On 2020, hot tubs, quarantine, and witches in a blizzard, Part 1

By: S.A. Rowner


And so, as it inevitably happened to so many others these past two years, a friend of mine’s child tested positive for Covid.


As we all learned back in March, 2020 – and some of us are still learning through it – being stuck at home with everyone in quarantine is certainly no fun for the parents. And that’s just on the first day.


With the dreaded quarantine for all family members somehow taking longer than the actual ‘diagnosee’ these days (I know, go figure!), this friend and his family somehow survived the 14 days, were ready to send their kids back to school and he back to face the world again, when on the day they were allowed out, he, my friend, developed a fever.


He went to take a Corona test that night and called me back to let me know that he was absolutely certain that the lab he visited can get rapid results, even this late at night.


“Are you sure?” I asked him.


“Absolutely,” he replied. “I know this because I’m a very positive guy right now.”


Ouch. On just the day he was ready to make a “mattir assurim“.


His case was B”H mild, he got an antibody infusion, and in a few days was back to himself, BUT, his family was still quarantined, and now the Yeshiva had mid-winter break, an extended weekend off, and he was already sick of seeing his kids all day and night, and they were sick of being cooped up in the house!


Kvetching to me about his plight, I pushed him to break out of his box a little.


Rent a vacation home somewhere so at least you and the kids get a change of scenery, and quarantine safely there!


Skeptical, he had a million and one questions. “Where do I even find one of those?” he asked.


Being a more savvy vacation planner than he, I pulled up VRBO and used a couple of my own pointers to find him any house, that could hold his family, in a nice secluded area, affordably and sent him a link to the list.


What about the kitchen, he asked? How can you use a non-kosher kitchen? I explained that there are ways to kasher burners, self clean the ovens, etc, and I was sensing that he was getting a bit overwhelmed by it. Just bring along two George Foreman grills, one for milchigs and one for fleishigs, I suggested. Cook simply, like grilled cheese, paninis, hotdogs, and forget about kashering the kitchen.


He was concerned what his kids would do all day. I told him to find a house with a gameroom, common enough in vacation homes and a filterable category in the list of choices. The idea intrigued him, and he kept busy for a few hours, comparing air hockey tables and ping pong in the different options.


But then he got cold feet again.


So I had a brainstorm to warm him up to the idea again.


“Have you ever heard of a hot tub?”, I asked.


“Isn’t that like an outdoor jacuzzi?” He wanted to know. “That doesn’t affect me this trip. It’s the middle of January!”


I explained to him that the best and most enjoyable time to use a hot tub is in the freezing cold, with the temperature set to 104 degrees, surrounded by the snow under starry skies, your breaths misting in the cool air.


“Your kids will love it too,” I surmised. “Mine can’t get enough of it!”


Ok, it appeared that I had convinced him back on board, and I anticipated hearing back from him soon that he was booked in and all set to go.


Not so fast.


When I hadn’t heard back from him by the next morning, I called him to find out what was going on.


“It’s nuts,” he said. “I simply can’t afford this. Every time I get to the checkout page, there are all of these extra fees that hike up the price to almost double.”


I explained to him how to negotiate with the owners, by writing a nice quick form mail and then copy/pasting it to each potential home, and to make a short story longer, he finally booked something with someone, albeit off the VRBO system, so the owner could avoid paying commission and give him a price break.


Voila! Now it should be smooth sailing from here, I thought.


If only. I should’ve sent him to


My bad. Here’s what happened next.


My phone showed a text message the night he was supposed to arrive. “Please call. Urgent,” it read.


(continued in part 2)