pay serious attention to avoid running too far ahead of schedule!

It all went far more easily than I expected — and part of me actually thinks I should resume going in, at least a couple of days a week. But I have come to rather love my WFH routine, with my cat and BBC Radio for company. I have just bought a portable monitor for a second screen, something I should have done months ago! And my boss said I could have a new laptop for home if I want.

But something has been niggling at me all day. And I have only just figured it out. My old routine, one I had been following for several years, ended abruptly with my autism diagnosis. My new WFH routine is part of my new life identifying as an autistic person. And I do not think I could just go back to my old routine. It no longer fits.

It is something for me to think about as things start to open up. Vaccinations have been going reasonably well in Seattle. The governor of Washington State has ordered schools to plan for reopening. And restrictions elsewhere are being relaxed. It would absolutely be possible for me to resume my old way of life later this summer.

But I do not think that is what I really want.

Toxic Mauve

The Solar Eclipse of 2017 is a somewhat sorrowful event to look back on. I viewed it from Seattle, where it was not quite total. I took the day off work so that I could make an occasion of it anyway. I live down at sea level and woke to a thick fog. But I had time to walk uphill and inland to get above it. I enjoyed the spooky light and all the crescent-shaped shadows cast by tree foliage. When it was over, I went to my favorite pub where I watched news coverage of the eclipse as the area of totality drifted eastward. It was a wonderful day.

I think it was perhaps the last day I woke up not feeling dark and depressed.

A few days after the eclipse, I dreamed I was waiting for the bus to go to work. It was not a lucid dream, but I think the fact that I was dreaming about waiting for the bus just a couple of hours before I actually would be made it seem very real.

It was a calm morning and I enjoyed looking out across Puget Sound. It was foggy on the other side — but that is normal. But then the fog seemed to take on a life of its own. It started to advance quickly towards me — not the way fog usual creeps in — but more like a vapor cloud released in an explosion. It was a rather sinister mauve color (pinkish-purple) — and I had the impression it was highly toxic and would kill anyone in its path.

I heard the sound of the bus coming and was suddenly frantic that it might arrive ahead of the fog — so that I might be safe inside the bus. But when the bus rounded the corner, it went straight on down into the water. I tore across the street to investigate — but the bus was already almost submerged. Only the rear-right corner of the roof was above the water. A search-and-rescue team was already at work and divers were surrounding the bus. Someone told me there was nothing I could do to help. I realized the mauve fog was gone. And someone told me that it had not been coming for me.

Ever since, I have really felt that nothing good will ever happen again — to anyone. And most mornings, I wake up wishing I had not — although the feeling does pass if I do not succumb to it. I was feeling this way long before the Covid-19 pandemic began.

A couple of nights ago, I dreamed I was looking out across the water. And I saw the mauve fog out there in the distance. But it stayed where it was.

Too much to ask?

This morning I read in the news about the nursing home in Belgium where twenty-six people have died since a visit from Santa before Christmas. This was after reading about how hospitals in various major cities are overwhelmed with Covid-19 admissions.

And I am getting sadder and more angry each day.

I feel so bad for people whose lives have been completely upended by this pandemic; people who have had no income since March; people who have continued to go to their essential jobs, risking exposure, and then coming home to overcrowded homes where social distancing is impossible; people unable to feed their families and facing possible eviction. And that is before we get to those who have lost loved ones to the disease.

Some of us have been more fortunate. We still have jobs — and many of us can work from home. We can enjoy takeout food and online shopping. We can binge-watch shows on Netflix while enjoying craft beer poured from take-out growlers. When my stimulus check arrives I can choose to donate the full amount to a food bank because I still have a paycheck. So why do some of us still insist on jeopardizing the well-being of other people by traveling or engaging in spreading behaviors?

Was it really so important to have a normal Christmas? Or to go skiing in Switzerland? Or party on the beach in Sydney, Australia? Or get a visit from Santa?

Daily, I read that people are fatigued from Covid-19 restrictions and just want some normalcy for a while. I understand that. I miss my old life sometimes. But we are dealing with the reality of a highly contagious disease that does not care about Christmas or normalcy or family parties.

In my more cynical moments, I wonder if we should just accept the mounting death toll as unavoidable — one of those mortality events that punctuates nature every now and then and makes a dent in the population — as long as people insist on being people. Perhaps they are being asked to do the impossible. Perhaps not getting to spend time with people is harder than I realize.

Human beings are highly social creatures and the need to congregate in groups has been credited with the success of the species. But perhaps this urgent need for each other will precipitate the downfall of the species.

In Western culture, we are definitely encouraged to see ourselves as individuals. But we are never really given the tools to manage being alone for a while (although some of us autistic people learn to do this from necessity.) At the end of the day, even the most staunch and defiant individual needs their loved ones.

The bad news, the bad news, the bad news, and the good news

Doom-scrolling has been a bad habit of mine for years. I no longer use social media, but I can kill a lot of time in the Apple News app. And because I am the kind of person to “lean into” topics that scare me instead of running away from them, my Apple News feed is always full of things that scare me! This is not good for an autistic person with high levels of anxiety.

