Because this is Women’s History Month, women will be the focus of all my March blogs. Unfortunately, COVID isn’t yet history—but it will be! And history may fail to note some of the lesser-known side-effects of the pandemic.
All of the examples of non-medical pandemic side effects are from women I actually know.
Newly Discovered (or Re-Discovered) Interests and Skills
2 & 3) Sisters who have undertaken plant therapy, focusing on (obsessing about) caring for their houseplants.
Why the Christmas cactus leaves are yellow and how to fix it.
Why the leaf edges are crispy.
The best placement for each plant in terms of light, heat, and moisture.
Also buying new plants
Stag horn fern
Plant containers and accessories, such as ceramic pots, macramé holders for hanging plants and geometric air plant holders.
6) She found working from home in yoga pants to be so comfortable that she decided never to wear regular waistbands again.
7) She has started creating digital learning modules for elementary grades as a way to help students whose parents are not able to stay home and supervise their children’s online classes.
8) She’s taken up needlework and sewing.
9) She plays online games and crossword puzzles.
Certain Habits (Obsessions?) That Reassure Some Women That They Are “Still Okay”
12) She makes a point of wearing a clean T-shirt every day.
13) She set herself a strict schedule and sticks to it, eating, working, cleaning, etc. at the same time every day.
14) She gets fully dressed every day, including a complete array of jewelry.
15) She bought 23 masks so she can coordinate them with her outfits.
16) Every day, she has a video chat with at least one friend or family member, and they talk about anything except work, the pandemic, and politics.
Side Effects of Being Home All Day, Every Day
19) She spends extra time training her dog, going way beyond basic obedience. They can do dance routines together now.
20) She’s going through the house room by room and getting rid of things. In the kitchen, it’s old herbs, spices, and condiments plus everything past its “best by” date. In the bathroom, it’s old OTC products and half-used grooming supplies. She’s purging the bookshelves of 1/3 of the books. You get the idea.
23) She painted all the woodwork, refinished the stairs, replaced the drafty windows, and more home improvements are on the horizon.
24) She is having both bathrooms and the kitchen remodeled.
25) Pulling every single weed in the flowerbeds, deadheading every couple of days, pruning, etc.
26) Every time she cooks, she makes double and freezes half so the family won’t have to worry about grocery shopping or cooking in case someone in the family gets sick or has to quarantine.
Self-Soothing Behaviors (i.e., Doing Things to Reduce Anxiety) Can Get Out of Hand
28) She makes soup, sometimes having five different kinds in the refrigerator at the same time.
29) She walks 3 miles around the neighborhood every morning.
30) Compulsive shopping on-line.
31) Baking elaborate (or simply large) chocolate desserts and eating the entire result by herself.
The media have made clear that smoking, drinking, drugs, and other bad habits are up during the pandemic. Fortunately, I don’t personally know anyone relying on these bad habits.
Bottom Line: changing behaviors because of COVID often lead to changes that seem totally unrelated.
A week ago, I wrote about all the packages that hadn’t arrived before Christmas. Well, as 2021 began, the backlog continued. Again, drawing from my circle of family and friends, the waiting continued.
LJ: I’m SO frustrated. We mailed a box of gifts to Virginia on December 7. It sat in Cuyahoga Falls [Ohio] PO till December 15 before it arrived 7 miles away in Akron regional distribution center, arriving on December 17. It has been sitting there since, no movement shown in the tracking system! I know all the problems they have been having this year, but what is going on now? It only needs to get to Fredericksburg now. Just a little farther…
NP: We’ve had the same problem here. A package G was expecting sat 10(!) miles from our house for more than a week.
KC: My box is still in Akron. No movement. The cookies are stale.
TB: Me too, L! I hope EL finally got hers.
DA: BTW—we were not nearly as happy with UPS & FedEx. Several packages were randomly tossed “somewhere” in the vicinity of the house. One package (of nice chocolates) sat for a day and a half out in the rain before the meter man saw it & alerted us.
LJ: MJ had a photo of a package he sent to his sister in Buffalo. The Amazon guy left it in the snow. M got the delivery photo notice and he sent it to his sister. If they can’t get up to the house because of heavy snow, delivery people should have some way of notifying the recipient. At least Amazon’s photos help with that.
