Quiz #93. Unhinged

Why is a closet door the key to understanding the ninth month of this pandemic? Steve's Stay-at-Home Coronavirus Quiz for November 30, 2020.

Like most accidents, it happened with a bang, a blunt-force burst of the unexpected, the universe almost shouting, “Look out for what I can do when you’re not looking out!”

It was so loud that Sara heard it from the other room and came running to see what had happened.  I was getting dressed in our guest bedroom because I keep some clothes in the closet there and the closet door had literally come unhinged.  The door sticks at the top so you have to give it a pull and when it got stuck and I gave it the customary pull, the door became unhinged. The top hinge let loose and the door twisted from the bottom hinge to hit me squarely on the forehead.  

I was stunned and staggered to the bed on the opposite side of the room.  Sara came in from the master bedroom next door, trying to take it all in and worried, once told about and seeing the unhinged door, that it had hit the side of my head where I’d had brain surgery nearly four years ago and still have a screw or two holding in place the so-called bone flap that they’d cut from my skull to get at my brain to clip two unruptured aneurysms.  Fortunately, the unhinged door missed the now-plugged hole on the right side of my head, landing instead as a center shot, almost right between the eyes.  Sara got a bag of ice as I tried to get my wits about me.

Like most accidents, it should not have been completely unexpected.  The top hinge on that closet door had come loose several years ago and I’d replaced the screws, going from #8 to #10 size screws, hoping the bigger size would get a better grip on the wood.  Again, the door would stick at the top so you had to give it a tug to get it open and, come to think of it, I had noticed that the screws at the top hinge were getting loose again.

This was Saturday night, November 21st.  On Sunday, I went to the basement to get some tools, mainly a chisel to move the hinge a little lower on the door and the frame because the previous holes in the frame would not hold another screw.  Like an idiot, I left some spare tools on the basement steps when I went back upstairs to fix the door.  With the door on its side and me chiseling the one end to move the hinge, Sara came in.  She’d been taking the laundry downstairs into the basement when she’d almost stumbled on the tools I had left on the stairs. “What was I thinking?” she asked.

The unhinged-hinge now hinged, secure but screwed in at a different spot.

The short answer was that I wasn’t.  Not thinking. I was just doing, jumping from one thing to another.  Trying to fix this, finish that and keep everything going. For months, I’ve been scanning photos, writing quizzes and, as noted in Quiz #89. “Covid-Good,” cooking the perfect chocolate chip cookies.

It’s hard to explain, but the whole thing sent me into a funk which, upon reflection, was its own metaphor for November, the ninth month in the stay-at-home coronavirus pandemic.  For nine months, I’ve tried to stay busy, going from one complicated process to the next, trying to distract myself while also protecting us from the danger and discord that seems like it is just outside the door.  The coronavirus is surging.  Our county’s numbers are bad.  Community spread is here.  Sara and I are beyond hunkered down. Why won’t it go away?  Can’t you see how hard I am trying to keep things going—and to keep the virus at bay? Will we stay safe?

For the next few days, I shut down on activities and turned to reading in my non-work hours. First, “A Children’s Bible” from Lydia Millet.  It was highly recommended by the New York Times.  It’s a remarkable novel (with an unusual title), but it’s best not to know anything about it beforehand.  It unfolds with magic and insight--and I never knew where it was headed next.  “A Children’s Bible” done, I finished “The Vanishing Half” by Brit Bennett. Recommended by Annie, it’s also great and I started it in the spring only to put it down.  I don’t remember why.  By the end of the week, which included the Thanksgiving holiday, I’d also read “What Happened to Sophie Wilder” by Christopher Beha.  It’s Beha’s first novel and as noted in Quiz #91. “I’m here,” during the election, I had read Beha’s second novel, “The Index of Self-Destructive Acts,” and still think it’s the best thing I have read in five years.

As also noted in Quiz #91. “I’m here,” when I read a great book, I like to add a post-it to the pages where there is a quotation that strikes me.  With “Index,” the post-its notes lost their purpose.  If I wanted to find a quote that I’d hoped to remember, there were so many post-its that I could not find the quote.

And so it was that on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, November 25th, I texted my friend Ryan a great quote about the day before a holiday that I thought was just perfect.  I followed it up by asking if we could talk--and then we did.  A pre-holiday check-in across the miles.

Do you recognize this quote? If so, please let me know.

