Three weeks ago, everyone went about their daily lives as usual but with the outbreak of COVID-19 in the back of their minds.
It wasn’t until about 4 p.m. on March 16, that people learned about a new shelter in place order by looking at their phones and televisions. This order was put in place by 6 different counties in the Bay Area, telling over 6.5 million people to stay home unless they are an essential worker. Many were prepared for work the following day, but would eventually find an email from their employer either telling them to work from home for the next few weeks, or that they were laid off as a result of the public health concern. The world for many Bay Area residents took a quick 180 and sent some into fear and many into denial. At the time, there were no more than 4,000 cases in the entire United States, with only 300 known cases in the Bay Area, meanwhile the world had around 170,000 cases.
As of March 29, what had appeared as an issue that hadn’t hit close to home yet, finally did, with California now having 5,000 cases and the global case count reaching a quarter million. As time goes on, the virus continues to spread at a higher rate and more people see the growing urgency for things like limiting social interactions. It’s starting to become normal to leave one’s house and to see many people flocking the sidewalks of their neighborhood’s park. Accompanied by traffic signs set up by police, reminding those out for exercise and fresh air, to remain six feet apart from one another.
Monday, March 30 was no different to most, but for me it was supposed to be a special day, as it was my 21st birthday. Many 21 year olds go bar hopping as a way to celebrate being old enough to now comply with any drinking or smoking laws, however that option was no longer available to me due to orders from Governor Gavin Newsom telling all bars and nightclubs to close two weeks prior. So I had to readjust my plans for any sort of celebration.
Instead of sleeping in and waking up to plans for breakfast with friends somewhere sipping mimosas, I woke up at 7:50 a.m. for an 8 a.m. Zoom video conference for my Math 47 class. A not so exciting start to my day only continued as I took notes and prepared for the other responsibilities I had lined up. After class, I decided to catch up on social media feeds as I got dressed.
After getting laid off as a server at weddings and corporate events, I needed to find a source of income and became an essential worker for Whole Foods Market. Since I have a restriction on my license that requires me to drive with glasses and apparently people are being fined $1,000 or given misdemeanors for not obeying shelter in place orders, the last thing I need is to be pulled over for being outside of my house and not having glasses on me and getting a fine for that as well. Hence, why I called my optometrist to arrange a pick up for my new glasses, since I broke my other pair a little over a month ago.
At 10:30 a.m. I had decided before I left to pick up my glasses, to try and contest a parking fine from LPC that I had received on March 11. I was upset that I got the ticket in the first place because I barely got out of my 8 a.m. class that day, went to my car, saw campus security giving tickets to cars near mine and then I noticed that my car had a slip on my window as well. I have a parking pass but I guess it fell off my mirror and I never noticed, so I obviously didn’t hang it back up, which led to me getting the ticket. However, you got another thing coming if you think I’m paying $35 for something I already paid for. But to my dismay, nobody answered the phone after waiting for 45 minutes. In fact, I got dressed, ate a snack, drove to my optometrist and finished my appointment before anyone answered the phone, so when I got back to my car, I simply gave up.
It’s now 11:15 a.m. and my next Zoom meeting wasn’t until 1 p.m., so I went to Whole Foods to meet up with my girlfriend Melissa, who also works there. She needed to get some light groceries for her family and the both of us needed to get some supplies for my evening ahead. I picked out a berry vanilla cake, fresh orange juice, some steak, green beans and beer, Corona of course.
After Whole Foods we went to Perry’s Liquor Store and the first thing we noticed was a whiteboard outside, making it very clear they’re open because they now sell toilet paper, paper towels and snacks, which makes them essential. And as a hockey fan, I had to make sure on my 21st that I bought a bottle of Pink Whitney, a vodka mix inspired from a former NHL player who does podcasts for Barstool Sports. When I was ready to pay, the three workers that were there wished me a happy birthday and gave me a free little bottle of Jack Daniels. A nice gesture that I wasn’t expecting but appreciated, especially given the circumstances and that they might be struggling just like many other small businesses right now. With about 30 minutes until my next Zoom meeting, we went our separate ways.
At 1 p.m. I got onto my laptop and joined the meeting with my fellow LPC Express staff members, and was met with some ‘Happy Birthdays’. The meeting in which we discussed our current stories and caught up with how everyone is handling stuff ended at about 2:30 p.m., which gave me some time to work on math homework before my phone appointment at 3 p.m., so I can get health insurance. After talking to someone who assists others enroll, it turned out I was supposed to receive something in the mail already from MediCal that would tell me the next steps for enrolling, but I didn’t, so health insurance has to wait until further notice. Which frankly sucks, because I’m around a lot of people for eight hours a day, four times a week, at my job. So there is a constant sort of hanging fear above me of, what happens if I get Coronavirus and I still don’t have health insurance? I’ve been trying to live my life lately without letting that fear take over my happiness, which I’ve done a good job of so far, but sometimes it’s hard not to think about it.