TB: Our son’s pkg took almost 3 weeks from Oregon [to Ohio].
LJ: Weird, since the packages I sent to Florida and Memphis arrived at their destinations in time for Christmas with time to spare. Only my East and West destinations were screwed up. Arizona made it yesterday and Virginia is the one still traveling. That was the shortest journey by road mileage.
LJ: Mine is still at Dulles in Virginia; this is the 31st day. It needs to get to Fredericksburg. I’m happy you got yours before the New Year, however.
KC: I received a message on Dec 20 that my package was to be delivered Dec 3! It arrived on the 22nd!
MH: I think Ohio is the problem! D had an order for pants from LLBean and there were in the center near Columbus for a month! It wasn’t a Christmas present so it didn’t matter. We didn’t realize so many people were having this problem. In Ohio’s defense, I’m sure the diversion of trucks for vaccine delivery and the major storms were a factor.
LJ: There is something wrong with the Ohio to Virginia connection.
SB: Yup, still waiting for mine. Jan 6th now.
DM: My friend ordered a Christmas present for her husband on 12/2 and by 1/4 it still hadn’t arrived!
DA: We must be the only people alive who had no (zero, null, nada) problems with package delivery. Our mailings to California, New Jersey, and Boston were delivered exactly when the tracking said they’d be. On the other hand, “normal” mail is quite another thing: no regular magazine deliveries (New Yorker, etc.), one priority mail that was sent from Hiram to our Hiram PO Box (for $3.80) took seven days. (Simply bizarre.) Not a single package or card from Europe has arrived yet—but Australian mail has exceeded all expectations. Tell me it’s not a plan to destroy the USPS so that it can be privatized….
[You may recall that in my blog about the Great Delivery Debacle posted 12/29, I offered three possible explanations—other than sheer overload—but an effort to privatize wasn’t one of them!]
Since January 1, a dam seems to have broken—but still no rhyme or reason I can find!
January 2-4, I received 11 packages, everything from nutritional supplements to a present I’d ordered to give as a present. Saturday and yesterday packages were delivered morning and afternoon.
Because you must be waiting with bated breath to know about the package from my sister, I won’t keep you in suspense: box of presents she mailed in Lancaster, OH, 12/11, arrived Saturday, 1/2! I was sorry to see that she had paid $20.40 for priority shipping!
Similarly, a standard 8.5X11-inch family calendar mailed from Massachusetts, $9.90 for two-day delivery, arrived after 5 days.
The other packages, mailed from all over the country between December 18 and 28, all arrived together. I noticed that two from Florida on the same day, one priority and one first class arrived together.
Surprise, shock, and awe! An item scheduled for delivery on January 6 arrived January 4!
There is a method to all of this madness… sort of. Several factors combined this year to delay mail and package delivery schedules in every company. The various delivery services—US Postal Service, FedEx, UPS, Amazon, and others—often work together to carry goods to their destinations.
In particular, the Post Office is often responsible for delivering mail to individual residences in less populated areas, regardless of which company began the shipping. This means that a delay in any of the delivery services almost always ripples out.
Holiday delivery surges happen every year, but this year was extra special! You may remember some disruptions in US mail services from this past year, highlighted again at election time. Many of those disruptions are still in place.
Sorting equipment that was removed and destroyed has not been replaced. Delivery trucks have not been serviced and so have broken down. Employees are still exposed to COVID, and many are sick or have passed away.
Kim Frum, a senior public relations representative for USPS, released a statement that read, in part, “While every year the Postal Service carefully plans for peak holiday season, a historic record of holiday volume compounded by a temporary employee shortage due to the COVID-19 surge, and capacity challenges with airlifts and trucking for moving this historic volume of mail are leading to temporary delays.”
Employees at Amazon, FedEx, DHL, Hermes, and UPS also interact regularly with the public and thus are exposed to increased risk of COVID. International service has been disrupted because of travel restrictions. Everyone is dealing with increased volumes because people are ordering things online to comply with quarantine orders.
The madness comes from playing Russian roulette with your packages. Will your box be the one in the back corner of the truck? Will your letter be the one that won’t fit in the bag and has to be left for the next round? Will your parcel be the one that hasn’t been sorted by the end of the shift and must stay in the warehouse until tomorrow? Most chancy of all: whose mail will that shifty new guy take to the TV studio with him?
