Quiz #76. Before Now After

Do you like keys? I don't. And yet, a single key reminds me of the Before--and the promise of the After. Now in Steve's Stay-at-Home Coronavirus Quiz for July 30, 2020.

I hate keys.

In the Before--when going to work involved more than just climbing the stairs to the guest room-turned-home-office of the Now--I only needed one key.  The key to our house.  To lock it when I left.

The only key I needed in the Before.

In the Before, I’d walk to work in the late morning and take the train (so no need for car keys) to New York. Once “at work,” I entered the building using an electronic key system that was built into my work ID that I carried on a lanyard.  (The work ID was also hooked up to my credit card so that I could also use it to pay for lunch at the work cafeteria.)

Given my disdain for keys, I just carried a single copy of the one house key in my pocket.  And yet, I’d often lose that key. I once found a house key in the sofa of a co-worker’s office where I’d sat weeks before for a meeting. Every six months or so, I’d get a few extra keys made to replace the ones I’d lost.  I tried to keep the key in a consistent pocket (back right) so I’d know where to look, but inevitably, I’d lose them.  They’d often end up in the laundry, kicking around in the dryer.  We have a dish in the dining room where we gathered—and still gather—my extra keys.

In the Before, the only other keys I really needed were the keys to our vehicles: a compact and a mini-van. With my bad history of losing keys, Sara was always protective of her own keys that she keeps on a key chain, as big as a baseball, that she keeps in her purse.  We’d keep one extra key to each vehicle in that dining room dish and I’d use those keys on the weekends when I needed to drive.

Sara’s keys.

Keys to me are bulky and bothersome--especially when you have to carry them in your pockets.  

And so it was that keys were one of the biggest adjustments I had to make this weekend in the Now when Sara and I ventured outside our bubble for our first socially distant backyard visit with friends, Tim and Laurie.  Of course, it wasn’t just the keys but their clunky cousins: my wallet and my eyeglass case.  

You need stuff outside of the bubble: wallet, eyeglass case and keys.

My wallet is a wanton wad of plastic and paper, folded over in a leather contraption the size of a small fist.  On Saturday night, July 25th, for our drive to Tim and Laurie’s, all I really needed was my driver’s license.  And maybe a credit card.  But what about the AAA card if the car broke down?  Health insurance card in case there was an accident?  Organ donor card in case it was really bad?  Why not a book of stamps in case I needed to send a card or letter?  A few spare train tickets left over from Before.  Plus a NYC subway Metro card. For the After.

Plus, I have prescription sunglasses and when we left for Tim and Laurie’s, it was sunny.  I knew it would be dark when we returned so I needed to bring my regular glasses--in their clunky case, in my pockets.

Keys, wallet, eyeglass case.  I just haven’t needed to carry them around in the Now, in the bubble. 

I also hate shoes.  Of course, I had to wear them Before.  But Now, in the bubble, I take off my shoes whenever (and wherever) I can.  In our first weeks of stay-at-home life, Sara was constantly tripping over my shoes because I took them off and left them everywhere and anywhere.  In the Now, I stick to two pairs of Merrell clogs.  I try to keep them off to the side, beside the door to my room and our house.

As noted in Quiz #27. Good Monday!, I wear hearing aids for a mild hearing loss.  Without the aids, I do not hear high frequency noises and have a hard time following conversations.  The aids are small but still a bit of a bother in your ears--especially for someone who doesn’t even like keys in his pocket!  They’re also rechargeable so I have to take them off at night and put them in their charger. In the Before, I never put them in my ears right away when I first woke up.  Sara would be up and out before me--and I didn’t need them until it was time to head off to work.

So in the first weeks beyond the Before, I still forget to put my hearing aids in when I first woke up.  My first clue that I was not wearing them would come when Sara joined me for coffee and I couldn’t follow our conversations. In the Now, I have made it a habit to put my hearing aids in the moment I get out of bed.  This week, for the first time, I heard--and actually noticed--the soft shuffle of my bare feet across the wooden kitchen floor as I made my coffee in the near silence of the way-too-early morning.  It’s like the brush sound from a drum and reminded me of a sound my father used to make as he imitated drum sounds in a way that I simply cannot describe unless you’ve heard it.  That memory is an early morning bonus in the Now.

