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Quarantine Chronicles: Ginger Johnson

GINGER JOHNSON is an engineering consultant who travels for work, owns her business, and has a Masters in Public Health. A resident of Burnside Island, she’s healthy but misses interaction with her friends the most.

This is her Quarantine Chronicle.

How are you doing?

I’m self-sufficient. I’m usually prepared, but that’s because of all the hurricane seasons and because I travel and I have to have everything in place for that. I didn’t see an urgency to go out and stock up or anything. Actually, life has not been all that different, except for getting together with friends.

The emphasis from the media, TV mainly, is that it’s all about family. Well, friends count too. I feel a little poked because they say, “Stay with your family pod,” and you really need to reach out to your friends, too. Some of us don’t have family; we’re old enough where our parents are gone, we don’t have siblings or nieces or nephews or anything like that. I’d like to see the tone on local news stations, the verbiage, change a little bit.

I guess it’s the way people interpret it. Friends are saying, “Well, no, even if it’s social distance, I can’t see you because you’re not my blood relative.” It’s all in how people are interpreting that, and I understand for safety, but I call it trapped in paradise. I live on Burnside Island, I have a sunset view, it’s absolutely beautiful, and I’m absolutely alone. I live off of the road, so I don’t even see cars going by, so I don’t see any other human beings.

I’ve never given it a second thought until I’ve been here a whole month without having a face-to-face conversation.

How close are your neighbors?

We’re spread out. Once in a while, we wave. The reason we don’t come to the fence is because the sand gnats have been so bad! I try to be good neighbors with my back neighbor; if I make excess food, I take it and will go sit it on her doorstep but won’t see her.

How have you been coping with that isolation?

Being a single homeowner, there is always something to do. I have a big yard, I have house maintenance, I have the most wonderful electric pressure washer, and I have been cleaning, cleaning, cleaning!

My philosophy now is, do not finish everything, leave something for tomorrow, because if I finish everything, then well, what now? So today, I didn’t just dust the furniture, I got the polish out and really gave everything a nice polish.

I would’ve been doing spring cleaning anyway, but staying busy, staying off the internet, staying away from the TV except for my vices which is Young and the Restless—since 1973, they’ve been my family.

You mentioned before that you had a friend in a nursing home that you could no longer visit.

That’s the one thing that’s different. She was my next door neighbor for years, and last summer she went into an Alzheimer’s unit up at Isle of Hope. When I’m in town, I usually visit her once or twice a week, and I stopped that in February. I haven’t seen her, and I miss doing that.

I worry about her because her children live on the West Coast, so she’s not getting any visitors.

Can she have calls?

I don’t know. That’s the other thing—every time I go there, they think I’m her daughter, and I’m like, “No, we’re best friends!” But I found a lot of restrictions because I’m not a blood relative. I would say I’m a little frustrated, but I understand it. I wish there could be some exceptions.

I think that’s a really common refrain I hear about this pandemic and the challenges we face: “I understand, but I just wish it was different.”

It’s where you can see both sides. Both my parents had Alzheimer’s, so I’m very used to it. They’re protecting her, and I'm happy about that. It’s just really different.

She was so close, I used to be able to run up there and run back. I work remotely in my home, so being home and working from home is no different for me. I guess I had all these things in place before everyone else did. Like when Wal-Mart started their pickup service, I was one of the first ones that signed up for that.

I think I already had things in place, so I’m not in panic mode. I understand what it’s like to be at home, I’m just not at my computer anymore, and that’s okay. I don’t really want to be right now. And I think that’s why I’m happy. I miss seeing Lola, though.

If I may, I think another reason you’re feeling calm is because you have a Masters in Public Health from Armstrong, so understand the virus must be helping. Is that accurate?

Absolutely. A lot of the habits that people are having to adopt now, I adopted years ago. Six years of travel, all airplane, I have not had one incident of respiratory distress, but it’s because I watch what I touch and I take a scarf. I have so many tips!

You also own a small business. What’s it like being a business owner right now?

I guess if there’s any fear, it’s fear of the unknown. There’s a little bit of uncertainty. I don’t know whether I should just call it quits—do I have it in me to try to get back out there, and when would that be? I’ll tell you what I predict: the virus will slow down this summer, but I have a feeling it’s going to raise its head again this fall through winter. That is what I’m preparing for, so I may be out of work all year.

I wish there was some sort of support or sounding board for, “Wow, what should I do? What’s the best option for me at this point? What are others doing?”

What’s the most important thing you want people to understand?

That’s a tough one! Protect yourself, be aware of the space around you, and be kind.