Anyone else getting a bit ... relaxed about all this?
I say this as someone who washes his hands after reading about COVID-19, because all hypochondriacs know you can get something just by perusing a list of symptoms. But have we become, let’s say, slightly less alarmed?
Of course, that’s the last thing we should be. We should be determined to hunker as long as it takes. As the Jerry Lee Lewis song would say, updated for the time: “Don’t come over! / Whole lotta hunkerin’ goin’ on.”
And yet ... the other day the toilet broke. Two weeks ago I would have had a different reaction. I would have called a hunker-bunker staff meeting.
“All right, there have been rumors that the waste-control system has broken down. This is the situation. The handle is loose. The flapper integrity has not been compromised. Going forward, all flushing will be followed by enhanced handle-jiggling, which should do the trick for the duration. When the bombardment lets up, we will send out for parts. That is all. DIS-missed.”
That was back when we heard the mailbox clank and took the junk mail out with tongs, burned it and then soaked the tongs in bleach. That was back when a trip to the grocery store made you feel as if you should cover yourself in Cling Wrap, except for two nose-holes jammed with torn-off cigarette filters.
Now ... well. You mask up, disinfect the cart handles and open the cooler doors with dried-out sanitizing wipes that you hope still have some sort of potency. You keep your distance from the other ambulatory sacks of virus, previously known as “people,” and you don’t feel all that anxious.
Sure, when you get in your car, you rip off the mask like someone in “Mission: Impossible” who’s just completed a dangerous assignment, but it’s more irritation now than relief.
Put it this way: We’re at the point where we still cross the street when we encounter someone else walking the dog, but maybe we don’t go all the way to the other side.
Anyway, I drove to the hardware store, wondering: Can I do this? Am I breaking the law? The parking lot had lots of cars. So I went through my routine. Mask: on. Breath: phew. Mask: off. Eat: Altoid. Mask: on.
I sprayed down the cart and moved to plumbing. There were a dozen options for toilet-handle replacements — brushed metal, chrome, plastic and so on. Considered the options with care.
Two weeks ago, I was coming in the house with a bag of flour, shouting, “Tonight we feast!” Now, I’m wondering if Wife will be OK with the porcelain handle instead of the brushed nickel.
She was. But she was crestfallen that I’d gone out without a grocery list. She wanted to make Obligatory Split-Pea Soup to go with the 97 pounds of excess Easter ham, and we lacked ingredients, because I’d neglected to hoard peas.
I said I could go back to the store, risking my life, if I must. Translation: I’m still not relaxed about this. Alternate translation: For the first time in my life, I have a legitimate excuse for avoiding split-pea soup. “Oh, I’d love to get the peas, dear. But there’s a pandemic on. Pea-wise, we’ll have to jiggle. If you know what I mean.”