COVID-19 in 2022

I came home from travel a few days ago. I was feeling pretty sick and though I had credited the sniffles I had to allergies, a slight fever I’d had the night before made me think it was possibly a bad cold, potentially the flu. But my wife told me to take a COVID test and it came back positive. So I got COVID-19 in 2022.

The strange thing is that this run of COVID is very much like a sickness I had back in March of 2020, but tested negative for COVID then. So did that test in 2020 have a false positive? Did I have a strain that the test then couldn’t detect? Was it all part of a massive government disinformation plot? Whoa, there… that last one is a bit of a jump, isn’t it? Probably a false positive or a strain we didn’t know how to check for.

As it was, the onset of my illness in March of 2020 was brutal. For me, it hit hardest in my GI system. After that, I had congestion develop and a shallow, dry, annoying cough if I spoke too much. I felt tired and had dizzyness.

September 2022 saw me with symptoms that came on much more mutedly – thankful for that – but still echo what I had in March of 2020. I had some GI trouble, but nothing as dramatic as March 2020. Everything else is pretty much the same.

I had no vaccinations in 2020. In 2022, I had had a full set of initial vaccinations plus two boosters, with the last one in April, about five months ago. But the vaccinations themselves aren’t as effective in preventing the current strains, although I’m happy to credit them for making those initial symptoms less severe. Very happy for that. I’ve got no shortness of breath or other indicators of something more severe happening, and I’m very thankful for that, as well.

There’s a line from a Marx Brothers movie in which Groucho plays a doctor. Someone questions his experience and Groucho declares he was involved in the influenza epidemic. When his detractor asked what he did, Groucho said, “I got the flu!” Well, along the same lines, I was involved in the COVID pandemic… I got COVID. 🙂 For me, it’s nothing serious in terms of symptoms, but it’s also something to keep an eye on. It’s a new disease and there is still much to learn about it. In my case, it’s mild enough to treat with OTC medications and I’m fine with that. I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to go out and about some time next week. Until then, I keep an eye on my work email and the other eye on a game, YouTube, or a streamed show.

Flight Safety

I have to fly to and from my home office pretty regularly. Being a tall guy, I like seats with extra legroom so I don’t get crushed into tiny pieces. Those seats are either in the front of coach or on the exit row seats. I like to get aisle or window before I take a middle seat and overall, I favor the forward seats.

I also walk with a cane because I have balance issues on uneven ground or if I stand in an area for a long period of time, like over 15 minutes of standing in a go will be really hard on me. I can walk quickly and have no issues lifting or doing short bursts of high activity in a small space, such as if, oh I don’t know… had to assist in an exit row.

So one day, I’m going to sit in an exit row because the window seat was there and not further forward. The gate attendant notices that I’m in an exit row and I have a cane. He jumps to an assumption and questions if I can properly handle exit row duties. I assured him that I could, but he was still on the fence about it. He shrugged it off finally and left it a matter for the flight attendants to adjudicate.

That made me want to know more about how exit rows work.

That led to a search for any documentation on airplane evacuations and, surprisingly, there is hardly anything on the subject. What there is gave me a fascinating read:

Critical to exit row functionality is the ability to judge whether or not a running engine, fire, or debris makes the exit safe. Right up with that is the ability to follow instructions from the flight attendants on whether it is a debarkation – where all passengers leave via the front and rear exits – or an evacuation, where wing exits are involved. Flight attendants are also supposed to be in communication with the flight crew so that they can coordinate the safest debarkation or evacuation possible. Neither of these criteria are assessed or enforced. There was one incident, for example, where 5 of the 6 persons in an exit row were either too frail to operate the door – they were over 70 – and another three did not speak English well, which was the language the flight attendants were using to direct the evacuation.

Instead, the primary aim in filling those seats is monetary, for the airline. The seats cost more and those who buy them are placing their comfort above other concerns. I confess that I buy them with comfort in mind, but always with the intention to fully discharge my duties as an observant exit row passenger. Now that I’ve read the linked document, I feel even more prepared and committed to my future as a conscientious exit row passenger.

But there’s still that monetary matter. Seats have shrunk over the years and there have been little or no studies of the impact of tightly-packed seats and narrower aisles on safety. We have opinions from the NTSB and FAA OIG that studies are needed and that they suspect passengers and crew are less safe with denser seating in play. Safety tests on these planes we fly were often done long ago and with fewer occupants and wider arrangements than what we have now. We need to know if we are now less safe because of decisions made to change the plane configuration without testing it. I have to ask, where’s the priority, here, money or safety?

