Fall invaders

Right now it seems as if there are many things that we have no control over and simply have to endure for the duration. A few topics that come to mind include Covid-19, the upcoming election and associated political nonsense, and the Supreme Court nomination process. Having been basically locked down for several months now without access to my normal outside world activities, my focus has shifted to another pressing issue that falls in the same category: western conifer seed bugs.
These pesky pests have invaded our home for the past several weeks, zooming breezily throughout the house without a seeming care in the world. Hunting them down and removing them from the premises has become a new hobby, bordering on full-time job. I choose to think of this exercise as a polite eviction, which is legal in New Hampshire since the Covid-19 stay was lifted in July. I have called our pest control service but was advised I am a day late and a dollar short. These fall invaders need to be dealt with in mid-August. Apparently, they are harmless but do emit a slight odor (defense mechanism) when attacked. Therefore, I try to deal with them in a non-confrontational manner, hoping for a meeting of the minds and a mutually agreeable exit from the premises. Today alone I escorted countless from our home.
Western conifer seed bugs come inside looking for warmth and overwintering sites. It is hard to get rid of them once they have arrived as their intention is to stay for the holidays straight through winter. They are noisy and very active flyers, enjoying their exercise during daylight hours, particularly in areas where I am working. Of course, they have also been known to fly at nighttime. Just this evening one flew from the chandelier straight onto my fork of broccoli precisely as it was poised and ready to enter my mouth. Please cue “mutually agreeable exit from the premises.”
These bugs are a resilient lot and seem to be thriving during the pandemic. Perhaps they are no different from the rest of us, just looking for a safe space to quarantine over the winter until they can once again enjoy the fresh air. The experts say they don’t reproduce in homes or damage household furnishings. Worse houseguests have come and gone, and I assume western conifer seed bugs will follow suit.

Voting principles

Being first in the nation for the presidential primary, we in New Hampshire take our politics seriously. Our residents generally take the time to educate themselves before heading to the polls and make a considered, thoughtful vote. The pandemic has changed the way we live our lives and restricted our freedom in many ways. Fortunately, it didn’t slow our desire or ability to vote in the primary on Sept. 8. With more than 90,000 absentee ballots cast, Secretary of State Bill Gardner reported a record turnout with total ballots cast of over 300,000. If you voted in person, there were mask requirements, social distancing, hand sanitizer, and for those who refused to wear a mask, outside voting stations were available in many towns. The months of preparation for a smooth and successful primary election were on display.

In the “Live Free or Die” state we call home, our residents typically have strong convictions and principled views, making it sometimes nearly impossible to prepare for every circumstance during voting day. Just ask Exeter Town Moderator Paul Scafidi. After he informed a voter that she could not wear an anti-Trump T-shirt inside the polling place, the woman surprised everybody by simply taking the T-shirt off and voting topless. In Portsmouth two individuals took exception with being asked to wear a mask to vote, or alternatively to vote in the tented area outside. Both individuals refused to comply with either request, necessitating a call to the police. Ultimately they were allowed to vote inside without a mask, with one noting they “stood up for the courage of our convictions,” according to media reports.

There is an awful lot we don’t agree on these days — who to vote for, Covid-19, mask requirements, in-person or remote learning, and the list goes on. One thing our spirited residents do agree on is the importance of casting your ballot. Gov. Chris Sununu recently tweeted, “Make no mistake: the election will happen in New Hampshire on November 3rd. End of story. Our voting system in NH is secure, safe, and reliable. We have done it right 100% of the time for 100 years – this year will be no different.” Well said. May the Granite State tradition continue.

An act of kindness

Many years ago, I attended the funeral for the mother of a very dear friend. During the eulogy, it was asked that those who were attending carry out a random act of kindness on behalf of the deceased. At the time, through tears of grief for my friend and her family, I found comfort in this request. It was such a simple thing to ask as a way to honor her life. As time has passed, I have tried to embrace this concept of being kind for the sake of being kind, exhibiting a little more patience, and opening my eyes to offer help when needed.

It seems as though these crazy days of the Covid-19 pandemic are a perfect opportunity to practice this concept. Is not the request to wear a mask or cloth face covering by the CDC, the governor and other health experts really a request for us to extend a random act of kindness to your fellow mankind? As we have all learned, wearing a mask does not protect yourself, but it does protect the other people you come in contact with. Given the asymptomatic nature of Covid-19, the vulnerability of the elderly and those who may be immunocompromised, why would you not want to do the right thing to mitigate the spread?

There are many layers to this pandemic, both medically and economically. Here in New Hampshire, our economy has re-opened with a variety of restrictions and additional safety measures in place. Overall, New Hampshire’s numbers are tracking in a very positive direction. It’s easy to think this is behind us. Don’t be fooled. The disease is still out there, and still very active in the southern tier of the state through community transmission. As the state reopens, it is more important than ever that we continue wearing a mask in public, social distance as appropriate, and execute proper hand hygiene. Only by being diligent with these measures will we continue to see a downward trend.

Do the right thing so that our medical professionals remain healthy and able to serve us. Do it so that other essential employees who have been working tirelessly throughout this pandemic remain well and able to provide for their own families. Do it because if it’s my mother or your father out running an errand, they remain safe as well. Now is not the time to make a political statement. Rather, it is a time to exhibit kindness to strangers.

Fly Manchester

One of the many advantages of living in New Hampshire is the accessibility of Manchester-Boston Regional Airport. Would anyone disagree that flying out of Manchester is much more convenient than flying out of Boston? There is no traffic, and the airport is modern, clean and well-maintained, with four major carriers. Then why did the airport experience its 14th straight year of declining passenger levels? In fact, the passenger levels in Manchester have dropped from a peak of 4.3 million passengers in 2005 to 1.7 million passengers in 2019.

If you ask the typical consumer, the quick response is that people choose to fly out of Boston for better flight options and/or a better price. While Boston offers more options, why is there frequently such a cost differential? Aside from Southwest, Manchester offers no other low-cost airlines. Jet Blue, Frontier and Spirit all serve Boston. Allegiant Air flies out of Pease Air Force Base. And, in 2009, Southwest decided to serve Boston as well as Manchester, causing Manchester to lose many of its daily flights. These low-cost carriers have taken a pass on Manchester because data tells them the passenger count is not there, and the Cost Per Enplanement (CPE) fees are high in Manchester.

In 2019, Airport Director Ted Kitchens received city approval to restructure three bond obligations with the intention of attracting more airlines to Manchester. The debt restructure would allow for a reduction in the CPE fees over the next few years. Fast forward to March 2020 when the pandemic started to impact the United States. Mirroring trends nationally, passenger levels were down 95 percent in April and 81 percent in May, year over year. Fortunately, Manchester received $12.1 million in federal funds to ensure the continued operation of the airport during this crisis.

Given the strength of New Hampshire’s economy prior to Covid-19, the continued declining passenger rates are a worrisome trend. While passengers are willing to pay at a certain level for the convenience of flying out of Manchester, there is a point where price trumps convenience. The airport is a critical component of our state’s economic engine. As we begin to ease out of isolation, it’s important for consumers to “Fly Manchester” when possible, and equally important for the airport to make it feasible for them to do so.

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