The problem is, bad news has a way of coming all at once. When a company is losing money and needs to reduce its workforce, it typically lays off people in the thousands and it makes a big headline: ACME To Lay Off 20,000. But when things turn around at ACME and they start hiring again, it is a handful of people at a time, as individual departments are given the go-ahead to start filling positions that have gone unfilled in the meantime. You never see an announcement of rehires: ACME hires IT Support Specialist, 3 Customer Support Specialists, 2 Shipping Clerks and 2 Entry-Level Engineers. When employment levels recover as an economy gets moving again, we know about it largely from monthly employment reports of hiring data aggregated across the entire economy. Even there, the good news comes in more slowly than the bad news did. In the early months of a recession, an economy can lose 1 million jobs in a month. But even when the economy is growing well, we rarely see more than 400,000 jobs added in a month (in the US) — and in a lukewarm recovery it can be much less than that. But eventually, it adds up — and one day we are told that the unemployment rate has dropped below 4 percent, far below the 12 percent it topped out at in the recession — good news for the economy as a whole — but for those who have remained unemployed for the duration, the news is still bad.

Basically, bad stuff seems to happen in big doses — which we usually hear about, while good stuff happens in a lot of little doses — most of which we never hear about. Bad news also seems to have a bigger ripple effect. A plane crash can lead to the grounding of the entire fleet of an airline. A bad week on the stock market can drive companies and individuals to cut spending. Data breaches and cyber attacks reveal vulnerabilities many of us never knew existed and throw us into a panic. And this is without a pandemic to worry about. Conversely, a few little pieces of good news are never enough to encourage most of us back into water.

Perhaps those of us who engage in doom-scrolling are literally hoping to find those little green shoots of emerging good news; the silver lining around the cloud; the light at the end of the tunnel. But they are hard to find.

When the two Covid-19 vaccines were announced in close succession, it did seem like a rare occurrence of good news coming all at once. But in reality, the vaccine will be doled out one person at a time — so we are unlikely to see a positive outcome for many, many months. And the economic recovery we are all hoping for will probably be even slower to materialize.

I am not a historian — but history does tell us that this will pass. One day, it will be normal again to write a blog post from a coffee shop where one was lucky to grab the last open table and had to wait fifteen minutes for one’s drink to be ready. But coffee shops will reopen one at a time. And baristas will be hired one at a time. And so it goes for the rest of the economy. And there is no way of knowing how many years that will take.

In the meantime, we just have to keep looking for the good news.

Christmas canceled?

My family is best described as loving but not close-knit. With the exception of weddings and milestone birthdays (e.g., my grandfather’s 80th) there has never been much of a call for get-togethers. And the relationship with Christmas has always been that it is a big occasion when children are involved but optional otherwise. In addition, many relatives on my father’s side are Jehovah Witnesses and do not observe Christmas. So, there has not been any Christmas obligation in my life. This year, just as in any normal year, my mother and her husband will enjoy a takeout Indian meal at home together. My first sister will be at her own house, either sewing, playing video games or watching TV. The other sister will be at home with her husband and their dog. And I am planning to take a duck walk, weather permitting, and then make myself the mother of all grilled cheese sandwiches. We might write each other some short emails — but it is not expected.

I am not a bah humbug type. I enjoy seeing Holiday lights and decorations of all persuasions. In a normal year, I treat myself to seasonal latte drinks at coffee shops. Last night I watched the Charlie Brown Christmas Special for the umpteenth time. And I really enjoy the happy anticipation of Christmas Eve — watching people take their journeys home.

But, I worked nine retail holiday seasons in a row — three in a toy store, two in a pet-supply store and four at the warehouse of chain of gift shops. The pet-supply store does steady business year round and only gets a modest life from holiday sales. But the two other businesses are heavily dependent on holiday shopping, doing as much as fifty percent of their annual business in just six weeks of the year — WHICH IS INSANE!

It is amusing to hear people complain about retailers putting holiday merchandise in the stores as early as September. This is nothing. At the warehouse job, I would be processing shipments of Christmas ornaments in February. And in October, our buyer would be submitting purchase orders for merchandise that would the the Christmas stock for the FOLLOWING year! If you have never worked for a gift retailer, you probably have no idea of the immense effort required to deliver Christmas to the shoppers. You live Christmas pretty much all year round. And I guess that after nine years I was beginning to resent the whole idea of Christmas shopping and presents. It seemed like an almighty waste of materials, energy and human endeavor. I often fantasized about mankind being hit by an event so disruptive that Christmas would be cancelled and people would have to spend December 25 some other way.

Many people are facing the reality of a canceled Christmas these year — either due to strict lockdown measures or because there is literally no money for it. THIS IS NOT WHAT I HAD IN MIND! I was hoping for something more existential that made the secular Christmas seem trivial and irrelevant by comparison.

The Doctor Who Christmas Special of 2009 (The End Of Time), which was David Tennant’s last appearance in the role, opens with the people of Britain going about their Christmas preparations, subconsciously aware of a lurking evil — but somehow able to ignore it and have a normal Christmas regardless — “because they must.”

