Monday, March 30, 2020

Lobster Pots

I took these photos a while ago in Marathon and set them aside in the midst of other preoccupations. Now I've found them I want to post them because they remind me of happier times.
I'm not a fisherman but next time you hear someone says there is no industry in the Keys think of these beautiful symmetrical pots waiting for lobster season to roll around. These are the industry that doesn't require tourists.

Lobster pots remind me of the agricultural communities I grew up in. The work is hard, by all accounts as I've never done it. It's all weather dependent and market dependent just like farmers' crops are, and the results can offer workers lots of money or none.

I never found farming to my liking and I doubt fishing commercially would do me any better. I don't even find the time to try angling for fun. I got sick and tired of tractors and fields and and monotony and repetition and the inability to ever get away...
Yet how can you imagine a world without farmers or fishermen? 
To have ever thought I would end up not only working for the police but enjoying it would have rendered me speechless twenty years ago. But I have spent more time sitting in an office than I could ever imagine doing this kind of work, no matter the rewards:
The oceans are warming, populations are increasing and the demand for fish keeps going up apparently.
And yet it still comes back to the crews, almost all are men, in boats, almost all are fiberglass or steel, going out day and night and engaging in a hunt as old as humanity for food from the sea. 
I'm glad I get to harvest mine at the supermarket, but I don't forget where it came from.

Coronavirus Blues

Hard Rock Cafe on Duval Street We read of the massive number of casualties in Italy, a country locked down tight with 60 million people.  9,000 dead there is the equivalent of 45,000 dead in the US in proportion to total populations. Is that close enough to the annual toll of regular 'flu (over a period of months) to make coronavirus serious for the non believers? With Highway 1 and Card Sound Road closed to non residents the plague has given me an unsettled feeling of isolation.
Had the road closures taken place three weeks ago I might feel more sanguine about these late measures to tamp down coronavirus in the Keys but with twelve known cases and hardly any testing it seems exponential math will prove soon enough whether or not it is all too little too late. I have been back at work for two twelve hour day shifts, my wife the teacher is working from home so we are lucky to have jobs and income and not be like so many who are reduced to instant penury by this world wide mess.
If you were to look at my official job description as a call taker and 911 operator and police dispatcher what I am supposed to do is, at its simplest, take calls for help and send help, be it fire police or rescue. Sometimes we call the SPCA or wild animal rescue, or parking control or a utility company or some other form of help, a tow truck perhaps.  What I am not equipped to do is provide information., It is a widespread belief wrongly held that 911 is an information clearing center and when people ask about events or special occasions I usually have no more information than Google does.
So it is that we have a city information line and a county emergency information line to disseminate facts. But these are hard scary times and I find myself pondering the ordinary run of the mill calls, of which we receive very few at the moment, in a  new light. Going to jail is always the worst imaginable outcome of course when police intervene but to go to jail in these weird times is doubly bad. Equally going to the hospital for some relatively minor problem may become difficult or impossible. Fall off your bike? Break an arm? In the world of coronavirus these things suddenly pose existential risks. I read blogs by motorcycle riders and I wonder what they are thinking. probably that they are invincible but to get road rash nowadays could give you a case of the worst 'flu you've ever had, and yet no one seems to think out loud about these extensions of daily life risks.
I show up to work with a bleach bottle sprayer and a gym towel and I spray obsessively. Our bosses are taking this seriously enough that you will see disinfection going on around the police station all day. Officers are trying to work by phone to limit contact but some calls you can't avoid touching strangers. Because I am a dispatcher I am locked down in a room with two others and every time we send an officer on a call or an ambulance to help a sick person I fall back on my gratitude for my job. To be working in a  hospital these days must be an unimaginable stress, never mind the hospitals already overwhelmed by the virus. I work behind locked doors and none but dispatchers are allowed in. We drop paperwork off outside our doors and pick up as much as we can online. There is a casual brutality and indifference created by this virus that I find disheartening more than I expected. We have to treat each other like pariahs and I am sick of it already.
I go home and take a shower and wash my hands (which are chapped like parchment) and stuff my uniform in my own laundry hamper. I wash my clothes and my immune impaired wife washes hers. This is a life without purpose if you have to be surrounded by people and pretend you are alone. Being alone I don't mind at all but crossing the boundaries between actual alone time and socially distancing yourself from actual people makes me wonder how long we can stay sane. I follow the imperturbable Rusty and hope  he can keep reminding me not to lose my mind. So far so good but the tighter the lock down the worse it will get. 
Somehow day to day living continues unperturbed when you look at the utilities including the Internet and food deliveries with a few glaring exceptions. Much of the world would be delighted with the food selection we enjoy in the Keys even with a  few empty shelves. Yet over daily life, a decent meal, streaming TV, ordering books to read, calling 911 and getting a live operator, there hangs the cloud of uncertainty. I would still like a shot at my superpower, to be able to skip forward six months and see what is going to happen.
And so a few pictures.

Old Bahia Honda Bridge, morning: