The Austin Chronicle

We Have an Issue: What’s Next?

Adapting to Omicron and everything else life throws our way

By Kimberley Jones, January 14, 2022, Columns

I'm fed up with being glum, so I had a good laugh instead on the phone with customer service this past weekend. I was canceling a trip to see family in North Carolina and trying to sweet-talk my way to a credit, even though like a chump I bought a nonrefundable ticket. The laugh was in trying to imagine what kind of person I was a mere 50 days ago, so cheap and so foolhardy and so optimistic that I wouldn't spend the extra $20 on flight insurance, so certain I was I wouldn't need it.

So yes, Omicron is fucking our shit up. I don't mean that glibly. While it's good news that vaccinated folks who get sick are, by and large, not getting as sick, the sheer numbers of people laid low are astonishing, as are the ripple effects – hospitals overwhelmed again, schools and businesses struggling to stay open with so many workers calling in sick, store shelves half-stocked as the supply chain woes continue.

We touch on Omicron's wrecking ball in this issue, in Beth Sullivan's continued reporting on the pandemic and Melanie Haupt's coverage of the Via 313 worker protest. There are less-visible influences of Omicron on this issue, as well. In a week's time, the story list got rearranged a lot, which is what has to happen when an interview gets rescheduled due to sickness, or a COVID case at day care turns your workday into a take-care-of-your-kid-and-get-the-whole-family-tested day instead. But you adapt, you figure it out, you get it done. Turned into a pretty good issue, I think.

And I was thinking about that, too, on hold with customer service.

I was meant to drive with my father to North Carolina and then fly back. Dad is all business on a road trip, and he doesn't like to stop often for bathroom breaks. So over New Year's, I quit coffee. One less thing to make me pee, I figured. Plus, I kinda just wanted to see if I could. Four days of foul moods and rip-roaring headaches later, I wasn't addicted to caffeine anymore, and I rubbed away a little label – "I'm a coffee drinker" – that's been part of my self-definition since I was 15. I find this almost perversely exciting.

Twelve days ago, I was a coffee drinker. Fifty days ago, I imagined a January where it would be safe to hug my nephews, and now I'll make plans to try again in the spring. Nine-hundred and twenty-two days ago, I was disappearing down a bottle of bourbon. Nine-hundred and twenty-one days ago, I decided I'd rather live.

The world's never going to stop dropping surprises on us. So we adapt. We surprise ourselves.

Online This Week

Democracy Under Attack: On the anniversary of the Jan. 6 insurrection, U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett reflects on the Big Lie, the Trump coup, and what comes next.

Reunited and It Feels So Good: ATX Television Festival announced Parenthood and Justified reunion events at the upcoming June fest.

Dispatches From Free Week: Hobbled by Omicron, Free Week forges on.

R.I.P. Willie Soros: A pivotal member of the genre fiction community, Soros, who died Jan. 5 at the age of 69, ran the bookshop Adventures in Crime & Space and co-founded ArmadilloCon.

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This week, Food Editor Melanie Haupt joins host Kimberley Jones to discuss how the restaurant industry is weathering labor and supply shortages, and staff writer Rachel Rascoe takes a closer look at the five Austin Music Poll finalists for Best Band of the Year.

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