This story is by Bill Eady and was part of our 2020 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
“Juuust a bit outside“. I was 19 years old when I first heard Bob Uecker sarcastically use those words. He was describing one of Ricky “Wild Thing” Vaughn’s pitches, from the 1989 movie Major League. As a small reference, for anyone who hasn’t had the pleasure of watching this baseball classic, Ricky’s first pitch – a fastball, sailed about 6 feet to the right of the batter’s box. I laughed at the phrase then and I laugh at it each time I try copying the expression, whenever something in my own life doesn’t come close to “crossing the plate“. Admittedly, I probably have said it too many times for it to retain its humour. Although, I’m not completely sure if, it’s because my friends and family have grown tired of hearing me repeat it, or I’ve simply “missed the plate” on too many important life choices. Being completely honest, I think it’s likely a 50/50 split. Well, let’s say more like 60/40. My Uecker impersonation is admittedly weak…unlike my Pacino, which is spot on every time. “Hoo-ah“!!
Six feet. 72 inches. 2 yards. No matter how you slice it, in the past, this distance has always represented a positive experience in my life. More, much more, than a simple measurement of length, Six Feet, or “Sick Toes” as I nicknamed him, quickly became my numerical brother. Proof of this relationship can be explained through some fairly obvious examples; 1. The above baseball reference. 2. I am 6’0 tall, which (no offence intended) has proven to be more convenient than 5’0 tall. 3. I’ve thankfully never had to bury anyone extremely close to me six feet under, yet. 4. A six-foot air mattress fits perfectly in my tent while camping. 5. My ladder is only six feet tall, which bodes well for me, considering my fear of heights. And, 6. My beautiful wife is 5’10, but with her heels on she tops out at six feet, making us a very photogenic couple. Without question, I have led a charmed life with respect to the magical distance of six feet, living years almost flaunting my achievements and dominance over this measure. Dominance that is, until approximately March 22, 2020, depending on which time zone you reside in. March 22nd, was the day that saw Sick Toes change from being my lifelong friend into the tormentor of my reality.
March 22nd was the first day that I was personally affected by the pandemic of Covid-19. In no possible way am I going to sit here and try to compare my experience with anyone else’s because that, simply put, would be a complete waste of time. I just want to share how this unprecedented period has altered my life path. Actually, I laugh to myself as I write the words, life path. Thinking of the word “path“, I envision a clearly laid out, relatively straight track. Of course there will be obstacles but, generally speaking, every path has a definitive beginning, middle and end. On March 22nd I was laid off from my job due to the Covid-19 outbreak. Without formally acknowledging it, the first thing I did was subconsciously realize that my current life-path looked more like a bowl of over cooked spaghetti than a textbook “Point A to Point B” image. No worries…my subconscious has a pretty thick layer of denial over it so by the time that spaghetti depiction leaked through, I reasoned that I’d either be back to work or would have found a new job. Plus, I still had my last pay-cheque coming in two weeks and obviously, “this Covid-thing will be gone by then…”.
What’s this? It’s the end of April and I’m not back to work. I haven’t found a new job and Covid-19 has grown into a world-wide medical pandemic? How can this be? For the past 49 years, whenever something went “left” I just waited, usually no more than six days, and something better would occur which brought it back to the right. It wasn’t happening this time. Anyone betting on me to admit that I was beginning to panic would lose a lot of money, but I will say that I did have a full-blown feeling of concern. This was the first time in my life that I didn’t have a job and had to utilize Employment Insurance, which brings home less than my regular wage while all of the bills remain the same. Throughout the month I had sent out resumes and although I was fortunate enough to receive three separate interviews, ultimately my skills didn’t match. Suddenly my thick layer of denial had become cheese cloth, allowing self-doubt and, even worse, reality to drip into my consciousness.
Becoming increasingly aware that this “situation” I found myself in was lasting much longer than originally thought; I started to take personal stock. It is quite amazing how you can keep yourself sufficiently distracted when you have a job to go to, social events to attend and little league rugby to coach. With those and other “time suckers” currently unavailable, I began to review decisions I’d made in my life and started to question the effort I had put forth over the years. My apologies, that’s not quite right…I started to admit the lack of effort I’d put forth over the years. I thought about my University career and how my lack of effort, although managing to secure a Chemistry degree, had prevented me from actually learning enough to become employed in my field of study. I thought about my first two “Big-Boy” careers and how my lack of effort to master their related industries led me to leave and seek new sources of income. I reviewed my resume and discovered how my lack of effort over the years made it appear more like the inventory of someone new to the workforce, rather than a man with twenty-five years of experience. I thought about my overall financial circumstance and how I had only fifteen years left to pay off my mortgage and set up for retirement. I thought about how seemingly every relative, friend, co-worker or acquaintance I knew, had either worked hard to become independently wealthy, had a public pension plan for life or would end up inheriting large sums of money. I do appreciate how fortunate I am that Covid-19 has not caused me any physical illness, but it has managed to make me feel completely vulnerable and alone. While I’ve got an amazing wife, collection of friends and lots of family willing to help make things “hang a sharp right“, there are two hurdles directly in the way of their assistance. Firstly, is my inability to formally ask anyone for help or bother them with my problems. Second, and more important, the realization that no one can help me, but me. I must be the one who puts forth the effort to get out of this quagmire and rise up to my full potential.
When Covid-19 was initially internationally known as the Corona-Virus, I had an opinion, and even the foresight to mention it to a good friend. I believed that, “If this lasts long enough, I feel something good will come out of it“. My opinion was quickly proven correct through reports of Venice’s canals clearing and World smog indexes lowering. Parents having the good fortunate to work from home and spend precious extra time with their children. Families discovering many household savings and altering their financial priorities. I know these last two have dramatically hit home with me, which I absolutely love…better to wake up now rather than an extra 10 years down the retirement road, right?
With June upon us, we are all now at least two and a half months into this new way of life. I am fortunate to report, that my concerns have morphed into a sense of resolve where I feel back in control of my life and future. “Something good will come out of this” has sort of become my mantra. I’ve had an extremely entertaining and exciting life up until now and I have started to look at this experience as simply another deposit into the old memory bank. And who knows, I might even end up finding a career with a six-foot…..oops, I mean, a six-figure salary when it’s all over.