The last time I wrote about Coronavirus-Home-Living, it came out of a sense of shock, a disbelief at the drastic change in our lives and the seriousness of the virus, a warped honeymoon of sorts. About a week later, I’m settling in. This is life now: justifyingly acerbic (are people really still gathering in parks?) yet accurate briefings from Governor Cuomo, hollowed out supermarkets, and decisions about how to spread my diminishing wealth among local restaurants. Here are my recent observations, some of which may seem like complaints, some positive, some possibly inappropriately aloof, and some that are just there. In no particular order...

 

  1. Humans are clearly vulnerable, our constitutions proving to be easy prey for this virus, but damn are we adaptable. With lightning speed, we have rejiggered our entire working lives (those of us blessed to have jobs), not to mention the way we educate children of every age.

 

  1. My eyes may completely disintegrate from all the increased screen time. I didn’t think I could indulge screens more than I used to, but if I can see the little faces on my computer when I reach my 1,000th language arts Zoom chat, drinks are on me. Oh yeah, and drinking has now become a virtual activity too. 

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  1. I’m more active than I’ve been in a while. I am now walking my dogs just about every day; my exercise used to come from opening the sliding glass door to let them out. I steal minutes that I ordinarily would have spent going places emulating the workout aficionados in butt strengthening videos (see how the screen time creeps up?) to neutralize the hours said butt spends in my desk chair.

 

  1. I’ve developed a new move at the grocery store. When I set foot in Stop N’ Shop (no more than once a week - I’m a rule follower), I feel people’s eyes on me as if I’ve brought the big, bad bug with me. Maybe we’re all a little unduly suspicious of each other these days (and lord help if you sneeze in public - even into the depths of your elbow - you might as well wear a scarlet P for piranha), but I can’t help but feel like I’m in the wrong. I worry about giving something I don’t know I have to the mom, the high school athlete, or whoever is keeping her six foot distance in the cookie aisle. I do this thing where I lower my head, turn away, and scrunch my body down to get as small as possible so I’m barely visible, not the least bit threatening, and I hold my breath whenever I have to walk by someone or another poor soul has to cross my path so I can keep whatever untold beasts that lurk in my lungs to myself. 

 

  1. I know all about multiple intelligences. There’s the spatial kind, the mathematical kind, the musical kind (I lack all these), and now I think there’s another one I don’t possess: staving off a sickness. Included therein is an understanding about safe surfaces and when I can stop washing my hands in my own home. For example, if I wear plastic gloves to bring a brown bag of take-out inside, I assume that the gloves are now contaminated along with the bag. But what about the purse strap that my gloves hiked up on my shoulders while waiting for my curbside delivery? Should I throw the purse away? Get leather cleaner to rub on the strap using a different pair of gloves? Let’s say once I’m home, I immediately toss the gloves and the brown bag and wash my hands. I’m clean, right? But what happens when I touch the food containers once housed by the brown bag? Did I just negate my earlier cleansing - do I wash my hands again? Then, there’s the spot on the counter where I put the brown bag down. If I sterilize it with a Clorox wipe and then drag the wipe across the rest of the counter, am I actually spreading the germs? And the food itself! I don’t know who touched the food. Do I submerge my tuna wrap in soapy water for twenty seconds? Also, can the gloves ever be reused? What if I push my grocery cart around while wearing gloves (and scrunching down and holding my breath), unload the bags into my trunk, then remove the gloves only to realize I have to run back for deli cheese, necessitating renewed contact with the potentially deadly store door handle? Can I finagle my hands back inside the previously worn gloves if I only touch the still virginal bottoms that haven’t met with a contaminated surface? My glove-induced paranoia is matched by my face-touching paranoia. A newfound source of joy in all this is rubbing my eyes raw in the shower; it’s convenient because I can manhandle that risky area and reach for the soap in practically the same motion. Is anyone else wondering if there are safe areas on our faces? My non-germ hoarding forehead and cheeks perhaps?

 

  1. I read a lot about families spending more and more time together these days, but I’m seeing my high school junior and senior less than ever. I generally notice at 2:00pm that I haven’t laid eyes on them yet. Unless they have to wake up for a morning Zoom (after which they go back to bed), they sleep and sleep and sleep, having stayed up all night. For every minute I Zoom for work, they spend two X-box-ing for social interaction. 

 

  1. At the risk of sounding insensitive, I take some comfort in the knowledge that virtually Every person Everywhere is currently in the same predicament. When else has this ever happened on this grand a scale? I normally get this sensation of sameness on Thanksgiving, when I imagine that my American brethren are all sitting down to an enormous turkey dinner, fraught with family tension, at about the same time. In no way am I minimizing the tragedy of what’s happening today; I am merely saying that there is solace to be found in our shared struggle, our shared fear, and the way so many of us are creatively bonding from afar to prevail over a common enemy.  

 

  1. Question. Does Zoom get its name from the fact that hours go by like seconds while trying to mute and unmute the right people or from the 1972 live-action kids show?

 

  1. The teenagers aren’t the only ones sleeping more. I’m wiped out at an embarrassingly early time from distance-everything and I get up at least an hour later than I did when I went to work (definitely not a complaint).

 

  1.  We need a TV commercial overhaul. All I think about when I see commercials is, “Nope, can’t do that anymore. No high-fiving. No hugging. No walking next to each other. No sharing bites of chocolate morsels. No. No. No.” We need people celebrating birthdays or sampling wart medication separated by a pane of glass. 

 

  1. I’ve spent most of my time since it all went topsy-turvy on Friday, March 13th (a coincidence?) acclimating to a changed schedule, new technological demands, and a whole different way of moving throughout the world (i.e., my house). What I hadn’t given over to, until last Sunday, is a sense of panic over the possibility that I might get this thing. At 51 years alive (I like that better than 51 years old), I still walk around with unreasonable kid invincibility: people all around me might be getting sick, but it will never happen to me. That is, until a few days ago. I finally said out loud that I was feeling some intermittent inner ear pain and my throat had that thick feeling that for me tends to signify a cold on the horizon. And then I felt it. Visceral fear. In my bones. In my teeth. And it was all consuming. I had no idea how I could teach or clean or take walks or do all the things that occupy my day when my mind was wholly focused on the fact that I might be succumbing. Miraculously, my ear and throat went back to their usual programming, and my fear dissipated too. That’s not to say I don’t still worry, but my coping mechanism of denial/perceived invincibility, along with a lot of good luck, is getting me through these days. 

 

  1. This might be un-PC to say, and maybe no one will agree, but I’m discovering that I don’t mind being home...a lot. Of course, I miss my extended family, my friends, my colleagues, and my students, but I’m not feeling a particular impatience to get back to the old normal. Is it the perennial pajamas? The close proximity of my pups? Distance living isn’t perfect, but it might be teaching me that I truly am the introvert (recluse?) I suspected I was. Maybe the silver lining is that I love my home and those with whom I am lucky to be sequestered. 

 

I don't know what the next few hours, days or weeks will bring. None of us does, and that unknowing is something else Every person Everywhere has in common. I wonder how my observations about all this will change next week. In the meantime, here’s to hunkering down and health for us all.