For the second day in a row we’ve gotten a notice of a Covid exposure in the kid’s classroom. One more case and it’s technically an outbreak.

Mask-optional was one thing when cases were low and flat, but the numbers have been climbing for weeks. And that’s not including however many at-home tests don’t get reported. The classroom is now mask-required for the next 10 days, which means the rest of the school year.

Fortunately the kid’s been wearing N95s since before the first exposure!

I looked up the county regs for what to do after a third case. They’re wonderfully vague: “If a DPH outbreak investigation is activated, a public health investigator will contact the school to coordinate the outbreak investigation.”

Well, it’s going to put a damper on end-of year parties, even if it stops here.

Update June 10: They managed to get through the rest of the school year without another Covid case!

Google wished me a happy second coronaversary this morning.

Google Photos notification with 2 years ago, today, March 8, 2020, and a picture of a curving coastline

Well, not in so many words. But I count March 8, 2020 as my last normal day, the day I went out to de-stress by taking pictures of the ocean, seagulls, and a zillion tiny clams, grabbed coffee at Peet’s on the way home, and came down with the flu that afternoon. By the time I recovered a few days later, everything had shut down.

I never did get back to the office. I’m still at the same company, but they let the lease expire, tossed everything in storage, and set up a new, smaller office for people to come back to when things settled out.

I finally got to see the new office last month. And see some of my co-workers in person. And pick up the stuff I’d left on my desk, like a coffee mug that I would have washed on Monday morning if I hadn’t been sick.

It’s weird how it feels both longer and shorter than 2 years. Everything kind of blurs together. And yet it’s so different now from the start of the pandemic.

We’re not locked down. Just about everything that’s still in business is open, with precautions. Schools and playgrounds and parks are open. COVID tests are little boxes you buy at the pharmacy and use at home instead of driving through an improvised clean room for someone in a hazmat suit to stick a pole through the window.

It’s not “normal,” but it’s a lot closer to the old normal than those first months were.

The virus is still out there, but we understand better how it spreads and how to treat it, and vaccines make it a lot less likely to be severe for those who’ve gotten them.

(If only more people actually trusted the people who know what they’re talking about, rather than the ones telling them what they want to hear.)

On the down side, lots of people are still getting sick and dying, prices are up, the global supply chain hasn’t recovered, cynical politicians have taken advantage of the pandemic to further divide society and cement their hold on people who just want to be told what they want to hear instead of what they need to know, and a large nuclear power has decided now is an excellent time to invade their neighbors and possibly spark a bigger conflagration.

Things are still in flux. Which is probably part of why it’s still blurring together. We’ve still got problems to fix (or mitigate) at every level from home to global. Whatever the new normal is going to be, we haven’t made it yet.

But not having a direction, not having milestones, not having a sense what the landscape is going to be, makes it hard to see accomplishments, hard to be motivated. It’s been a draining two years. And even though a lot of things are better, other things are worse, and it’s still so damn draining. I’m exhausted, my wife’s exhausted, our kid’s switched school situations so many times he barely participates anymore.

I want a new normal. A better normal. But the last few years have also made it abundantly clear that more people than I thought don’t want to make things better, they just want other people to have it worse than them.

And yet I know so many people do have it worse than me. I have a job I can do from home. Even in the lockdown, I was quarantined with my family, not alone. I live in an area with enough open space that even during the heaviest restrictions I could still go out for a walk. My immediate family hasn’t caught COVID, and the extended family members who did recovered from it. And of course I’m not dodging mortar shells or fleeing a battle zone. So what am I complaining about? By some standards my life is charmed, so what business do I have feeling depressed and anxious?

Brains are weird. You spend a little time in fight/flight/freeze mode and you’re able to stop or dodge danger. You spend a lot of time in it and your brain just stops classifying input properly.

The weirdest thing about the apparently-not-actually-Covid case I’ve got has been its effect on taste and smell.

It’s already starting to go back to normal, but for a couple of days it went really wonky. It never went out completely. It was more like taking an audio equalizer and readjusting the sliders so that some frequencies are barely audible and others are louder than they should be. And maybe shifting tracks out of sync while you’re at it.

Umami was the only taste that stayed intact, so flavors like cheese were fine. Sour was blunted in some cases, overpowering in others. And sweetness was both faint and delayed, which was really strange.

Seriously: I tried a chocolate chip cookie, and at first it was like eating a cracker or plain biscotti, but after a few seconds of chewing I could taste the chocolate and then the sugar.

I could taste the garlic on roasted potatoes, but could barely taste the potatoes. I could taste soy sauce in a stir-fry sauce, but not the ginger. I could taste the bitterness of kale, but couldn’t taste anything of the carrots.

Spice, Spice, Maybe?

I did some experiments with smell and the spice cabinet. I could smell most of the dried herbs fine – oregano, thyme, dill, cloves. Rosemary was kind of faint, but I could pick it up.

Garlic was seriously intense.

I could smell cinnamon but not nutmeg, which I thought was odd.

But the really weird one: paprika, ancho, black pepper, cayenne and ginger all smelled subtly off from normal. It was like when you get a chile of a type that’s normally spicy, but isn’t, and you can still taste the flavor but it doesn’t have the bite you expect.

Saucy!

I also tried tasting a few sauces.

Ketchup and mustard tasted more sour than usual. Plain yellow mustard was so intensely sour I couldn’t stand it!

Teriyaki tasted a little more like sweet and sour sauce.

Gochujang and caramel were both a little bit off, but I can’t quite place how.

Chocolate syrup was interesting, because I could pick up the chocolate taste before the sweetness, so it started out tasting like darker chocolate.

The same thing happened with chocolate candies. We have an assortment of Ghirardelli squares, and I tried a few of them: the 60% cocoa tasted like the 72% normally does. The filling on the mint was more noticeable than its chocolate coating. And the sea salt caramel just tasted like salty chocolate.