Flight crew safety is another matter – sometimes, those planes are being delayed because the captain and his crew are trying to get something to eat. First class eats better than the flight crew. They get worked to the maximum on their shifts and permitted rest breaks as law and regulation demand. I wish it was otherwise. Something in me wants a fresher, better rested crew in charge of putting me into the air and back on the ground safely.

Putting the money issue back into play, alcohol is freely served to exit row passengers. Some expect it because a complimentary alcoholic beverage goes with the seat class. There have been exit row passengers who consume enough alcohol to the impairment of their ability to clearly reason, and yet, there they are, with passenger safety in their hands. I’m not comfortable with that. Personally, I do not drink alcohol, so I feel even more strongly about my capability to function in an emergency as an exit row passenger.

Which means, next time a gate attendant looks at my cane and questions my exit row assignment, I’ll be able to plainly lay out my case. I won’t need to be difficult or preachy about it, just state my case plainly and honestly. Then I make the suggestion of having exit row passengers pledge to not consume alcohol and pass a limited language test in which they respond correctly to phrases such as “throw the door on the wing after you remove it.” If they’re really concerned with safety – and the man looking at my cane was concerned, and I commend him for that – they’ll add those to the visual scanning for physical capability. They’ll also add a verbal briefing from the flight crew on operating the exits, as that makes the exit row passengers better-off at handling emergencies. If they’re not concerned with safety, then there’s no need to apply any sort of discriminatory test to passengers in the economy plus seats that happen to be next to wing exits.

Myself, I can operate the exits better than ever before, now that I’ve read up on the topic. You want a passenger like me in your exit row, I can guarantee that.

On Toxic Workplaces

I just finished annual training that included a segment on how to not have an abusive workplace. Having worked in abusive workplaces before, it gave me pause to think.

The advocated response, “go to HR with your issues” is not one I’m 100% on board with. HR’s job is to protect the company, not you personally. Feel free to do so, but don’t expect it to save you from abuse.

You have a right to not be treated with abuse in your workplace, so when you find yourself in a toxic environment, don’t panic. Slow down your thinking and plan your exit. I have never seen anyone fired for being an abusive person: they are not going away, so you need to get moving to a new place where the abuser you know doesn’t work. Update your resume, start applying for new roles, and expect a few weeks to months of looking before you are free. In the meantime, you have power to take sick days, vacation, and to do the minimum for your job. Save your best efforts for a non-toxic environment that will appreciate them.

If you contact HR, let them know that you plan to leave because of the toxic environment. If they’re worried about legal blowback, they won’t fire you and they may very well transfer you to another group. If you get the transfer, you are lucky in that you now have a quieter place to work until you get the new job. You’re still a marked person at that firm and your career is at an end there.

DO NOT POST COMMENTS ABOUT YOUR EMPLOYER ON LINKEDIN. There are software tools that can flag comments for potential bad PR and that move will just make that toxic environment even more so. I don’t have my employment connected to my FB, so I’ll post here about that sort of thing. My current employer is great and I really love the culture there. I know of many other places to work that have a strong, supportive, and inviting culture where people really do work well together. I’ve seen the places and know they are out there. That’s the good news. If you’re not at one of those places yet, then keep looking, you’ll find one.

But if you’re currently at an abusive workplace, don’t blame yourself. Don’t believe in the myth of the personality conflict. It’s not up to you to make where you work a better place. It’s up to you to get out of the abuse and to a different place that has a chance of being better than the one you left.

Memorial Day 2022

Memorial Day.

Let us remember the soldiers who did not fall in battle, but who fell at home due to mental health issues. Let us remember the soldiers who did not fall in battle, but who struggled with lost limbs, lost eyes, burned bodies, organ damage, and brain injuries the rest of their lives. Let us remember the soldiers who did not fall in battle, but who were lynched because they were a different color and believed that wearing a uniform gave them some kind of equality in this nation. Let us remember the soldiers who did not fall in battle, but who struggled to fit back into civilian life after seeing what they had seen and doing what they had done.

Let us remember the soldiers whose spirit of civic duty of self-sacrifice to make the world better is a spirit we all should aspire to, that there may be no more war among us again. There is an ultimate hope in the calling of a soldier: a hope that, through one’s discharge of duty, there may come a day where we ask no more for soldiers, that service no longer consumes one’s life, whether on the battlefield or in the years that follow the battlefield.

Memorial Day.

The Right Time to Start Talking About Gun Control

Now is not the right time to start talking about gun control. The right time to talk about it was probably September 7th, 1949, after 13 died in the Camden, New Jersey shootings. So, if we’re late to the conversation, we should still have it.

