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Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Strange Days Indeed

Nobody told me there'd be days like these
Nobody told me there'd be days like these
Strange days indeed...
-John Lennon

I'm beginning to regret my decision to re-read Stephen King's The Stand. I started reading it when I first learned about the Coronavirus outbreak in China and it's more than a little creepy that its progression is following the storyline of the book so closely.

No, this virus is not killing 99.4% of the population, but the societal parallels are absolutely haunting. It starts in a small region and quickly skips across the country, carried by highway patrolmen, traveling salesmen, and vacationing families. In the book it's spread worldwide by airline passengers and some nefarious doings by the CIA, but who needs them nowadays, with the relatively cheap travel offered around the world? Cruise ships anyone?

At first, people are sympathetic and helpful. Gradually, they start getting paranoid and defensive, blocking off towns from outsiders to try to stem the spread. Hoarding and looting ensues and fights break out over loaves of bread. Stephen King didn't mention anything about toilet paper, but I guess even he couldn't have imagined that little tidbit.

I'm still working and I can't figure out if that makes me lucky or not. On the one hand, I'm still getting a paycheck and I'm not stuck at home all day with only food and TV to keep me occupied. On the other, I'm being exposed to 50 people each day who go home and are exposed to their families and possibly tracking things in to work with them every morning. We have some really good safety measures in place—they take our temperature before we enter the building, someone sanitizes all shared surfaces three times a day and we are all keeping the required 6' away from one another and washing the skin off our hands—but there's always that creepy feeling in the back of my mind. We're all hypersensitive to any sign of illness. A sip of tea went down the wrong pipe the other morning and I held the cough in all day long not wanting to get that look from my co-workers. I was so relieved to get in the car that afternoon, my own cootie cocoon where coughing is allowed.

My company makes parts that are used in medical testing devices, the optical filters we make are used to detect viruses. We are literally working on the Coronavirus problem, so we are considered an "Essential Business". I even have a letter in my glove box to prove it, in case they start cracking down on people moving around when they should be home social distancing. I would love to say I designed these life-saving parts myself but lo, I am but a lowly customer service person. I think I'm going to keep that letter even after this is over, just to make myself feel more important.

Mark is working from home for the foreseeable future. There's only so many production meetings one can have when there's no production going on, but managers find a way to keep busy. There's going to be some heavy-duty planning when it's announced that things will open up again. When he's not checking emails and holding virtual meetings, the house has arranged to keep him busy. So far, the washing machine has popped a hose, the kitchen sink sprung a leak, and our home computer died. He's a handy guy, so he fixed the first two and arranged for repair of the last. And he was so looking forward to TV and snacks...

It's highly ironic that our typical vacations would be much safer than staying home, but we are barred from leaving. Camping out in the middle of the desert is pretty much guaranteed virus free. Our camper has come in handy though, even here at home. We store extra food, water and even the ever more valuable toilet paper and sanitizing wipes in there. All that teasing about the zombie apocalypse vehicle was worth it in the end, eh?

I've learned a lot from this experience, but I'm not sure what to do with this knowledge.

Hand sanitizer tastes terrible: the first time you pick up a snack without letting the hand sanitizer completely dry will be your last.

My almost 80 year old mother has a better grasp of emojis than I do: she texted me a Coronavirus symbol before I even knew such a thing existed.

There are two types of people in this world: Those that can joke about the new reality, and those that slip into panic mode immediately and consequently really REALLY don't enjoy the other type of people. You might be able to guess what category I fall into. Sorry Jeremy.

I hope you are all safely holed up somewhere, or doing the best you can to limit your exposure. In this day and age of internet connectivity, there are ways to stay in touch without touching so we're all lucky that way. I'm hoping this thing will be contained as soon as possible, and things can get back to somewhat normal for everyones sake.

In the meantime, I'll be cruising back and forth to work in my cootie cocoon, coughing when I feel like it and waving my Very Important Person Letter for everyone to see. Not to worry though, my tongue has been thoroughly sanitized.