After that phone call I realized I still forgot to buy some things I needed, like garlic for my green beans and champagne for my orange juice, and apparently my girlfriend also forgot some things as well, so I walked down the street to Safeway and met her there. After a brief trip to Safeway, we texted my friend Garrison to let him know we were on our way to Melissa’s house so that we can all barbecue our food and hang out, six feet apart in the backyard.
The three of us somehow managed to not eat a single meal up until about 4 p.m., so we started cooking as soon as we got to her house since we were all starving. Melissa grilled salmon while Garrison and I grilled steaks and green beans. I seasoned the hell out of my boneless New York steak and tried to get it to medium rare, but missed the mark a bit. I charred the outside more than I would’ve liked, maybe due to how much seasoning was on it, but the inside was still juicy. I had my Pink Whitney while I was eating and it was stronger than I expected it to be, plus I’m a lightweight when it comes to alcohol, so I had to add a little extra lemonade, since there’s basically no lemonade flavor in the bottle.
Shortly after we ate our dinner, we went to the “man cave” in the garage, where I was met with a little arrangement my girlfriend set up, to set a “bar atmosphere”. It was a flashing bar sign and a lot of Christmas lights around the garage. It was simple, made the mood a little more festive and was greatly appreciated. Although it wasn’t the bar I had imagined I would’ve been at for my 21st, it still felt special because my friends made me feel special by trying to have a birthday party for me during this pandemic and they felt bad.
We started to watch one of my favorite TV shows, Cutthroat Kitchen, while we still vegged out after dinner and awaited one more friend. At about 8 p.m., my friend Sam arrived with gloves on, disinfectant wipes, and laser tag guns. He brought me a plastic baggie with a variety of goodies inside that I won’t share, but that I will put to use. At this time, my girlfriend ran inside and got some plates and the cake ready. There was a table set up for me by the bar sign, so I pulled up a lawn chair and took a seat, as my friends backed up and started to sing ‘Happy Birthday’. After they finished, I took a very long pause to make my wish as I always do, and then blew the candles out. I’m not too sure what I expected from the cake, but it was delicious as I could’ve hoped for when I randomly picked it out earlier. Sam chose not to share food with us, but I didn’t mind because that meant more cake for me.
Not too long after we started eating cake, a discussion about the coronavirus started. It was interesting at first but shortly after I kinda remembered that we are in a shelter in place for a reason and there’s a reason why I’m not out at a bar or something. As the conversation carried on, I didn’t really talk much about the virus because it was kind of making me sad and got me a little paranoid about it. Remembering how I still don’t have two things in the mail that I need just to apply for health insurance, not to mention the fact I’ll be starting a job at a grocery store soon.
But my friends could tell I didn’t really want to be having this conversation while I eat cake, so we changed the topic and got ready to go out to the park across the street for our laser tag battle. The guns that Sam brought were fairly large and non realistic looking guns, that had sometimes faulty buttons on the side, meant for switching teams and weapon type. The shooting and hitting mechanisms were also a bit wonky, but we still had fun running around a big grass field all by ourselves at night. After about a half hour, I was tired and wanted to head back. Sam took his guns, gave them a wipe, said his goodbyes and happy birthday one more time and headed back home.
Melissa and I made some drinks when we got back and we got ready to play Cards Against Humanity for the next hour with Garrison. Garrison barely won with 11 black cards, while Melissa and I finished with 10 black cards each. Afterwards, we attempted to find a movie to watch but we were all getting tired as it was midnight now, so we started to get ready to part ways and go to bed.
It sucks not seeing the people you love being around and it sucks being alone on your birthday. Throughout the day I got a mix of texts and Facetime calls from family or friends that are no longer in town, wishing me a happy birthday. I did originally invite more people, but they didn’t come for different reasons, but both involved the Coronavirus, so I had to be understanding. As for my other friends that were there, did we social distance and stay home? No. Did we try our best to not touch each other or get within six feet of each other? Yes. Do we intend to stay at home and not meet up again for a while to make up for the fact that we met on my birthday? Yes. Do I regret having a small quarantine party? Not at all. It really helped brighten my day up and distract me from the depressing realities of life lately and allowed me to have a wonderful gift that normally people don’t acknowledge as gifts, human interaction.
Taylour Sparkman is a staff writer for The Express. Follow him @T_Sparkman_330.