The Second Amendment was created not for national defense or for personal defense, but to allow states to have their own militias to suppress slave rebellions, out of fear that a federal army made up of troops from states opposed to slavery would not assist in suppressing slave rebellions. Following the Civil War, the emphasis shifted to maintaining White control of economics and politics through exclusive access to firearms. Whenever Blacks or Hispanics defended themselves from White mobs with firearms, they were swiftly and surely prosecuted and punished by Whites for daring to disturb the White supremacy.

At its roots, the Second Amendment has always, always been about racial oppression and inequality. There is mythology and propaganda placed around it to obscure those roots, but let us deal in truth. It is a legacy of America’s slaveholding past. It continues to be a right that has a “Whites Only” ring to it all too often for it to be a truly universal right. The solution to America’s gun violence problem is to first acknowledge that we no longer have any danger of a slave rebellion and that we want all people to live in freedom, safety, and equality. Then we acknowledge that it is still possible to have personal weapon ownership, but with restrictions. There are dozens of examples around the world of democratic, peaceful nations that have both regulated personal weapon ownership and murder rates much lower than in the USA.

That’s not to say that murders and gun violence are non-existent in nations with regulations. It’s that the gun violence is at a much, much lower rate. Imagine what it would be like here if, instead of having 17 mass shootings in the last 10 days that took 33 lives and hospitalized 76, we had only one? I’d rather none, but one instead of 17 is a start. In the last 10 *years*, Germany has had only 21 killed and 65 hospitalized as a result of mass shootings, and they permit regulated personal weapon ownership.

When, in our nation, we have lost more in 10 days than another has lost in 10 years, we have to confront our present with a realization that we have built up walls of illusions about weapon ownership that prevent us from seeing the truth and the better place we can be if we begin to have the conversation that should have started 73 years ago… or even before that… but we need to have the conversation and we need to be willing to compromise from all-or-nothing stances to find a solution that will work for reducing America’s gun violence. We have to believe in and have hope that such a solution can be found, and that it can be lasting. We have to be ready to shed our idols and happy illusions so that we can be comfortable with the truth as our chief tool that will build the future we want to live in.

I don’t want to exclude anyone from the conversation: even if you’re a White Supremacist, it’s time to have the discussion about reasonable regulations on personal weapon ownership, along the lines of any of the dozens of other democratic nations that have implemented them with success. We can look to Australia, Germany, Canada, Norway, Switzerland, Israel, Japan, UK, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, and many others. When we make peace our path, a better world is our destination.

The Poor Shall Never Cease

“For the poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore, I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thy hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land.” – Deuteronomy 15:11

In the New Testament, Jesus underlined this teaching of Moses’ many times. Since then, men have made excuses for not observing this commandment. Many of these excuses are ultimately connected to an addiction to money.

An addiction to money is a serious and real thing. The addict wants to gather up as much of the stuff as possible, more than could be used sanely by any one person in life. That excess is seen as necessary, and the addict makes up all manner of falsehoods to justify not giving away freely what is not needed to sustain life.

If you make excuses or reservations or qualifications about how to fulfill the command to open your hand – and not just barely open, but wide – to the poor and needy, who are equated as brothers to you, then that is the addiction to money speaking. You need to find help so that you have a healthier relationship to money that does not involve a dependency. There are people at all levels of means who are able to open wide their hands to their brothers. As we heal ourselves of addictive behaviors towards money, we join with them in healing the world.

The Doctrine of God

There is a passage of scripture: “Behold, this is not my doctrine, to stir up the hearts of men with anger, one against another; but behold, this is my doctrine, that such things be done away.”

In a culture in which online behavior that arises out of aggression and conflict is rewarded, we have to be willing to forgo the likes and comments that result from aggression and conflict, for such things are not of God, and therefore not of either Truth nor Love.

Truth and Love compel us to do away with anger, one against another. Truth and Love compel us to allow our hearts to be moved with compassion, one towards another. Truth and Love compel us to allow our hearts to be moved with forgiveness, one towards another. Truth and Love compel us to allow our hearts to be moved with peace, that our words and actions also bring peace. That is how “such things be done away.” Not with silent death, but with peaceful life.

Suffering in Righteousness

In my reading this Sunday morning, I encountered the idea of righteous suffering with no reward on earth for it. In other words, the answer to the question, “Does God grant every wish of the righteous in their lifetimes?” is no. God does not.

So then why be righteous? It is because of something unseen, something much bigger than what our eyes can perceive now and something our hearts and minds are not ready for without preparation. We learn from both Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. that suffering in righteousness is an act of devotion. It is an act of love. It is an act of purifying the soul.

True righteous suffering, however, is not suffering alone. There is a peace and an understanding that comes with it, a forgiveness and a love for the persecutors that is hard to explain to the unprepared. But, as one prepares in faith and deepening understanding, it becomes known and part of one.