This Coronavirus thing has got me going batshit crazy. It’s completely nuts. First they say, there’s an invisible enemy, a deadly virus that may or may not be anywhere and everywhere, and it may or may not be highly contagious, and you may or may not show symptoms, and you may or may not get seriously sick and die. THEN they take away ALL of the tools to fix this problem. Anything that cleans? GONE. No toilet paper. No paper towels. No Clorox. No disinfectant. No hand sanitizer. No alcohol. They say, stop buying this stuff, stop hoarding. Don’t get an N95 mask. You don’t need one. Only healthcare workers need an N95 mask. Not you. If you have an N95 mask, you need to donate it to first responders.
First responders. Right. Don’t get me wrong, I think they’re great. I think it’s amazing that someone would risk everything, their own safety, their very lives, to help others. But I mean, really. It’s getting out of hand. It’s approaching worship. Oh, look at me, taking a selfie with the donuts I brought to the fire station. Oh, let’s get a photo with the cops showing the barbecue meal I just delivered. Let’s all stand in a line and clap any time a nurse walks by. Like I said, they deserve it, they do, but I’m just a teeny bit wary of elevating one class of citizen above another. Feels too much like Animal Farm.
So I was OK. I’m working from home. I have some hand sanitizer that expired nine years ago, so it’s basically alcohol-scented oil, but it makes me feel better. I figured out how to mix the little bit of bleach we have with some water and make a spray disinfectant. We were OK, I was OK, getting used to ordering groceries and making toilet paper last forever, until they said, you know what, never mind, we were wrong. You actually DO need to wear a mask. Except, only the First Responders deserve the real masks. You must make your own.
OK so first step: get out your sewing machine, gather your fabric, interface and elastic, print out this pattern, and make a mask. Oh and by the way, you can receive a $1000 fine if we catch you out in public without one. So never mind that I don’t have a sewing machine, or fabric, or interface, or elastic, and I CAN’T FIND a source for masks anywhere, and if I do, it says RESERVED FOR FIRST RESPONDERS ONLY, and the ONE N95 mask I’ve had in my garage for five years I CAN’T USE because I’m NOT A FIRST RESPONDER. I must make a mask, somehow.
Fortunately for me, my mother still sews and yes, I now have a mask I can wear. Only, that’s not the solution to the problem. It really doesn’t work. It leaks so bad, my glasses fog up as I breathe. I could just put my N95 mask on underneath, but there’s a good chance that’s just a petri dish for viruses anyway, so I might be infecting myself even worse. And there’s a MASSIVE amount of social anxiety that goes along with it. I don’t want to stand out in a crowd. I don’t even like GOING to the store in the first place. And here I am, wearing a homemade fabric rectangle on my face with shoestrings around my head. Stick out like a sore thumb some places like the hardware store, where NOONE ELSE is wearing one except for one other (elderly) customer. And if I DON’T wear a mask, I feel conspicuous in places like Target where EVERYONE ELSE is wearing one but me. I feel like I’m back in high school, trying to fit in with the cool kids.
I’m so stressed out. I’m going completely nuts. And ALL of my coping mechanisms, tools I use to deal with stress, are unavailable. I’ve been sober now for over 6 years, and besides, alcohol weakens my immune system so if I DO get drunk, well, I really might die. I don’t smoke, although a cigarette sounds really good, but again, if I smoke, I weaken my lungs, Caronavirus moves in, and I die. Gyms are closed so I can’t work out. They even closed the fucking beaches. Can you believe that? Sand. Sand is illegal. Fucking earth with nearby water. Parks are closed. I have a massive headache, but due to a recent doctor visit, I found out my stomach is messed up and I can’t take Excedrin or Ibuprophen. Tylenol doesn’t work for me, ours was expired anyway, and we CAN’T FIND IT ANYWHERE. We actually DID manage to order a bottle from Walmart curbside, but realized it’s Tylenol PM, which ironically also gives me a headache in addition to making me sleepy. And what if I DO start to get sick? Can I go to the doctor? NNNNOOOOO. I have to call, and basically, well just stay home and die, beds are reserved for first responders only.
How about buying everything online? I used to be good at ordering online. I knew what web sites to go to, how to filter the products by average review score and price. Not any more. Amazon has become the wild west. Anybody can list something for sale on there. Counterfeit items are everywhere, even obvious, misspelled ones where ALL the reviews say This is fake! The reviews are fake, too. There are now a couple of web sites I have to use to review the reviews, to try to filter out the fake ones, and that’s just a guess. I’ve placed stuff in my cart and then happen to notice it will arrive in two months, so I cancelled. I can’t wait two months. Walmart.com is the same way, as is Newegg. And everything I think of getting, someone else has already thought of and bought. Yesterday I went to three different stores, risking my life to get ethernet cables because the wifi was messing up, after verifying with the app and/or web site that they had stock, and guess what? All gone. Everyone is working from home, and everyone already thought of getting long ethernet cables to connect to the router because the wifi is too slow and unreliable.
This has been a miserable time for me. I know I’m not alone, everyone is going through this shit, but I just need to bitch about it. My family depends on me, but I have no one to depend on. I’ve got this huge burden, this very real but invisible danger, this big problem, and every time I reach for a tool to fix it, that tool disappears. No cleaning supplies or coping mechanisms, so I’m just isolated and anxious and wondering how this will all end. And I just don’t know what to do. Do I risk my life to go to the store? Or do I order something online and pray it’s not a scam? If I go out, should I wear my mask? Will anyone else be wearing one? Will people be looking at me thinking, Look at that idiot, wearing a mask, he looks stupid, scared little nerd man, doesn’t he know that stupid mask isn’t doing a thing to protect him? Or, if I don’t wear one, will they be thinking, I can’t believe this guy, spreading viruses all over the place, doesn’t he care if he’s spreading disease everywhere he goes? Or if I wear my N95 mask, will they be thinking, Why is this civilian wearing a First Responder mask? Selfish asshole.
I guess this is where faith comes in, right? So, it’s faith that makes us able to see something that’s not there. You know what I’d like to have faith in that I can’t see? The future. I want to have faith that in the future, I am safe, my family is safe, we are all healthy, Disney World is open, we’re planning a trip, my boys are starting their new jobs soon, and we’re looking forward to a little time off before school starts up again. I think back on this time, remember the anguish of early 2020, and shake my head of the memory as I flip the burgers over. My wife asks if the meat is almost done, and I smile as I turn to see her holding a tray of freshly toasted buns. We share a smile as our eyes meet. It’s going to be a great Saturday.
God willing, we will rise again.