The Ramblings of a Quarantine Mind

Like everyone else, I never thought we would be living through a pandemic. A pandemic was something that happened in the early 1900s, way before most of us were born. With all the strides in medicine and technological advancements, how could this happen? It seemed unfathomable to me. This is something so unfamiliar and unsettling.

When I get up in the morning it’s quiet, and for just a second, everything seems to be all right with the world…and then reality sets in. You turn on the TV to connect yourself with the outside world and it’s filled with impending doom and gloom and devastation. You see the number of new people who have tested positive for the Coronavirus, the alarming death toll around the world, and the number of deaths in your city that have sadly risen from the day before.

When we first learned about the Coronavirus, some people thought it was fake news, some sloughed it off, some joked about it and others continually repeated the phrase, “Be prepared but don’t panic,” because so many thought it was not that big of a deal. The virus was something that affected other parts of the world far, far away from us. No one believed it would hit home and change the world as we knew it; that essentially the world would be closed. The information from our government and medical experts was overwhelming, it was hard to decipher and difficult to know what to believe when it kept changing daily. Because the virus was unprecedented, it was unpredictable which made it frightening. The President’s daily briefings and every news channel I turned to, seemed contradictory and riddled with sensationalism. 

Never did I think I would live in a time where people hoarded toilet paper and hand sanitizer, and the threat of the world running out of food was a real possibility. I heard people joke about how they were washing their hands and covering their mouth when they cough or sneeze like it was a new concept. I didn’t get that; I was taught those things when I was a child.

But the joking stopped when the entire country of Italy went on lockdown, and some of the busiest and most populated places in the world like Times Square and Disneyland became devoid of people. It was scary, and if that wasn’t enough, it did hit home when the governor enacted a stay-at-home order. When he closed down all non-essential businesses and The Strip went dark; a place on any given day that is filled with bright lights, vibrant life, and bumper to bumper traffic. That’s when reality set in. “Be prepared don’t panic” soon transformed into our governor’s campaign-like phrase, “Stay Home for Nevada”.  Some people complained that they were “stuck” at home while others chanted, “We are not ‘stuck’ at home, we are safe at home!”  During times of crises, there will always be differing opinions. 

About two weeks before our governor’s stay-at-home directive was put into place, my friend came from New York to attend one of the last conventions held in Vegas before the shutdown. She was flippant when she emphatically, without question and beyond doubt, told me that since she was a “healthy millennial”, she was positive that she would not contract the virus but if she did, she would recover; that she felt sorry for people like me because the virus only affected “old people” and we were all going to die. She felt the world had gone crazy, that everyone was over-reacting and the Coronavirus was no worse than the flu that comes around every year. She said at least if she got it, she’d lose weight.

While I appreciated the fact that she found a silver lining, I never thought it was a joke from the get-go! I love the quote by George Bernard Shaw and Oscar Wilde: “Youth is wasted on the young”. No truer words were ever spoken. I’m not going to lie, I had heard that same thing on the news but when my friend said it out loud, it took on a very different meaning and it freaked me out. I know we are all going to die, and as my mom used to say, “When your time is up, your time is up”. While I do believe that, I also have visions of going out to eat a pepperoni pizza at the ripe old age of 105. But my friend was right, during the early stages, the medical experts did believe that the virus only affected “old people”, especially those with underlying conditions. Soon after, though, we found out that the virus infects indiscriminately.

By the end of the week, on the day she was to head back home, it was touch and go as to whether she was actually going to leave. Her whole attitude had changed. She said she was “petrified” to get on the plane and even more afraid to go back to New York which at the time was nearing the new epicenter. I was so mad at her for her thoughtless and reckless remarks that I insensitively blurted out something I would not normally have said, “I don’t blame you. As much as I miss living in NYC, I am so glad I don’t live there anymore!” I am happy to report that my dear friend is healthy and safe staying with her parents in upstate New York, and she is not going back to the City until Governor Cuomo lifts the stay-at-home order.

