At Home With: Sally Wiggin | At Home With ... | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

At Home With: Sally Wiggin

CP's daily check-in with Pittsburghers during the coronavirus pandemic

click to enlarge PHOTO: SALLY WIGGIN
Photo: Sally Wiggin
Everybody is dealing with the COVID-19 quarantines and restrictions in different ways. While there's no single right way to cope — social distancing and staying TF home aside — staying connected with friends, family, and neighbors is a good place to start. You can contact your loved ones on your own, but you might also be curious how your favorite strangers in Pittsburgh are coping, so Pittsburgh City Paper is reaching out once a day to beloved city icons to see how they're doing.

Today, it's the great Sally Wiggin, former WTAE news anchor.

How are you feeling about the restrictions due to coronavirus?
When I get emotional, it is not about me. It is this feeling of helplessness when I think of the healthcare workers, store clerks, postal people, sanitation workers, public safety personnel — so many. I was retweeting someone’s reminder to keep them in our thoughts and prayers and I burst into tears.

It also is hard that I have no children or husband with me in quarantine. But I am blessed with a wonderful godchild whom I have talked to and texted, and surrogate children whom I have mentored that I text and talk to by phone. All of them offer to go out and shop for me, even though most live up to 40 minutes away. One used to be my sports producer on Black and Gold Primetime.

I go out to binge on fast food sometimes. On [Thu., March 26], I chose a place that advertises that they take lots of safety precautions. So I ordered an obscene amount of food at the drive-thru and inhaled it. Then I went and got two donuts for dessert.

How are you doing today, Fri., March 27?
March 27th, restrictions? How did I feel? I am not bored, but was asked to do something for WTAE, to make a sign and hold it up and take a selfie. For the first time in weeks, I put on nice clothes, styled my hair, and put on makeup. I actually felt good about it, but realized I had nowhere to go once I had taken the photo.  I called a few friends to vent, then realized that was so petty in comparison to people who have lost their jobs, become horribly ill, or are caring for those who are infected.

And that has hit me personally, because a dear friend of mine had gotten a new job he loved, and was furloughed this week. He is devastated.

Have you seen anything, in person or online, about how Pittsburghers are dealing with COVID-19 that’s stuck with you?
Between this past week and the week before, I saw two very different scenes. Early on, at one grocery store in the pharmacy pick-up line, seven people were in line, with only six inches between them. I am at very high risk, because I have heart disease and a bad immune system after having had cholera and a bad staph infection in Africa. So I was horrified. Most of the people were 60 or over, so I stayed out of the line, but kindly reminded [them] that they were endangering each other’s health. I was unrecognizable — no makeup, sweats, and glasses. But they looked at me as if I had grown horns. I then hid, ashamed, in an empty aisle until they were all gone.

A week later, I saw a line outside another store, and there was six feet between each person. So the message seemed to be sinking in.

I watch a lot of network TV dramas —This Is Us is my favorite. I also watch Netflix, Amazon, ESPN, Showtime, Starz, and HBO. Back into Westworld and Homeland, and love Outlander.

And watch lots and lots of cable news. I don’t watch much local news anymore, maybe the first couple of stories at 11 p.m., but I read the local papers. I HAVE wondered what it would be like to cover it, because I have talked to several of my former colleagues, in particular my photojournalist from Chronicle. We are close, and he sent me a photo of him shooting an iPad, instead of an actual human.

Have you thought about what it would have been like to cover this if you were still on the air? What’s gone through your mind in that regard? Have you been in touch with former colleagues?
In reality, I am grateful I am retired. I don’t miss it. I miss covering sports, I admit, but there are really no sports to cover.

For me, this all began when my cardiologist cleared me to go ahead with my plans to go on a wolf safari (I am a frustrated zoologist) in Yellowstone National Park on March 5. That was before the quarantine. We were all very careful with sanitizing and no touching on the trip, but I had to be in three airports on the way home, March 14. Minneapolis for three hours. I sprayed and wiped excessively, and was quite nervous because of my risk factor.

If the social distancing and quarantining weren’t going on right now, what would you be doing? What do you miss most?
If there had been none of this, I would have emceed or participated in a number of non-profit fundraising events, all of which have been canceled or postponed. It pressures all of them to try to find funds elsewhere, another result of the virus.

I would also be having dinner with friends, going to see the basketball games of the son of one of my best friends, and attending board meetings. I would be going to lots of movies. And chronicling penguin feedings at the Pittsburgh zoo and PPG Aquarium as a docent. I love my penguins. And I would be visiting my friend, the Zoo’s elephant curator at the exhibit.

And of course, I would be walking my dogs, yelling at them most of the time, and working out at the gym.

I miss hanging out with my friends the most. And seeing a film in a movie theater. Also, traveling to see my friends. I had several trips planned, one to a wedding, and that looks dicey now.

What is your favorite meal at this time?
My favorite meal at this time is pancakes. I am making them myself with this Kodiak mix. And I DO NOT COOK. So I am very proud of myself.

What piece of art/music/film/TV would you recommend for those who can’t leave their houses? What’s helping you?
At this point, there is so much to recommend. But, if you have Disney Plus, watch Togo. If you don’t have it, find a friend who does, or buy it for a month. It is the superb true story of a heroic sled dog. Willem Dafoe is magnificent  Also, spring for The Invisible Man, on-demand. 20 bucks but well worth it. Our Planet on Netflix. If you can find it, see Bare Existence from Polar Bear International. And play Camille Saint Saëns Symphony No 3 – the Organ Symphony. It is my favorite and guaranteed to inspire.

You called into Lynn Cullen’s show this week and you’ve known each other a long time. What did you take away from your talk?
As far as Lynn’s concerned, I saw that when you ask for people to help, they step up. She asked for people to call, and to support City Paper, and in moments, she had more people waiting to talk to her. They just needed to be asked. At our basest level, most human beings will, when pressed, do the right thing.

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