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February 22, 2024

Window on the World Column | Unmasked and Unaware

I had always been pretty proud of us. From the moment we were able, it was off to the pharmacy we went. Another shot? Yes please. With all the horror stories and truths from 2020 still fresh in everyone’s minds, we did not want to get caught out by life, by being late, by standing a chance of contracting the C plague. And then it came to pass that the coronavirus pandemic no longer legally existed. You did not have to wear masks in government buildings or doctor’s offices. It was over. We all signed a collective gasp of relief.

It wasn’t so long ago that I asked my pharmacist about the next vaccine. Surely there would be one coming up, just around the corner? If there was one to be had, I wanted it. Regardless of any aftereffects of the jab, it was so worth it. He replied that there would “likely” be one in the fall, so I left with a rather false sense of security. No one required masks on planes anymore, people barely remembered to carry the hand sanitizer they vowed would forever take a firm position inside their handbag. We were through; free and clear.

On the return trip from Nashville, one of our party said they weren’t feeling well. Seemed like a hearty reaction from our less than fun return journey of diabolical flight cancellations and stress, or perhaps a touch of the flu from all the wild extremes in temperature we had experienced over the weekend, not to mention wild people. No one thought it might be you-know-what. Heading home after our mammoth travel day, it was well past midnight, I was the driver, and I was tired and thirsty. Everyone else was asleep. There was a water bottle right there and I drank out of it.

You can probably tell where I am going with this. Yes. Just a few hours later and I was swiftly going down with the modern-day plague. It’s frighteningly all a bit of a blur, but I do know it hit me like a freight train and yelled in my pounding ear “Yoo hoo! Hadn’t actually gone anywhere! So glad I get to visit with you for a while!” I was tired, sweaty, my head pounded, my ears were ringing and the symptoms were all lined up right there for the little white stick to give me a positive result. Twice.

After three years of avoiding its clutches, here I was in the midst of my own little coronavirus hell. It reminded me of chemotherapy that I had endured 13-plus years ago. That weird weighty, out of body and mind feeling, the lack of taste and smell, the overwhelming fatigue that sat on you and made you sleep some more. My doggies loved it. Mummy was home and she was pretty much crashed out in her night-night all day and night! Mummy, on the other hand, kept trying to be useful to the world, do her work, complete her banking, unpack from her trip, but she couldn’t. It was a most pitiful sight.

Husband kept taking my temperature — high, higher, high — for several days, administering solicitous Tylenol and ice-cold water as fever reducer helpers and approaching all masked up and with caution tape strapped around his head lest the Stupid-CoronaVirus, as our granddaughter used to call it, really was a lurgy that might be poised to physically attack and overcome, like a super monster.

In my rare moments of lucidity, I found myself cursing the lack of data on this latest strain that had attacked little moi in the deep south and ridden home on my back. Why were we not advised to be all masked up in 150-degree heat? (That would have gone down real well!) Since they don’t believe in masking down there, let alone — much of the time — the existence of a real pandemic, I know that wouldn’t have worked at all, but I would like to have had the opportunity to make my own choices about the matter.

“Fully vaccinated and why am I getting this?” (Might as well say “let’s talk about my naked body” or something equally personal.) I would have taken an extra shot, I would have double masked. Anything not to lose a week of my life in my bed with severe (think chemo) night sweats where the bed covers are drenched, hallucinogenic dreams (again chemo drugs) and foggy brain. Lack of taste or appetite except for well-buttered toast (shall I say chemo yet again?). Oh, my word, I shall need some serious post-cancer treatment therapy after this little lot, and I haven’t stepped foot in a chemo lab since 2010!

If you want to get all smarty pants about it and see where the super spreader stuff might be going on or where the upticks are — info that we used to be able to glean in a micro-second, the data is no longer reliable because testing is not being reported anymore. We are not in a pandemic, so this little burst of hell, for want of a better description, is largely due to my overactive imagination, my dislike for some of the things I witnessed in the deep south and my PTSD from chemo.

Zinc! They say! Get a hold of Paxlovid! Sleep, sleep, sleep. (Yeah, not helpful!) Water, water, water! (Yes, I’m on that!)

When you know better in life, you do better, or so they say. This I now know. I shall be wearing masks on the plane for the rest of my life, so I had better invest in some comfy ones. I will do an immune system boot camp before I go anywhere ever again. I will never drink out of a suspect water bottle ever again. I will never again forget that coronavirus is still present in our communities, whether we like it or not and whether anyone is counting.

Should you not want to be plagued like me for several days of your life with this affliction, check with your pharmacist as to when you can get another vaccine and wise up as to travel to — ahem — busy places. I wish I had read this story before my last adventure. I’m hoping that, in the writing of it, I shall feel a little less ripped off and more inclined to fight these awful symptoms and get back to my real life.

P.S. I am still alive. I did, however, manage to successfully give the bug to husband. Fortunately, I was able to secure some Paxlovid for him and his symptoms were much milder than my own. Also, I read that there is quite the uptick in cases. A new strain they are calling Eery, or something like that.

Lucy Jensen
Lucy Jensen
Soledad columnist Lucy Jensen may be reached at [email protected].


  1. I am going to Nashville in October. Fall. I will wear a mask and do my best to stay away from people.

    Thank you1

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