But here’s the deal. I cannot remember where I read this quote.  I went back to try to find it after Thanksgiving and I could not find it.  I think it was from Beha’s second book, but it doesn’t turn up in any of the post-it pages that I marked up to remember from that book.  It could be “The Vanishing Half,” but again the post-it pages don’t help.  I’m trying so hard to remember so many things--to freeze them into place--that they’re getting lost.

It’s something I’ve noticed in scanning my old family photos. Before digital, like most people, I was much more careful about taking pictures.  Taking a picture felt more special and I was always mindful of running out of film at the wrong moment.  Today, with my iPhone, I always have my camera and I can take a picture of any thing--at any time. I’m not running out of film, but my memory is getting full.

On Thursday, we had our Thanksgiving, going from the anticipation of the holiday to the day itself.  As noted in Quiz #89. “Covid-Good,”  Sara uses the phrase “Covid-Good” to describe something that’s not perfect and, because of the virus,  not the way you’re used to doing things.  Our Thanksgiving was “Covid-Good.”  Sara cooked a turkey feast with all the trimmings on Wednesday.  On Thursday morning, I drove to Astoria and delivered Annie’s Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings (plus a 24-pack of Diet Coke) in several to-go-bags packed by Sara.  I pulled our mini-van into a parking space on Annie’s block and she sat in a folding chair while I sat in the van, masked and socially distanced.  We had a wonderful talk, the few people who walked by able to go behind Annie and not interrupt or infect us.  (Everyone wore a mask.) We had a wonderful time, talking about the books we’d read.  Annie asked how many books I’d read in 2020 and revealed that she keeps a journal in a notebook of all the books she reads each year, taking notes on each one so she can remember.  (Note to self: get a notebook like and listen to your daughter!) Annie’s  2020 tally is 36 books--and she hopes to make it to 40 books by the end of the year.  (I think I’m at about 12, but I’m not really sure. I don’t keep track.)

In the afternoon, Betsy came over for socially distanced appetizers around the backyard fire pit.  That evening, Sara and I had our meal with Will and John who was able to quarantine and get tested before coming home.  Small and quiet with outstanding food.  Beyond “Covid-Good.”

Brownie inspecting the Thanksgiving meal.

I worked Friday but used this weekend to finish up my portion of the Christmas cards which will go out this week.  As indicated in Quiz #92. “We Hate the Garbage Man,” Sara and I ordered our cards from Shutterfly with pre-addressed envelopes.  Adding a personal note inside and tracking the addresses on a Google Sheet takes time.  Usually, our Christmas card is a holiday newsletter, written in the now-familiar form of a series of “What did NOT happen?” multiple-choice questions about each member of the family (including the dogs). This year, with Covid and concerns about getting copies made, our holiday quiz is online--and on demand.  When people get their Christmas card, they’ll get instructions on how they can request a copy of the holiday quiz.  Because I cannot stand to do anything that’s not more complicated than it needs to be, I have also added a new wrinkle to our holiday newsletter written as a multiple-choice quiz.  The quiz is being offered as an online Google Form that’s actually set up as a quiz.

Within the Google form, I’ve set up an answer key so when people submit their answers, they’ll get instant results, with pre-loaded feedback from me on the questions they got right and the ones they got wrong.  What’s more, there is a Google Sheet that tracks the results of all those who choose to take our holiday quiz using the Google Form.  Why? Because nothing says Christmas like setting up a competition among our family and friends--and handing out grades for how well they did in guessing what we did and did not do this very strange year.



What did NOT happen?

A. Betsy’s last day of in-person school for a while was on Wednesday.  The local district’s going to virtual learning for two weeks to cut down on any community spread after the Thanksgiving holiday;

B. On Thanksgiving day, we got together on Zoom with Sara’s family with family members from as far away as Germany and Arizona;

C. For her socially distanced Thanksgiving meal, my sister Ginny served her daughter Kate a slice of pie with a snow shovel, covered with a pillow case;

D. For her Thanksgiving meal, my sister Susan had chicken parm;

E. In my Saturday morning phone call with Ginny and Susan we discussed an app called, “Pooptracker.”  I was not the one who brought it up.

Want the answer?

Answer #93. Unhinged.

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 #94. “… it glows.”

Here’s the previous quiz in the series: Quiz #92. “We hate the garbage man.”

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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