Two weeks before the stay-at-home order I went to the grocery store, for the last time by the way; now we do curb-side pickup. I convinced myself that I needed to buy food with a long shelf life because no one knew when we were going to emerge from this crisis. So, I filled up a cart of carbs and home I went. I spent those first two weeks indulging in every unhealthy food and snack imaginable — what I like to call “comfort food”. The only exercise I got was going back and forth between the pantry and the fridge. I ate when I was hungry, when I wasn’t hungry, when I was stressed and bored; and there were times when I didn’t seem to realize I was eating. Basically, when I wasn’t sleeping — which I have not had much of — I was eating. I often found myself visiting the refrigerator, the freezers, and cupboards to see if by some miracle, new items had appeared. I need to practice social distancing from my kitchen. I saw this sign inside a refrigerator that a friend of mine had posted on Facebook that read: “You’re not hungry, you’re bored — now shut the door”. I made one for my refrigerator. Another friend posted, “I think I may be starting to get a tan from the refrigerator light!” I felt a little better that other people were in the same boat but as my clothes got tighter, I knew I had to do something. As the weather got a little warmer, I went back to eating healthy, and walking, and riding my bike two miles each day. I have a lot of damage to undo. 

Speaking of which, on my walks and rides, I am curious and confused to see the number of planes overhead and the amount of traffic on the road; it looks like a typical day pre-quarantine. With stay-at-home directives, shelter-in-place orders and quarantines, I cannot imagine where all these people are going. Another thing I find strange is that I spend a good part of the time dodging people who either have no concept of or no concern for social distancing. It’s almost like a game of chicken — as you approach another human, you wonder who is going to be the one to move to the other side of the street so we don’t come in contact with each other and 100% of the time, it’s me. 

My friend who works in the construction industry gave me some masks and suggested I wear those when I go outside for my daily exercise routine; she thought it might make me feel more secure. I gave one to my husband. Prior to being laid off, he had a side hustle with Door Dash and Grub Hub because he gets bored easily and can’t sit still. He was super excited that the extra pocket change affords him a shopping excursion at Home Depot to buy things we don’t need, but I digress.

I must admit him being out in the trenches scared the crap out of me because he is one of those guys who doesn’t stress or worry about anything. I swear if he were any more laid back, he’d slip into a coma. So, I loaded his car with antibacterial wipes, Lysol, and disposable gloves and I was thrilled to be able to present him with a mask. But from the look on his face when I handed it to him, I quickly realized he did not share my excitement. Initially, his attitude about the Coronavirus was similar to my millennial friend. Let me preface the next sentence by saying that I think my husband truly believes he is the foremost authority on everything. In other words, he thinks he knows it all and he also thinks he is invincible so it’s hard to win an argument, but every now and then I get one over on him.

After one of his delivery runs, I asked him if he had been wearing the mask. The look he gave me immediately told me NO but his unusually long hesitation made me think he was contemplating a big fat lie or some doublespeak but in turn, the look on my face must have reminded him that he was dealing with a hot-headed Italian whose temper could go from 0-60 in 2 seconds so he blurted out that the mask was “uncomfortable”. I raised my voice purely for emphasis of course and said, “You know what I heard, so is the Coronavirus”. I am happy to report that he has been wearing his mask.

Admittedly, I am a bit of a germaphobe. My friends call me “Mrs. Monk” even though I do not believe that I am as bad as “Mr. Monk”. I am doing what I can to keep me, my family, and my friends healthy and safe. I read a report from a leading pathologist that Zinc, as well as Vitamin C, is supposed to help fight off the virus. So, we load up on both every day. Maybe the vitamins and the mask provide a false sense of hope and security, but I am going to do everything I can to try and prevent this virus. 

When our local news kept reporting that Nevada was “not going to reach its peak until April 21,” I begged my husband to stay home until then. He insisted that he is taking every precaution, that we need the money and “people need to eat” but much to my surprise, he agreed to stay home until the 22nd. Of course, there is much controversy on our “peak”; some say we hit it, others say we have yet to hit it. Regardless, he is going back out on the 22nd. But in the meantime, he has kept himself busy with a very long honey-do list.

