Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Era of the Murder Hornets

Wednesday, March 11, 2020. I went by Trader Joe’s on the way home from pilates. It was busy but not too bad. Thursday night I stopped at Vons after work, and that was okay too.

Friday we learned we were going to work from home. We all raced around the office, except at the sink, where we’d spend 20 seconds, methodically scrubbing our hands just like we’d been taught on YouTube.

Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you.

How long would we work from home? A while. A few weeks, maybe. Surely no more than a month?

“Did you go to Vons recently?” Liz asked me. “Yeah, it was fine,” I told her.

I stopped by Vons that night. It was not fine, and the checkout queues stretched down the aisles, so I didn’t hang around.

I went again at 8 the next morning. There wasn’t much Vons left. The paper aisle was bare. The pasta aisle was vacant. I saw one of the women from work picking over a few remaining packs of chicken. I bought what she didn’t.

On Monday the 16th, I had a scheduled routine colonoscopy. Yay, me. The doctors gave me a printout with little photos of my healthy colon. Little round pink images I didn’t understand.

Someone has to sign you out of colonoscopies, and Liz lives nearby, so I asked her to pretend to be driving me home. Neither of us has a car. She signed me out and walked me outside. We sat down for a while as my anesthesia faded.

“Vons wasn’t fine,” Liz said.

Remember at the start, how we were afraid to touch doorknobs and ATM screens? The lines at the supermarket, the taped Xs on the sidewalks, keeping us all six feet apart?

No one had any masks except for carpenters, fine arts painters, people who fix things. Those of us anxious to prepare for California wildfires. But we weren’t supposed to use masks—we were supposed to leave them for the first responders. The cloth mask idea came later. My sewing machine came out then from under the dining room table.

I went through disinfectant wipes I'd brought home from work. Then I stopped wiping down the laundry room, the mailboxes, the doorknobs. There were no more wipes in North America. I bought vinyl gloves at the pharmacy.

The wipes were gone. The soap was gone. Then the bidet attachments were all gone. The toilet paper was gone. The gloves were rare. Thermometers were hard to come by. Pulse oximeters were mentioned in the New York Times, then they too became hard to find. Forget finding rubbing alcohol.

Hand sanitizer was practically a rare mineral.

Yoga mats and bicycles eventually became rare commodities, right after yeast and flour. Then the supply of meat became strange, but never ran out. My local stores always had plenty of fruits and vegetables.

No one knew how the illness worked yet. At one point, we were briefly advised to disinfect our groceries.

We learned to wear masks. We cowered in our homes, sheltering in place, reading stories about temporary morgues, learning to go to Zoom birthday parties and to see doctors on our iPads. The pandemic forced our technological hands on several fronts.

Eventually, medical professionals learned more about managing the ill. Videos came out telling us if we all wore masks, washed our hands right after coming in the house, and didn’t get close to anyone we don’t live with, we could exist kinda...not normal, but we could go about some of our business. At least more normal than in a world of wondering how to wipe down groceries when the world had run out of wipes.

One day, the toilet paper came back. Sometimes, wipes would show up at ShopRite. You can place a mail order and predict when the box will arrive. Vons is full of food and rubbing alcohol. Governors stopped giving daily updates.

There is so much hand sanitizer in the world, it feels like there was never a shortage.

It’s like March-May was a dream. I barely remember the anxiety of those first few months, the fear of not knowing how to get the virus or how to avoid it.

I’m not even sure how this bidet attachment got into my house.

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