Is COVID Giving You Scurvy?

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R. Denys Calvin, CFA

February 18, 2021

Image used with permission: iStock/JelenaMiljkovic


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Is COVID Giving You Scurvy?

The early ocean-going explorers learned the hard way that a lack of vitamin C can give you scurvy. And, according to Wikipedia, “the knowledge that consuming foods containing vitamin C is a cure for scurvy has been repeatedly forgotten and rediscovered into the early 20th century.” By implication, those vitamin C-deprived sailors likely didn’t realize that their normal diet had more than enough of the right foods until the more restricted offerings aboard ship caught up with them.

It occurred to me recently that life in a pandemic lockdown is, in a sense, a little like life on one of those long-ago galleons…except now it’s not vitamin C we’re missing, but variety. Only with dramatically less variety in our lives do we now recognize (a) we need more than we’re getting, and (b) we must naturally have gotten more than enough before the pandemic without ever realizing or having to think about it. Indeed, just as one can be “full”, but malnourished, so, it seems, can one be “busy”, but debilitated by the sameness of it all.

Fortunately, just as a slice of lemon in the sailor’s mug of rum was enough to help stave off scurvy, so does a surprisingly modest amount of “mixing it up” — doing something slightly different to make one day a little more interesting and fresher than the others — help keep spirits up. Amazingly, going for a walk in a totally different neighbourhood, or with an acquaintance instead of your roommate, can help keep the emotional scurvy at bay.

Once my wife and I got the hang of trying something new for no greater reason than “why not?”, it’s surprising what we’ve stumbled into. Here’s one from the “Don’t-knock-it-till-you-try-it Department”. It didn’t take long to figure out that ready-to-eat take-out that’s more than 15 minutes away is no better than leftovers by the time it gets to the dinner table. Initially that made for a somewhat restricted “hunting ground” in our neighbourhood. But as the halcyon days of summer patios and al fresco dining started to wind down last fall, we got the somewhat nutty idea of taking ourselves, our placemats and cutlery to the food, rather than bringing the take-out order home. So several times in the last few months we have ordered from a favourite (and fancier than normal) restaurant that’s 30 to 40 minutes’ drive away, parked around the corner, collected our order, and tucked into nice, hot take-out in the comfort of my car — complete with a little JazzFM on the radio and a candle-like glow from the map-light. Picture dinner in business class — minus the flight attendants — and you’ve got the right vibe.

Don’t get me wrong. There are so many people I miss being with, places I wish we could go, and things I wish we could do. But for the time being, it turns out that a little bit of variety goes a long way. And if you really look for it, variety seems to be lurking in plain sight everywhere.

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