Life During Coronavirus: Going the Social Distance

Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay

So what do you do when you’re a horror writer and real life suddenly starts resembling the Stephen King novels you grew up reading? 

If you’re me, you thank whoever’s listening that you married a man with some foresight. 

About a month ago, while Bill and I were preparing for a grocery shopping trip, he spoke up.

“We need to start buying some extra stuff this week. We should have enough on hand that if there were some reason we couldn’t get groceries—if supply lines got disrupted, or if we were put under a quarantine—we’d be OK for at least a month. Because this virus? It’s going to make things really bad.”

Let me tell you something about Bill: He doesn’t freak out. He’s the one who keeps his head when the media’s threatening imminent death by Ebola. He’s level-headed and practical. 

So when he said that, you better believe I listened. 

At no point did we clear store shelves of anything, but we stocked up on our usual staples like dried beans, brown rice, and pasta. And whenever Bill had to make a quick stop to grab bananas or something, he’d pick up another pack of toilet paper. 

A little over a week ago, we went to Wegmans for some weekend dinner ingredients, and the section where all their toilet paper is normally stocked was bare. We didn’t (and still don’t) need any, but it was a jarring sight. 

Eagle-eyed viewers will notice that there was still plenty of booze in the next aisle. I wonder if that’s changed.

All the honey bears were gone too. I couldn’t figure that one out until it occurred to me that maybe people were worried about sore throats and thought extra honey would help. 

But aside from the absence of TP and honey, there was plenty of food available that night. From what I’m hearing, that is increasingly not the case for people who’ve gone food shopping in the last couple of days. Not for the first time and (hopefully) not for the last, I’m very glad I listened to Bill. 

* * *

I’m a loner who is very well-suited to self-isolation, which is good because I haven’t been in the office since last Wednesday and have refused to go out on the weekends. As someone with an autoimmune disease who is also in the age group at which COVID-19 statistically starts hitting harder, I don’t want to screw around with this.

I’ve always been really solitary. Babysitters loved me when I was a kid because I’d just go up to my room and read. I confounded my fellow college students by brazenly eating meals alone because I wanted to. Avoiding crowds? Being a hermit? My time to shine! Watch me disappear. 

But there’s a dismal knowledge buzzing at the back of my brain: I might not survive this, and if I do, the world will be a fundamentally different place from what it was before this happened. People I love might be gone. Places we love might be out of business, unable to handle the sustained hit to their revenue. 

My job was coming to a close at the end of March anyhow, so there’s uncertainty piled up on top of mystery there. My entire company has been told to telecommute until further notice, and I wonder if I’ve already seen my office building and all my coworkers there for the last time. Financially, we’ll be fine. But back when we got the word about our jobs in November, this is so not how I pictured the last couple of weeks at the job playing out.

And there is very little I can do other than shelter in place and hope that neither Bill nor I cross paths with one of the reckless idiots in life (and in our utterly useless executive branch, argh) who believe the virus is no worse than a cold and will go away if we just ignore it like it’s the uncool kid in the school cafeteria or something, because America. Sigh. “Getting coronavirus to own the libs” is the most 2020 thing that’s ever 2020ed.

So I stay home. I read. I telecommute. I’m trying to write some new things, but my brain doesn’t want to focus and it’s hard. Parliament House sent me my first round of edits for Tidepool, so that’s been a bright spot in a dark time. I’m playing lots of video games. Doom 64 is being re-released on the Nintendo Switch this Friday and I am irrationally excited about that because apparently I didn’t waste enough of the 90s parked in front of it. Maybe I just wish it was the 90s again.

And I try not to start freaking out every time my throat hurts a little. And I take my temperature every day. 

And we wait.  

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