Another Ordinary Day
Lacroix Family Calendar for Friday, May 7, 2021
The Lacroix family, Anne-Marie (42), Pierre (47), Sophie (16), and Nicolas (7), live in Nyon, Canton Vaud, just between Lausanne and Geneva in Switzerland. Today is Pierre’s 47th birthday, his second since COVID-19 hit, but it feels to him like an ordinary Friday.
Pierre wakes up and goes for a run by the lake before the kids get up. If only his knee didn’t hurt — was 47 really that old?! At least it feels good to get air into his lungs before there were too many people on the path and he would feel that impossible-to-ignore social pressure to put his mask on.
By the time he gets home, Anne-Marie is up. Their grocery and meal-kit deliveries have arrived at 8:30, and the grocery bags sit on the counter, still sealed with their COVID-FREE sanitation sticker on the handle. Getting groceries from a COVID-secure store and delivery service is a bit more expensive but well worth it.
The kids need to get up for school. Thank God, they do now. In January 2021, all the schools in Canton Vaud went to a hybrid model. About half of the classes are still online, but an increasing number are conducted in-person in smaller groups called Pods. Pod classes take place in specially constructed built-in-plexi cubicles (with proper ventilation and temperature monitors) to maintain social distancing and contact tracing standards.
Even though it was costly to set up and quite different from normal schooling, that in-person time is now considered vital by educators and psychologists. It’s certainly vital for Pierre and Anne-Marie to have the kids out of the house for at least a few days a week.
Anne-Marie drives Nicolas to school that morning on her way to the hospital. Sophie stays home for back-to-back lectures on chemistry, math, biology, and literature. Pierre has a series of Zoom meetings for his company, a pharmaceutical start-up that he left GSK to help launch.
Anne-Marie is a pediatric surgeon, so she needs to do rounds at the hospital every day. Now that the surge of COVID cases has flattened, it’s no longer such an ordeal getting in and out of the hospital, and she’s gotten used to wearing PPE.
She hates the masks though, because they hide her face from the kids, but recently she’s started using a print-on-demand personalized mask with a replica of her face with a friendly but rather serious expression. The kids think it’s funny.
She meets a number of patients and families in private rooms that are sanitized before and after each visit. She appreciates that new system now records her visits so she doesn’t have to write-up notes. Administrative paperwork is way down since COVID, a nice by-product of the massive switch to tele-medicine platforms. Her other important new device is a beeper app that warns her of anyone getting too close and collects data for contact tracing in case of another outbreak.
Later, she goes to her office and does several tele-medicine visits by secure video portal. She’s grateful she can take off her mask now. Until a few months ago, everyone in the hospital had to wear their masks even in private, until the clinicians all sent a petition to the health department and the policy was changed.
At the end of her scheduled appointments, she logs into the weekly COVID update forum, in which representatives of the federal government and OFSP (Office Federal de la Santé Public) speak. The health system Chief Medical Officer comes on at the end to cover any follow-up questions from the staff. It’s a relief to know that everyone in the country has now been tested, and that remote monitoring devices, AI and contact tracing technologies are keeping the few new outbreaks well under control. If infection rates stay below 7% for another month, then COVID will be considered manageable. Of course, there are already reports of a new coronavirus out of China, but it’s being tackled aggressively this time, and experts are hopeful that the infection will not become a pandemic.
Sophie goes to school in the afternoon for Pod classes, then volleyball practice. Volleyball is considered one of the “safe” sports because there are fewer players and less incidental contact.
The rules of the game have altered a bit with the use of social distance wrist beepers for every player. Getting closer than one meter causes a buzz and an automatic loss of serve. The girls have gotten pretty good at staying apart.
After school, Nicolas has music class with his teacher. Pierre was skeptical that Nicolas would get much out of on-line classes but the teacher has done an amazing job kindling an interest in piano by getting Nicolas to compete with other kids around the country. Who would have imagined?
After lunch in town, where the restaurant only allows 50% occupancy, Pierre drives out to a manufacturing factory on the west side where a vendor produces pharmaceutical ingredients for his lab. Before COVID, most of the raw material manufacturing factories in the world were in China and India, but now government regulations make some domestic manufacturing mandatory and investors prefer knowing that supply is secure. It gives Pierre more confidence, too.
On his way home from the factory, Pierre talks to his therapist in the car. It’s good to do a check-up on his birthday. It makes him feel more grounded and secure about how he is handling the many stresses and ups and downs of life, and the therapist congratulates him on how far he’s come since a bad bout of depression this time last year.
After school, Sophie spends some time talking with friends on a video gathering, then she starts making dinner. Usually Friday is Pierre’s night, but since it’s his birthday, Sophie wants to cook him something special. She makes home-made spaghetti and soufflé chocolat, kind of strange but wonderful combination. It’s fun to hear the kids sing joyeux anniversaire (happy birthday). Pierre’s mother, father and sister join on-line for the blowing out of the candles.
Pierre and Anne-Marie have decided that they’ll celebrate his birthday together tomorrow night just the two of them at a restaurant. Tonight, Pierre has a class reunion scheduled at the local pub, so Anne-Marie goes to her book club. Pierre has to show his COVID-Safe bracelet (registering his Anti-body status) to get into bar. Pierre ’s friend, J.D., says the bracelet is the new condom — never go to a night club without one.
The class reunion is another hybrid. In addition to JD, five friends from University of Lausanne attend in person, and another 10 attend by video. The bar is equipped now with a huge video screen for virtual parties. Everyone says cheers and they all sing Pierre happy birthday when someone mentions it’s the big day. Pierre is forced to drink a shot of Slivovitz, and he practically gags afterward.
Anne-Marie is still up when Pierre gets home, and they have a cup of tea on the balcony and talk. In a reflective mood, they discuss how much life has changed. The past year felt like a boot camp for new army recruits. Every day was a new drill. Discipline and order were essential. Now it all feels normal, and good in its own way.
Anne-Marie gives Pierre a present.
“We agreed no gifts,” Pierre says.
“How could I resist?” Anne-Marie answers with a grin.
Pierre opens it up. It’s a book by an author Pierre heard speak at a global leadership forum a month ago.
“The Gift of Crisis”, Pierre says. “Thank you.” He leans over to give Anne-Marie a kiss.
He thinks of all the good things that has come from this hard time. The kids are thriving. Anne-Marie is able to practice medicine without fear of dying. Pierre’s company is more innovative than ever and making real progress. No one feels totally secure about the future — and there’s a persistent worry about when the next shoe might drop — but there’s something about appreciating the moment which makes life feel precious, even when it’s just another ordinary day.
Who knew crisis could be a gift?