I know he is stressed about the money, so am I – who isn’t! He filed for unemployment online March 18, the day he got laid off, with no issues. His case went into a “pending” mode and indicated that if he did not hear anything within 8-10 days, to call the unemployment office. Eleven days later, we started calling. We would use two different phones; he would call the local number and I would call the 888 number. We thought we were geniuses, we figured if we started calling at 7:30 a.m., surely, we would get right through when the office opened at 8:00 a.m. Ha! Curiously it would be busy at 7:30 a.m., so obviously other people had the same “bright idea”! Around 10:00 a.m. each day, a recording came on to say the queue was full. How could the queue be full at 10:00 a.m. when the office stayed open until 8:00 p.m.? What’s even more curious is that a friend of mine said she filed online on a Sunday and got her unemployment money, and the additional $600, by Thursday. And some of my other friends got their unemployment money but not the extra $600???

Every day we check our bank accounts for the Stimulus Check because we thought since we had already filed our taxes electronically, we’d be one of the first to receive it. But when it didn’t come this week, I tried making myself feel better by saying the checks were being distributed in some sort of alphabetical order but then my friend whose name starts with a W already got his. Everything is topsy-turvy. I’m not complaining, just confused. I know there are thousands of people in the same boat and worse.

At every press conference, our governor preaches “patience”. I understand these are unprecedented times and our unemployment system is not setup for the volume of people laid off and terminated, but when a reporter asked him what are people supposed to do who are starving and have no money to buy food because they can’t get their money from unemployment, hearing him say, “People just have to be patient” is not comforting or helpful. Saying that he has added on more operators and extended the hours when the queue is full at 10:00 a.m. does not make sense either. Yet in spite of all this crazy confusion, I truly believe that he is trying to do everything within his power. I know I would not want to be in his shoes.

In the meantime, The Suicide Prevention Hotline is ringing off the hook, gun sales are up, suicides and murder-suicides have increased and anti-anxiety, anti-depressant, and anti-insomnia prescriptions have spiked. By the time we are through this pandemic, I’m sure the divorce rate will also be up as well as breakups. It’s a whole gamut of emotions from stress and worry about one’s health, finances, and the future to being overwhelmed with sadness and depression. Right now, the world seems bleak and scary especially when you hear that people who have already had the virus have it again, that Vegas expects nearly 300 more deaths by August, and reportedly there will be a new wave of virus cases by fall.

I find myself worrying about things I never really worried about before; if they happened, they happened. But now I am keeping my fingers crossed that my washer or dryer don’t break down because then I would have to call a repair person. Are they considered an essential business? Do I want a repair person in my house? Can I ask him/her to wear a mask, gloves, and shoe covers? What if I get a sore throat and need an antibiotic? Is my doctor still working, and if not, do I dare go to Urgent Care? Should I take myself and my car out for a drive or at least start it every so often in case the battery dies? What if I have to take my dog to the vet, is it safe? Should I let my mobile groomer come to the house? What should I cook for dinner tomorrow? I think about getting my hair done again; should I let my bangs grow out? At least they would cover my forehead and then I wouldn’t need Botox and I could save a bunch of money but can I get away with wearing bangs? Are they in or will I look like a throwback from the 80s? I think about how badly I need a mani/pedi and a facial and how I wished I hadn’t paid ahead for additional facials because I sure could use that money now. Then I get mad at myself and feel guilty for thinking about such luxuries during this crisis, and especially when my husband got laid off and there is no guarantee he will be able to return to his job because who knows if that company will survive — and I only have one client left at the moment.

I desperately need disposable gloves and antibacterial wipes. The grocery stores won’t let you order those for curbside pickup, you have to go into the store to get those items. If the grocery store opens at 8:00 a.m., you need to be there by 7:00 a.m. and hope you will be one of the first 25 people let in so you can make a beeline for that aisle to get all those things you can’t order online. My friend offered to go for me but I don’t want to put her at risk. Then I think I should have “hoarded” those items instead of the cookies, candy, cakes and pies and pasta, but I’m Italian, I have to have pasta.

