BY SCOTT OGLESBY | I knew we were in trouble when I found my wife soaking a fresh package of cherry tomatoes in a bowl of soapy water. Was this radical? I thought, yes, my wife, no.
She had seen this procedure modeled by a young doctor on a YouTube video, she told me. One of dozens, and most aren’t so I.C.U.-inspired, I pushed back.
Sources are like opinions, everybody’s got one. My sources say it’s O.K. to bring unpackaged perishables into the house. We, on the other hand, are not O.K. We have screaming fights about sanitizer and handwashing; our arguments over the ecology of plastic versus paper last month is now about life and death. We compromised by leaving groceries in the car for three days before we bring them in. Desserts, the only exception.
We debate having left the city like so many others with a second residence. I feel guilty and entitled but she reminds me that I have a preexisting condition — old age, senility she calls it.
She’s right, I’m 73, an inconvenient truth I tend to play down, sometimes forget. Expendable, according to the Great White House Hope — so the kids can enjoy the American Dream or future climate change nightmare.
Basically, Dodge City was getting dangerous, so we got out — when you can find a parking space midday on the street that’s good for tomorrow, it’s time to split.
We found few welcome mats Upstate. We weren’t just city rats jumping ship but possibly virus-carrying city rats.
Our rural county is kind of rough; six feet apart might become six feet under. Hey, you never know. There was a huge run on gun stores — not that they were short.
And last summer, after a minor dispute with a neighbor, we found a disemboweled rabbit in our driveway. But even that sounds better than slowly choking in a ventilator all on your lonesome.
I was braver in my youth. When 9/11 happened, I stuck around, holing up in my West Village apartment trying not to breathe the bad air.
St. Vincent’s Hospital was two blocks away and I remember watching their extensive emergency preparation for the expected deluge of injured. We should be praying that all the new hospital beds being set up this month will have the same empty future.
Being out of town makes it easier to avoid the virus but doesn’t save you from the news in all its myriad venues. We waffle between anxiety, boredom and panic, enraged by presidential rallies disguised as press briefings, then soothed by the truth and dire but necessary actions from our governor. We are consumed by information in all its forms, graphs, percentages, predictions, still unsure whether to avoid or consume the latest.
Advantages to our self-quarantine are all the old friends we talk to and Zoom with now. We swap tips on safe shopping, disinfecting, the latest video streams and GoFundMes to raise Lee Harvey Oswald from the dead? Just kidding, but we do vent and vent; I do worry about less-sane people.
Still, big questions keep popping up. Like how many days in a row can you wear the same pair of sweatpants? Can I smear my face with sanitizer so I don’t have to worry about touching it with my hands? How do I sanitize our cat?
Darker thoughts invade my consciousness, as well. Stories of people dying alone without their loved ones around are the worst. I have no children and being an uber-healthy soul, I can now easily picture outliving my friends and ensuring my own lonesome departure. Though my spiritual self realizes that death is the ultimate solo project.
Ultimately, I have no super-advice on how to deal with any of this. Events are moving too rapidly to focus on anything except to be clean, calm and kind, and be alone as much as possible. In a more practical mode, I have some delicious hi-test gummy bears that I will be happy to trade for a four-pack of toilet paper. Meet me under the Arch. Any density will do.