Early last week while walking down the halls of the school where I teach, I encountered a genial co-worker who greeted me with, “How’s it goin’?”
Ordinarily that throwaway question requires a response of no more than one sentence; often just a word suffices. But last week was different.
The day before had begun routinely enough. I had gotten up at a decent hour, eaten breakfast, put in a load of laundry, and polished off several other mundane household chores. I also checked my email, which included daily bulletins updating the status of the coronavirus pandemic in two different school districts. The memo that came from the superintendent of schools where I teach contained nothing new, but closer to home the story was radically different. That update stated local schools would be closed for a week because of a rash of COVID cases. My 15-year-old son, who like many of his age and gender is less than enthralled with high school these days, seemed rather pleased by the news.
Shortly thereafter I took the still-giddy lad out to do some shopping at a local store we both frequent, he for ridiculously expensive music, me for 50-cent used books. However, I had barely begun to browse when he came over to me, looked at his phone, and said in an uncharacteristically concerned voice, “Daddy, I think we might have to go home soon.” Barely two minutes later he returned with an urgent, “I have to get home NOW!”
It seemed one of the just-identified COVID-positive cases at his high school had been found to have 83 “close contacts,” and my son had just received a text message informing him he was one of them. He was instructed to go into quarantine immediately.
We both went into research mode at that point. How long was he to sequester himself? Did he need to be tested? And if so, how soon, and where? Did I (and other members of our family) need to be tested? Could I continue to go to work, or even venture outside of our home, without putting others at risk?
While my son explored the internet, I consulted a more reliable source of information: I emailed my school’s nurse. Since it was a Sunday there was no guarantee she’d get my message before the next morning, but she responded within an hour, providing us with a wealth of information about what to do, where to do it, how to go about doing it, and who to contact about doing it. She also told me to get back to her if and when I needed anything else.
Until recently I had assumed the job of a school nurse was limited to monitoring attendance, appropriately dispensing prescription meds, and tending to anyone on the premises who wasn’t feeling well. In retrospect, the scope of my ignorance regarding her responsibilities was breathtaking. The current reality: all school nurses are frontline warriors against a deadly enemy, and are as heroic as any police officer, firefighter, or member of the military. That the nurse at my school is empathetic, uber-competent, and bend-over-backward kind is an added bonus.
My son’s COVID test was negative, so for the time being my family is coronavirus-free, they aren’t food insecure, and their dad has a secure job he likes. Hopefully before long going mask-less in public without endangering one’s self or others will be acceptable, or maybe even become the norm again. Bottom line: for the foreseeable future, my response to “How’s it goin’?” is going to be, “I’ve got no complaints.”
Because the reality is, I don’t. <