Well, now. Here we are. As of this writing, we are shut down, not completely but completely enough. Schools, churches, bars. Groceries are open, and while the toilet paper aisle and frozen pizza shelves are empty, there is plenty of food, and we are told there will be no disruption in the supply chain.
Hoarding continues, but at a slower rate, which is a mercy. I did see one woman with a cart loaded down with cartons of eggs. I hope she was shopping for her apartment complex. If not, good luck with that salmonella.
I still have boxes of pasta piled up in the kitchen, but can’t bring myself to make it. I rarely make it. It represents my own hoarding mentality. I picked up my one-per-customer package of ground beef. I strolled down the bread aisle and all that was left were two loaves of pumpernickel.
Are you kidding me? I love Ruebens, so I thought myself lucky, picked them up and headed straight for the sauerkraut and pastrami. So, not only am I enjoying my favorite sandwich in the world, I am protecting myself against scurvy.
My pal Linda and I were chatting and she suggested we return to the activities of the 1950s. She suggested TV, games, cards, reading and music — listening to and making it. Now might be the time to dust off that guitar, or practice your etudes, or learn to play the comb.
But her best, most genius suggestion was this. The Sunday Drive. Our poor children and grandchildren have no appreciation for the Sunday Drive. Linda suggests packing the car with a lunch, drinks, and then taking off for a nice long drive.
And gasoline is cheap now. If you were to buy the same gallon of gas in 1950 that you buy today, adjusted for inflation, it would cost 31 cents. So, pack up the Packard, stack the Studebaker with cold drinks and kids, and noodle around the backroads in your Nash. Look for signs of spring, retrace the roads you covered to see your old aunt.
Do it again in two weeks and see how things have changed.
The social isolation is a bit more tricky. Some of it I appreciate, like the big X’s on the grocery store floor marking the proper distance to be kept in the checkout lines. I am talking to my loved ones every day by text, although that isn’t quite the same. We have decided to have coffee and cocktail hours, each of us sitting in front of our computers at a certain time of day to chat and laugh via FaceTime.
There is much to be concerned about, of course. School children home and parents who have to work. Shonda Rhimes, who gave us “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Scandal,” tweeted she had just spent an hour and 11 minutes homeschooling an 8- and 6-year-old, and teachers deserve a billion dollars a year. Maybe a week.
There is pain in our community right now, although much of it is behind closed doors where young families are worried about how to pay the rent now that they have been sent home without a paycheck, and none in the near horizon. There are elderly who can’t have visitors, who are lonely and unwell, and sad. There are families huddled in funeral homes, deprived of the commiseration and comfort of friends, those sweet faces belonging to people we haven’t seen in years who show up and remind us who we belong to, how we are connected, and how this is all part of the great cycle of life. We want them to tell us those heroic stories about the loved one gone, we need those stories. But the storytellers can’t get there to tell us.
And spring brides. I am sad for them, too.
But I also see people just going about their business, as best they can. It seems we are adapting, every day, sometimes from morning to afternoon, to new challenges and demands. We seem to be coping fairly well with that for now. I think the anxiety will continue until we receive some solid news about ways to mitigate the virus, treatment or cure or vaccine. All three would be nice. We can help in the short term by shopping less for toilet paper, supporting our favorite restaurants by ordering carry out, helping our neighbors, and staying close — to home and to our loved ones.
Greta McDonough is professor of human services at Owensboro Community & Technical College and author of the book, “Her Troublesome Boys: The Lucy Furman Story.” Her column runs each Wednesday in Community. She can be reached via email at email@example.com.