I miss my sister and my ex-BFF and think of the reasons that we stopped speaking to each other which now seems so silly and inconsequential. I think of calling them but no matter how old I get, it’s hard to bounce back from rejection. And then I think I should swallow my stubborn pride and as Mom would say, “Take the high road”. A lot of random thoughts pop into my head, usually around 3:00 a.m. when I should be sleeping.

One of my friends told me she is ashamed of herself at how much money she spent on traveling, going out to dinner, and attending hockey games. I asked her if we are supposed to be ashamed and feel bad for living our lives. It’s not like we had been living beyond our means, we were just living our lives. She thanked me for making her feel better but I truly believe what I said. Understandably, though, this whole situation makes you re-evaluate your life and your choices; it changes the way you think and feel.

I will say that I am quite proud of myself at all the corners I have been cutting lately, how much I can do without and surprised at how much stuff I used to buy that I don’t actually need. Although it hasn’t stopped me from putting in a weekly order at Amazon. But I really do need everything I buy from them, though my husband might disagree.

I now do something I never did before when I get my packages, I spray them with Lysol and wipe down the contents with antibacterial wipes, and I do the same with my groceries. I heard that the virus could live on surfaces and paper, plastic, and cardboard for 24-48 hours. I sanitize my groceries before I put them away, I leave my mail in the garage for 24 hours, and I use a special wash for my fruits and veggies. I find myself being less wasteful and things I used to take for granted, I promised myself I would never do that again.

I am grateful for my husband and Rocky, a “mini Golden Doodle” who we rescued. I am grateful for the one client I have left who keeps my brain busy and keeps me funded. I am grateful for technology like Webinars so I can keep learning and “Zoom” and apps like Houseparty so I can stay in touch with family and friends. My husband said that he understood why I did my hair and makeup to get on a Zoom call but asked why I put on perfume. I told him that I would normally wear perfume every day and I wanted to feel some sense of normalcy and besides, I like smelling good. But I have to admit, it was a good question and we both got a laugh out of it. I try to laugh every day; it feels good and helps the spirit, and it reminds me of one of my favorite quotes, “A day without laughter is a day wasted” ~ Charlie Chaplin 

Daily routines have changed. I turn on my laptop and don’t see many emails these days. I look at the calendar on my phone and it’s empty. Amidst this crisis unfortunately, I have seen subpar human behavior but on the other hand, I have seen incredible acts of kindness. I’ve heard from people I have not heard from in a long while. Like everyone, I have good days and bad. Some days I feel like I am going down a deep dark rabbit hole and others, I feel positive and optimistic. 

I hear people say how they can’t wait for Las Vegas to open back up. The mayor, who is concerned about the economy, made headlines when she called the governor’s shutdown “total insanity”. Understandably, it got a lot of Nevadans fired up which did not help an already tenuous situation. The governor is more concerned about saving lives and does not want to open up too soon because he feels it will undo all he has done to keep us safe these past two months. I know by nature we are social beings and we are also a working people; that everyone is eager to get back to their jobs, school, and their lives. But I am concerned about those who think when the governor does lift the stay-at-home order, everything will go back to the way it was. A few of my friends told me the next time they go out will be in December when they have to shop for Christmas.

The Coronavirus has changed the world and life as we used to know it. Until there are medicines that treat and cure this disease and a vaccine that prevents it, will we ever truly feel safe in crowds, will we ever want to shake hands or hug each other again? I want to believe that we will come out of this pandemic restored, stronger, and armed with knowledge so nothing like this can ever happen again. I want to believe that we will be kinder, less critical and more patient; that we won’t take things for granted and that we will become better versions of ourselves.

Until then, stay healthy, stay safe and stay sane and most of all, be kind to each other!

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay