Friday, May 7, 2021

The risks we face: bears, cars, COVID-19

     A woman was eaten by a bear in Colorado Friday, shortly after my wife and I arrived for a long weekend. Not just mauled; consumed. A bad end. This tragic and gruesome event didn’t give us pause before hitting the trails, however. Such attacks are rare. Plus, it happened near Durango, the southwest corner of the state. Far from Boulder.
     Just another risk to consider, along with whether I need those ski-pole-like sticks that older hikers use to keep their balance — not yet — or if we should cut our hike short because of the weather — we did, a good choice, since it began hailing, hard, two hours after we left the mountainside. And of course the most dangerous peril of all: driving to the trailhead.
     Not to forget the newest, and therefore scariest, risk: COVID-19. Most hikers wore masks, even though we were outside and more than six feet apart, generally. Those who didn’t have masks would pull out the necks of their T-shirts and tuck their noses inside as we passed, almost as a form of greeting. I am fully vaccinated, so I wore my mask below my chin when nobody was around, slipping it into place as people approached. It seemed the polite thing to do, and I didn’t consider my personal freedom trod upon.
     Back home, Lori Lightfoot announced Chicago will lead the charge returning to festivals, concerts and summertime fun. Will people show up? Of course we will. Dinners and music and trips give life the illusion of significance.
     That’s why I raced to get my shots. We flew to Colorado, a few days before my wife’s “full immunity” kicked in, to help my mother through some minor surgery. Because of the timing, my wife initially decreed we would wear face shields on the plane. That was scary. Face shields strike me as something nurses wear in intensive care units. To wear one in an airport is a bridge too far, like putting on a welding mask to shake hands. But I was willing to humor her. Heck, I once took Metra downtown wearing a kilt, backwards. What is shame to me?
     But the day before the flight, when she practiced putting on the face shield, it was murky—we had bought them online—and she abandoned the idea. I uttered a silent prayer of thanks.

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  1. FYI, from the CDC website: “ CDC does not recommendexternal icon using face shields or goggles as a substitute for masks. Goggles or other eye protection may be used in addition to a mask. Do NOT put a plastic face shield (or a mask) on newborns or infants.

    Face shields and goggles are primarily used to protect the eyes of the person wearing it. Goggles do not cover the nose and mouth. Face shields are not as effective at protecting you or the people around you from respiratory droplets. Face shields have large gaps below and alongside the face, where your respiratory droplets may escape and reach others around you and will not protect you from respiratory droplets from others. However, wearing a mask may not be feasible in every situation for some people.”

  2. If face shields worked, couldn't you smoke behind one and not bother anyone?

  3. Since 1964, the Summit County (Ohio) Metro Parks, just south of Cleveland, has had its Fall Hiking Spree, the largest and oldest event of its kind in the country. If you hike on eight designated hiking trails, you get a medallion or badge, known locally as a "shield." You also get a free 53-inch-long "stick"...actually, they're the handles of janitorial pushbrooms...and the county will even attach the shield to it, each and every year.

    Our "sticks" are now completely covered with shields that date back to 2000, and we're running out of room for more, because we also hike the trails in our own county (Cuyahoga). So they aren't just for geezer balance--they're also for showing off to younger newbies.

    My wife seems to have no desire to quit, but I'm about ready to hang up my stick, after earning a couple more shields. My knees will be 75 next year.

    1. That sounds very cool. Picture?

    2. We just got a smartphone, after finally ditching our ancient flip phone. If you want to run it, I'll do my best to get it to you.

  4. I couldn't help but notice the advice on the sign should one encounter a bear. It read, "Speak firmly & back away slowly."
    I get the speak firmly part but what do you actually say to the bear and its cubs?


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