The moment I forgot about the pandemic

When the pandemic first struck, and shelter in place orders were issued, my wife and I were in a remote mountain skiing village in northern Nevada, USA about 400 kilometers from our permanent home. The problem with remote villages is that the nearest decent - sized grocery store is quite a distance away; in this case, 58 km away. It being a bitterly cold late afternoon, and with skiing done for the day, we proceeded to drive through the mountain pass to load up on provisions for the coming week. When we got to the grocers, only a lone clerk was there, and many of the shelves were bare. Of course the pandemic had begun, so very few people ventured out, and the store’s shelves had been picked through much earlier. Naturally, my wife and I were decked out with the obligatory masks. I had completed my shopping and was patiently waiting for my wife to decide which shade of lip gloss would suit her best when without warning the earth began to rather violently shake. The mind works in strange ways. Had this shaking occurred in our coastal California hometown, I would have immediately known it was an earthquake, and I would have ducked for cover, while breathlessly counting the elapsed seconds and fervently praying it would quickly end. But this was Nevada. Earthquakes in Nevada? Impossible. The prevailing wisdom was that in the “Big One”, California would fall into the Pacific Ocean, like the fabled Atlantis. Nevada would remain intact, unscathed. It took a second thought’s time, amid the falling and smashing of many glass bottles to realize that yes, nature doesn’t necessarily honor human-constructed mental boundaries. This was a good-size earthquake indeed. Forgetting the order to wear face coverings, and forgetting that we were in the midst of a dangerous pandemic, I flung off my mask to get more air while breathlessly surveying the nearest counter under which to duck. Fortunately, before too long, the shaking ceased. We had survived another earthquake. The next day, the news reports said the earthquake was centered several miles directly beneath the grocery ( the grocery’s name was mentioned) and that it was the first quake in living memory to hit that general area. This was also the only time in this pandemic when I hadn’t worn a mask in a public place.


George. Member, Oxford Philosophical Society