Donning facial coverings (his much cooler than mine), my grandson and I walked into a convenience store. We don’t live together, so we kept six feet of distance between us as we negotiated its narrow aisles. Did the shopkeeper think we were freaks? Or worse yet, that he was about to be the victim of a hold-up? No, of course not! Scenes like this and many other previously unheard of sights and behaviors are the new normal. This is life in the time of the coronavirus. And it’s sure been different.
Conversations with others include phrases like, “Isn’t this crazy..” or “Isn’t this nuts?!” Context instantly understood. No explanation needed. Shelter-in-place, social-distancing, quarantining; these words reflect a lifestyle that the majority of us have adopted, even embraced. We are all in this together.
Like you, my husband and I are no longer eating in restaurants or visiting coffee houses; the downtown area of our community resembles a ghost town. We want to support the economy and our local merchants and find creative ways to still do date night, so we’ve been making use of take-out and drive-thru opportunities. Last weekend we picked up dinner from a local Italian place; the entire transaction was conducted over a small table placed at their door. Once back in the car, we gelled up with sanitizer then drove into the hills and found an overlook where we could park. We sat and ate our spaghetti, joking that our “restaurant” was so exclusive, we were the only patrons. And oh, what a view!
Life is more secluded now. It’s been weeks since we’ve met with our church communities or gotten together with friends. It’s really hard to not hug our own kids or grandkids on the now-infrequent occasions that we see them.
Like many of you who are still working, there have been major changes to the way I do my job. After a series of organizational gymnastics, my workplace landed on its feet and is now delivering services to clients in a way that has never been done before. We’ve also been able to conduct virtual business meetings using remote videoconferencing technology. It’s so interesting to see the faces of my co-workers, each in their own setting. Witnessing and being a part of this journey has been incredible.
My husband and I go for walks because we know fresh air and exercise are good for us. We see people wearing masks here and there and we practice social distancing with anyone we pass by. Sometimes we venture further out for things like groceries or gas. If you haven’t been to Costco lately and are planning a trip there, be prepared to wait in line (while maintaining social distancing) for over an hour! They’re monitoring the number of customers they let in the store at one time, and I’m grateful they’re doing this, but seriously, it’s like the line for Space Mountain. In the summer! Touching things while out in the world sometimes just can’t be avoided - like door handles (I use my sleeve) and point-of-sale terminals. After making purchases, I go thru a whole routine to avoid passing germs onto other surfaces like my car-door handle, my steering wheel, or the door knob of my house. I leave non-perishable goods I’ve purchased to sit for awhile before putting them away. Yes, it goes on and on and on. But I know you don’t think I’m crazy. I know you’re doing some of these same things yourself.
We’ve doubled up on food storage and emergency supplies, and are always on the lookout for bleach, hydrogen peroxide and hand sanitizer. And then there’s everyone’s personal quest - toilet paper! I’ll confess we’ve been stocking up on newspaper in the event that TP never appears on the shelves of stores again.
I read the paper, I watch the news. I’m sometimes hopeful, I’m sometimes scared. I am acutely aware of the suffering that is being experienced by so many. Of the infection and death numbers that are climbing each week. Of the bravery and selflessness of those serving our communities and those caring for the sick. In countless ways all over the country, we have risen boldly to the occasion cast upon us. We’ve got to stick with what we are doing because it is working. It’s working!
I can’t help but see that good is coming from this. For one, the situation has enabled us to examine our lives with new eyes. There may even be some practices, or things we’ve learned, that we’ll want to keep with us once the crisis has passed. Please join me next time as we take a look at what some of those things could be.
Cindy works as an employment development counselor, and is a mother and grandmother. She has lived in Sonoma County for 28 years.