Don’t fool yourself: COVID’s tentacles are long enough to reach even you | Robert Whale

From March 2020 until recently, it seemed to me that COVID-19 always hit someone far off, the man who’d been incautious, the woman who screamed at masks and vaccinations.

And, because I am not a particularly social type — to work and then back home is my way — I buttered my imagined luck with optimism that this lack of mingling would serve me well in the dark days of COVID-19.

Just to be sure, however, I and my wife, Ann, got the shots and wore the masks.

Then came 2021, which added sharp incentive to ordinary caution. In late May, I was diagnosed with cancer and went under the knife the next day. I began chemotherapy three weeks later, which brought my immune system to its knees and came within a whisker of killing me.

When I got out, immune compromised, word was that the COVID numbers were down. Despite problems with those family members and friends who lined up on different sides of the issue, I shared in the general sense of optimism that we’d all passed through the worst of the trial.

But this month, the once-far-off visited me and mine. Ann began to complain of feeling poorly. Severe congestion, extreme fatigue, “nose running like a faucet,” she said.

Doctors tested her, she was positive. So I got tested, and I, too, was positive. Ten days quarantine, the doctor told me, no going out. I worked from home.

COVID’s physical effects, at least in the beginning, were on the mild side, laying on us only a week or so of nasty discomfort. But this past weekend, Ann landed in the hospital with lower abdominal bleeding, which doctors have told her may be a COVID-related side effect.

But there has been another unexpected side effect.

It began when my Ford pickup died in the parking lot of Fred Meyer in Sumner. Freddies was patient about it being there, but three days would pass before AAA could tow it back to our home.

Inquiries a-plenty to local garages large and small as to when I could get the problem identified and the beast fixed brought the following answers:

“We can’t fit you in before March…”

“Soonest we can get you in is, let me check…May.”

“We can look at it, but we’re backed up for months.”

I was astounded, dismayed.

“Gotta have wheels, man,” I replied. “What’s going on?”

Let me neatly sum up the answers I received: “Sorry, supply-chain problems tied to COVID. We can’t get the parts anytime soon.” Having no means of getting around for months would put a definite crimp in my plans, plans that included making a living.

Because I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with the truck, knowledgeable friends came out to help. Problem turned out to be what John Cleese in Monty Python’s famous Dead Parrot sketch might have called “a former” fuel pump. In my 2001 XLT Ford, the not-so-dearly departed is in the gas tank, and to get to it and do the work is well beyond my limited abilities. With no repairs possible before spring, and no idea where to turn for help, this was big trouble.

This past Monday, however, my nephew volunteered out of the blue to load the truck on a flatbed, haul it away from the dead zone it has occupied in front of our home for too long and fix it. Not in May, but in an hour or two this Saturday.

That’s the story.

So, is there a message here?

Yes, yes there is. I know my readers have all heard it before, but the message bears repeating until the ears bleed: do not treat this pandemic cavalierly; it means business. My wife and I did all we could, but in this recent surge, it still got us.

I am fairly certain that it was mild in our case because of the shots we’d gotten earlier.

If it doesn’t hit you physically, put you in the hospital or kill you, we all know by now that its tentacles are long and tenacious enough to reach into your life and disrupt it in ways you wouldn’t have imagined before, from sidelined automobiles, to shelves emptied of everything to shortages of medicines many count on to live.

Because in the end this is about much more than you and me and our rights. My late father used to say, “Your right to swing your fist stops where my nose begins.” Seems to me it’s true of the virus, too.

Robert Whale can be reached at