Bottom line: I’m waiting to see what the new mailing normal will be.
UPS and FedEx are much involved in delivering COVID vaccines, and their reported delays are at least partly due to that. On the other hand, USPS delays are attributed to sheer volume. How bad is it? Reportedly, more than 93% of USPS package arrived on time. If so, why am I so special?
Here’s a look at the sorts of delays that happened this year—and are ongoing—within my own circle.
I ordered a gift for a friend on 12/02/20. It has not yet been delivered.
On 12/16/20, I mailed 4 packages, to OH, MA, CO, and CT.
12/19/20 The package arrived in Arvada, CO.
12/24/20 Packages arrived in East Longmeadow, MA, and Winstead, CT.
12/28/20 The package arrived in Lancaster, OH.
12/11/20 A package was mailed to me from Lancaster, OH, and as of this writing, it still hasn’t arrived.
12/17/20 Est. delivery 12/22/20, in transit, currently in MD
12/18/20 Est. delivery 12/23/20, in transit
12/20/20 Est. delivery 12/26/20, still in transit
12/21/20 Out for delivery in Henrico
12/28/20 Again out for delivery in Henrico—but not delivered.
Hiram, OH, is a town so small that there is no home delivery of mail. A former colleague there reported mailing packages to CA and two other distant states, all of which arrived on time.
On the other hand, a local friend of his (in Hiram, OH) mailed a Christmas card to him at the same post office, which showed up in his mailbox six days later.
A family member in East Longmeadow, MA, shipped two packages at the local USPS on 12/19/20, one to PA and one to VT.
Both packages left the local USPS at 2:30 that afternoon.
The PA package arrived at its destination on 12/22/20.
The VT package arrived in Atlanta at 5:17 on the 12/20/20.
On the 21st it arrived at the “local” USPS facility in Stockbridge, GA, and was out for delivery.
On 12/22/20 it went from Stockbridge to southern CT, arriving on 12/23/20.
That night it went to Nashua, NH, where it remains.
These events are, indirectly, caused by COVID: people are out less, traveling less, shopping online, and mailing rather than delivering presents. Thus, the presumed disruption is sheer overload of the system.
As essential workers, employees involved in packing, sorting, driving, and delivering all these orders are more exposed to infection. Every sick employee puts extra strain on all the others, who have to scramble to fill the supply chain.
But what if there’s more to it than that?
All of the above are true, but my writer’s brain can’t help spinning far more fantastic scenarios. Three possibilities come immediately to mind.
A Shadowy International Organization Did It
Foreign agents from several countries have demonstrated that they have the ability to hack into and interfere with U.S. systems. Perhaps it was the Illuminati. Maybe it’s a rogue branch of the CIA or the NSA.
In this case, possibly they created a bug in the electronic sorting systems to misdirect randomly targeted packages in a way that never shows up but creates massive unpredictability.
It could even be the manufacturer of what was ordered, secretly diverting every product bound for the East Coast and implanting surveillance equipment as part of their plan to take over the entire supply of saltwater taffy.
The Postal Workers Did It
Postal workers have felt overworked and under-appreciated. The new Postmaster General is a political appointee who doesn’t know or care how the United States Post Office works. Hours have been cut, essential equipment has been removed and destroyed, some customers are told to be treated better than others, and warehouses are filling with ever-growing piles of late deliveries.
Because December is always the busiest month at the Post Office, employees are burdened by irate customers. They retaliate at both the local and national level. At the local level, the packages of rude customers are shifted to a “delay” bin. When a customer comes in with an inordinate number of packages, half of them also go to the delay bin. When the packages in the “delay” bin go out, they are stamped with a secret symbol telling other works along the line to delay this package. Members of the Postal Workers’ Union have passed the word on the dark web.
The Fickle Finger of Fate is Responsible
A great, cosmic karma targeted people who haven’t suffered enough during COVID—who haven’t suffered food deprivation, loss of housing, loss of employment, depression, substance abuse, or actually suffering COVID hospitalization. These people have their packages delayed and lost as the first part of Cosmic Balance Restoration. Unfortunately, sometimes people outside the target group are affected.
Bottom line: Consider your delivery debacles (or any other disruption in your usual expectations) and what might be the real cause!