Now that I am fully vaccinated and the COVID19 situation in Scotland seems to be improving, I am beginning to take baby steps back into society. But there are practical things I needed to take care of before I just launch myself into The Real World where The Big Scary Bug is still circulating.
If you know me, you might know that I am a planner and an organiser. And whilst I love spontaneity and I often just let my instincts lead the way (sometimes with wonderfully happy consequences) there is always some level of readiness behind every spontaneous action. That means that my handbag or daypack is filled with the essentials and the just-in-cases – with extras ready to grab as needed (such as an umbrella for days that might need it). And these days, the “essentials” include my “pandemic kit”, as it were.
After spending the past 14+ months of the pandemic shielding, I am still learning what that “pandemic kit” needs to look like, as well as how best to manage the practical steps I need to take to keep safe in society. I have identified a few “must-haves” and now I am working on the best routines to ensure that I am always prepared.
My pandemic kit includes three elements at the moment: Masks, hand sanitiser, and home COVID19 tests. Although I don’t carry the tests with me when I leave the house.
I purchased a couple of masks last month with filter pockets (and filters), adjustable earloops, and a metal bar at the nose to allow for a better fit. They will be my default masks for the summer, although I expect that I will buy more as time goes on.
However, these are not my first masks. Last summer, a friend gave me a cloth mask “just in case” and I have worn it a handful of times at doctor appointments and visits to the village shop. But the earloops are too large for me so I have to use a large paperclip to make it fit. I also have a mask that my eldest sister made using bias tape from our (late) maternal grandmother’s stash of sewing notions. But it has ties rather than earloops, so isn’t ideal for popping into shops and such. And let’s not forget the plague mask that I made right back at the start of this madness!
I keep my mask in a zip-lock bag so that it doesn’t become crumpled or dirty floating around in whatever bag I am carrying. I don’t know if this is a common practice, or a weird “Frances is a little quirky” practice. Either way, I’m happy with my way!
I also carry a small “sanitiser pack” that includes a refillable bottle of hand sanitiser and 6 paper towels folded neatly. The towels are for if I want to wash something with the sanitiser. I began doing this the first time I left the estate where I have been isolating and I have improved the routines for when and how I use the kit over time.
I don’t know if I need to use the sanitiser as often as I do, but I also don’t overuse it. Although it’s fair to say that I don’t often find myself in situations where I need it at all. But I know that will change as I begin going into the village more often – and when I (eventually) start using public transport again. So, it’s best to get a routine down now!
And then there are the rapid lateral flow tests from the Scottish NHS. I ordered them as soon as they were made available, just in case. However, I haven’t been in a situation where I have needed to use one yet. And to be honest, I am a little afraid to use it.
I don’t know when or if I will have cause to use the tests, but I felt that it would be good to have them on hand in case I find myself in a situation where I could have “caught the bug”. I imagine that will be some time from now, but it’s better to be safe and prepared. So, I am prepared!
Of course, these practical steps seem easy enough, but there is more to re-joining society than the practical matters – especially when you’ve spent so many months isolating and avoiding The Real World. The “more” I am talking about is the behavioural and emotional side of the equation. These added concerns are not reserved for shielders or others who’ve been isolating this whole time. No, these “soft” things will affect most people, albeit in different ways and to different degrees.
For example, some people who’ve been taking part in The Real World the whole time have said that they are nervous about being around un-masked people or about returning to their office full-time. But they won’t have to “learn” how to approach a deli counter or pass colleagues in a corridor as they’ve been doing that already and will only need to make small adjustments to their behaviours. On the other hand, people like me are less likely to have the base-level experience of interacting with others during a global pandemic. Although I am good at interacting with fellow walkers in the hills as it’s an uncomplicated process: Everyone gives each other the widest berth possible whilst making awkward chit-chat, smiling, and/or waving.
All of that said, I have been feeling more confident about my return to society and I feel mostly comfortable going to the village shop – in part because it is small, and I am (almost) always the only customer when I am there. And I made my way to the pub after a long hike in the hills a couple of weeks ago, but I am feeling a little uncertain about taking bigger steps at this time, given that the infection numbers are rising again.
However, I am now fully vaccinated. I have masks and filters. I have hand sanitiser. I have COVID19 home tests. And I have ample common sense and a healthy dose of scepticism. Combined, I hope that all those things help to keep me safe and healthy as I take more and more steps towards re-joining society.