Another coronavirus bonus. Last week, I "found this picture of my father on his 75th birthday while scanning old photos from 2001.

I hope I remember to listen for that sound (and my father) in the After.

When I have to wear shoes.

And carry keys.


What did NOT happen? 

A. In Quiz #75. I’m Sorry, I noted that I blamed myself for baseball’s COVID troubles which surfaced on Sunday, July 26th when test results just before the Florida Marlins game with the Philadelphia Phillies revealed that four players on the Marlins had been infected (and sidelined) with the coronavirus.  (The number is now up to xx members of the travelling squad of Marlins players and personnel, holed up at a Philadelphia hotel.)  MLB still allowed the Marlins to play their game against the Phillies on Sunday.  I took the blame for the problem because on Sunday, I got emotionally invested in baseball for the first time in 2020, ordering a cardboard cutout of myself to occupy one of the now-empty seats at Citizens Bank Park. When she read the quiz, my daughter Annie texted me, “It was almost my fault. I had considered getting you a cardboard cut out last week but decided against it.”  I texted back, “Then it IS your fault!;

B. Annie and I talked after Quiz #75, I’m Sorry. She told me that she’d heard about the cardboard cutouts from a friend and thought of ordering one for me on Friday but decided against it because she thought I was already too low in my feelings about baseball in 2020;

C. The Phillies remain at the center of what will happen for MLB going forward.  If test results this week (and maybe beyond this week) show that the Phillies players contracted the virus because they played on the field with the infected Marlins over the weekend, it’s hard to see how MLB goes on.  If the virus can be spread by playing in a game, will players even agree to keep playing those games?  To check on the test results for the Phillies, this week, I set up a Twitter list of Phillies baseball reporters;

D. Looking for something good to read, I ordered “The Vanishing Half” by Brit Bennet on Annie’s recommendation;

E. In discussing his brief self-quarantine in his basement apartment, Will told Sara and me that he would be better prepared if he had to do it again.  Among the key things to have, he said, was lemonade mix. I told him that I couldn't agree more.  Drinking lots of water--which doctors have advised me to do in the Now--is just plain boring.

Note Well: I am aware that this is yet another crazy news day. As I write this on the morning of Thursday, July 30th, my Twitter feed is exploding with proclamations of doom. GDP down. The President suggesting a delay in the election. Herman Cain dead from the coronavirus. The news that a member of Congress tested positive, called his staff for an in-person meeting to deliver the news and blamed his mask for giving him the virus is, well, yesterday’s news.

Indeed, after I sent this quiz to Sara for a final proof-read this morning, word came down on Twitter just after noon this Thursday, July 30th, that a Phillies coach and clubhouse worker have tested positive for coronavirus. It’s not game over for MLB (no Phillies players have tested positive as of yet)—but I think it’s very, very close.

The world is upside down and everything is moving fast.  This quiz is not meant as an up-to-the-minute source of information—or even inspiration. It’s a distraction for me—and I hope for you. As we mourn the loss of Before, struggle to live in the Now and long for life in the After, I also hope that reading this quiz makes you smile, maybe makes you laugh and provides you even just a little bit of comfort. 

Want the answer?

Answer #76. Before Now After.

If you’re a subscriber, the answer will be sent to you as a separate email when the question is published.

Want more?

Here’s the next quiz in the series: Quiz #77. “Some Pig.”

Here’s the previous quiz in the series: Quiz #75. I’m Sorry.

Here’s the first quiz in the series: Quiz #1. Stella and Social Distancing, March 13, 2020

Here is an archive of all the quizzes.

The quiz is explained here: Steve’s Stay-at-Home Coronavirus Quiz.

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