Visiting a historic town recently, I stepped into the town’s museum and cultural center. Immediately, the woman in charge asked me to sign the center’s register, so they could do contact tracing in case someone got the virus while visiting. A bit unsettled by that intrusion of reality while just wanting to enjoy something historic, I grabbed a pen to write down my name and address, but she groaned. I had picked up the pen from the “used” pile instead of the “new” ones, thereby potentially contaminating myself.
Through her mask, she tried to explain the current exhibit, but I didn’t comprehend everything she said. Somehow, I needed to navigate the rooms just right—clockwise, starting in one room and going to the next, and leaving by the back door. By that time, I felt slightly overwhelmed. How could something enjoyable—viewing paintings of the local area—turn into something that required me to think about every step I took?
For everyone, daily life has gotten more difficult in the age of the pandemic. But for older folks, I think it’s even more challenging because our brains aren’t as speedy as they once were. It takes longer to process everything. And there’s so many new ways of doing things, like meeting friends over Zoom or remembering to bring my mask when I go for a walk around the neighborhood.
One of the harder aspects of daily life for me is taking my life online. I’ve figured out Zoom (except for hiding wrinkles), how to order groceries and take-out food (although each vendor has its own methods) and how to pay bills. But buying clothes online has been a challenge. I end up with tops that are too big, bottoms too small, and colors I wouldn’t wear in a million years.
In the pre-pandemic days, I would go to a department store or thrift shop and try on pants and shirts. But now browsing in stores has become too scary: did someone sneeze behind me? Who touched this shirt before me? If I go into a store now, I try to get what I need and get out as quickly as possible, which is not conducive to trying on different sets of clothes before determining which fits and looks best.
I know younger people buy clothes (and everything else) online, but I don’t understand the language. I need new pants, but do I need crepe crop trousers, mid rise canvas field pants or chino crops (as marketed by one clothing manufacturer)? In a store, I could see what I wanted, could finger the material, hold the pants up to see if they were too long or too short, see if the color complemented my eyes. But that’s not so easy to determine in online photos. There’s a reason I’ve been wearing the same three pairs of shorts all summer long.
This week I finally ordered several different styles of pants, hoping one might work. It felt like the equivalent of throwing a dart at a board while blindfolded and hoping you hit something. We’ll see what I get.