There do some to be a lot of “musts” and “have tos” with Christmas — and I just cannot understand it. Missing out on Christmas festivities for one year while we attempt to contain a pandemic does not strike me as a major loss or hardship. I can fully understand the anguish of a parent, who has not worked since March and is facing eviction, at not being able to give their children a happy Christmas with presents under the tree. But I do not understand families who are otherwise OK insisting on the usual get-together. Surely there are worse things than spending Christmas Day alone — and perhaps some families will discover a gentler way to observe the holiday.

But perhaps after this horrible year, it is only natural to want a little piece of normalcy — if only for one day. So I will reserve my judgment.

BUS STOP CLOSED

Long before I was diagnosed with autism I was diagnosed with anxiety. And last year, my doctor suggested I might benefit from taking anti-depressants. But for years I have known that routine and rituals are helpful coping mechanisms.

When I tell someone I suffer from anxiety, they invariably ask what I get anxious about. I think people who do not suffer from anxiety do not realize that anxiety does not have to be about anything specific — it is just there! What am I anxious about it? What have you got? I do have a few specific things that I am chronically anxious about — and they drive anxiety about other things. For example, my biggest fear is that I will end up homeless. So anything that might set up a chain events leading to that unfortunate circumstance of having no money when the rent is due can cause me anxiety. I am also afraid of being locked out, so that leads to anxiety about losing keys or forgetting PINs. I am afraid of making a mistake at work that could cause my employer to be sued or go out of business — so I am obsessed with checking my work over and over. And then there are the big things: the ongoing pandemic, climate change, the possible end of American democracy, the collapse of civilization as we know it, the end of the world. Is that enough?

(Oddly enough, the only thing right now that does NOT make me anxious is the prospect of actually getting sick from Covid-19. And it is because the only time I am NOT anxious is when I am seriously ill. I had something like Covid-19 two years ago. I was extremely ill for about a week — but I remember that week as a strangely happy time for me because I just did not have the energy to be anxious. All I could think about was getting through it.)

When I first wake up in the morning, I cannot honestly say I am happy about it. My first thought is usually how much I wish my life could just end. My second thought is usually about how ridiculous and ungrateful that first thought is considering how good my life actually is right now. And I have found that the best thing to do is get out of bed and start my routine. This was how my routine went before I started working from home in March 2020.

First, go to the bathroom.

Next, feed the cat. She gets really happy and excited and the sound of her eating soothes me. Sometimes, this cheers me up enough to dispel the anxiety.

Next, check in with my phone. Look through personal email to reassure myself nothing needs my attention. Check the weather forecast so that I can dress accordingly.

Choose clothes for the day. Shower and dress. I might be feeling better by now.

Put kettle on to make tea. While waiting, make sandwich to take to work for lunch and pack in my bag so I do not forget it.

Make tea and fix bowl of cereal. Drink tea and eat cereal. If the hot shower did not fix things, breakfast just might.

Blowdry hair. Brush teeth. Put on makeup. Put on wristwatch.

Check transit app on my phone and see if my bus is on the way. Seeing the bus already showing on the tracker never fails to elevate my mood.

Put on shoes and get work bag ready. Cue up podcast to listen to on the bus. Check bus status again. If bus has not appeared on the tracker by 5:50am, then need to resort to Plan B (walk 15 minutes to a different bus route with more frequent service.) Having to switch to Plan B invariably unwinds any progress I have made since getting up.

When bus is due in 10 minutes, put on coat and hat and make sure to have bus pass at the ready. Walk out to the bus stop.

Ah, the bus stop. It is probably one of the most scenic bus stops in Seattle during the hours of daylight, with a view of Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains. Even on dark mornings or in dismal weather, the lights from vessels out on the sound are comforting. Any lingering anxiety is sometimes dispelled while waiting for the bus. The stop is just after a slight bend in the road so it is not possible to see the bus coming directly. However, a building across the street has a ground-level window angled such that it reflects the view around the corner — and the bus comes into view there before it comes around the corner. And the sight of it never fails to boost my mood and reassure me that the day will be OK.

Finally, I am on the bus, settled on my seat, and I turn on my podcast. If I was still feeling anxious as the bus came around the corner, I am almost always feeling better now.

A couple of weeks after we went into the initial lockdown, my bus route was suspended. This was no big deal to me, because I was working from home anyway. A month later, King County Metro suspended service on many more routes. Some of that service was restored in September — but not on my route.

Yesterday, I was taking a walk and I noticed that the masts at bus stops along the route were now sporting yellow hoods over the flags. BUS STOP CLOSED. I guess this means the route is going to be permanently deleted.

I am still working from home and will probably continue to do so even after the Covid-19 crisis is behind us. So the deletion of the bus route is not a major loss in that regard. And I have since established a new routine that I follow after getting out of bed. But I rode that bus route every morning, to one job or another, for more than ten years. And on so many mornings, it was the part of my routine that finally dispelled my morning anxiety so that I could be ready to face the day. So it is sad to see it go.

I am probably just one of millions and millions of people who have lost little routines that made it possible to get up and face the day. I hope everyone has been able to find an alternative.