Stubbed Out


Wisconsin is battling America’s worst coronavirus outbreak, and the state’s broken politics are partly to blame (Yahoo! News)

I managed to go my first two autumns here in Wisconsin without having to deal with a ladybug infestation, but I wasn’t so lucky this year. Even with me making a point of staying in my apartment except when it’s absolutely necessary for me to go out, ladybugs started creeping into my apartment about a week ago, and the problems get worse every time I have to open my door for any reason. I’ve had a lot of reasons to open my door the past few days, and I’ll get to those shortly, but what I’m dealing with right now almost feels like a kind of revenge for being able to avoid ladybugs since my last year in Toledo.

While trying to take care of my ladybug problems this past Thursday, I wasn’t looking where I was going and I wound up stubbing the big toe of my right foot against my big video gaming chair in my living room. My toe hurt, but no more so than I’m used to (I stub my toes a lot, both because I’m clumsy and because I’m almost always barefoot in my apartment), and I got through the rest of the night without much trouble. The number of ladybugs that entered my apartment each day was starting to decrease, and I felt like I was over the worst of this season’s insect issues.

My toe was in a fair bit of pain when I woke up Friday morning, but it was still more of an inconvenience than anything. Things got better when I put on shoes and socks that afternoon so I could take care of business on campus — I proctored a big standardized test on Saturday, so I needed to set up the facilities and get all my testing materials logged in — and even though I decided against going to get ice cream when I was done with all that because I didn’t want to aggravate my foot even more, I felt like I’d be okay.

I didn’t sleep well before Saturday morning’s test, but I never sleep well before those, in part because I have to get up at 4:30 in the morning on testing days so I can take care of my usual morning routine before I leave, as well as eat enough food so I won’t get hungry in the middle of the test. My toe was hurting again, but it was more of a dull pain than something I’d consider serious. I put on shoes and socks again, and even though my foot still hurt, I didn’t notice myself limping when I was walking around during my proctoring, or even when I was hauling my heavy box of testing materials from building to building. I got back to my apartment without much trouble, immediately showered in case I’d gotten any germs on myself that day, and then played video games for a few minutes before I went back to my bed to try to nap.

Napping has never been my forté, but my brain wouldn’t shut off there, and more to the point, my whole body quickly became stiff and painful. I assume that I was feeling my adrenaline wear off — even after all these years of teaching, every class still makes me nervous, so I shouldn’t expect these proctoring sessions to be any different — and that I wasn’t doing nearly as well during that test as I felt I was at the time. More to the point, my foot started becoming even more painful than before, to the point where even after trying to do some other things, it still kept me awake into Sunday morning. Walking on anything other than the outside of my right foot is still possible, but you’d have to pay me a lot of money to get me to try it right now.

I’m assuming that I messed up my toe more than I realized on Thursday night, and I’m now suffering the ill effects of overexerting myself on Saturday (and even Friday). The good news is that I don’t have much reason to leave my apartment except on Wednesdays, the one day this semester when I have a class that meets in-person. The bad news is that Wednesday is just a couple of days away now, and I can already tell that my foot won’t be in good enough shape for me to make that trip to campus in about forty-eight hours.

This is all coming, of course, in the midst of COVID-19 cases spiking here in Wisconsin, and even though our campus still hasn’t had a documented case yet, attendance at Saturday’s test was only 70% of those who had paid (and hadn’t canceled), and all those students were young enough that if they had COVID-19, then there was a good chance that their cases were asymptomatic. Despite proclamations that a virus that’s killed over 210,000 Americans in the last seven months is “nothing to worry about,” only a fool would be unconcerned about the possibility of COVID-19 spread anywhere in the world, let alone in this state right now.

Unfortunately, we have a lot of fools in this state, and some of those fools have an inordinate amount of power over the lives of the rest of us. I’m sure that if some of these people had their druthers, they’d force all our classes to go back to in-person delivery immediately, and write off the illnesses and deaths that resulted as “nothing special.” It’s not like these people haven’t already been waging a war on Wisconsin’s education system, especially this past decade. I work with the students whose life opportunities have been permanently damaged by their malfeasance every day of my professional life, and their continued obstruction of all the elements of a sane government in this state — to say nothing of their cavalier attitude towards the raging pandemic — is not just a handicap to our well-being, but is now, quite literally, a threat to our lives.

I’m pretty sure that I’ll have to move Wednesday’s in-person class to online delivery this coming week, just because I know from experience that my foot will take a couple of weeks to start feeling better here, let alone well enough to let me do normal classroom teaching activities again. With the way that things in this state have been going, though, I can’t deny feeling a very strong temptation to find every way possible to avoid leaving this apartment for weeks, if not months (especially if all the election-related craziness goes off the charts in November, as I fear is all but inevitable at this point). Even if I hurt my foot even more painfully, that still feels like it would be a whole lot easier to deal with, ladybugs and all, than the alternative.

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