by Mary Robertson, 05/01/2020, Northport, MI
I didn’t have a choice. I had to go. It was an emergency.
It was Sunday at 10:30 a.m. If I didn’t get there soon, every copy of the Sunday New York Times would be gone and where would that leave me in the coming week? Besides, I was out of Bridge Mix, a low-quality sugary treat I normally eat maybe once every three years, but which had now become the base layer of my personal food pyramid. Because these were not ordinary times. These were unprecedented, surreal, desperate times. This was Corona World.
In case this gets put in a time capsule and the reader needs a history lesson, the Corona virus, more accurately labeled COVID-19, after the year in which it originated, spread across the globe as a true pandemic does, infecting millions and killing tens of thousands, especially the elderly and those with underlying health conditions. All because somebody in China bought a bat at some outdoor market and decided it would be a tasty snack. I guess they don’t have Bridge Mix there.
We had no national leadership at the time (see the reference for 45th U.S. President in your digital history book) so each state made their own plan for how to get through Corona and in many cases this meant staying at home. As in ALL THE TIME. As in you literally don’t leave your house, start your car, go to work, sit in a coffee shop, go to the gym, have dinner with friends, browse in a book store (well, that ship had pretty much sailed already anyway, but that’s a topic for a different history lesson.) Nothing, nada, no place.
But if you were an “essential worker” (health care, food production/distribution, pharmacy, ventilator manufacturing) you could go to work. And if you needed to shop for something “essential” (food or medicine) you could leave your house, do your errand, and come right home.
Well, Bridge Mix is a food and it is sold at a store attached to a pharmacy and newspapers are sold at the same store, so my trip was legit-ish. Except in the eyes of my children, the once tiny tots but now full-grown adults who currently live here (only because of Corona) and have become my jailers. Also the people I cook for, clean up after, do laundry for and entertain with nightly dance parties and Netflix curating. You see, people over 60 (me) are deemed at higher risk in this pandemic because if we get it we seem to die more often. And my kids don’t like that idea (although I have intermittent fantasies of same) and have put me on Level One lockdown—don’t go anywhere or do anything or see anyone or touch a single object. Geesh! A person could go completely crazy under such severe restrictions and many of us are.
So I did what any sensible jailbird would do. I made a run for it. I donned the mask my daughter had brought home from the hospital where she works, put on rubber gloves from a pack I unearthed in the basement (no idea why I would have ever had this item in stock), drove the 2.2 miles to Walgreens, took a total of 25 steps in the store since the papers are always at the front and the Bridge Mix was (thank you, Jesus!) on special at 2 for $6 and thus right by the register, waited 6 feet behind the only other person checking out, told the clerk I needed no bag, put my card in the machine, declined the receipt, got back in my car, drove home, took off the gloves and wiped down my entire car with the Clorox wipes I’ve started keeping there, and got back inside before the sleeping jailers even missed me!
Yes, there was hell to pay later when they saw the papers and gave me a very stern talking to, but I didn’t care. I had had a moment of freedom. I drove someplace. I saw two in-the-flesh humans I wasn’t related to, spoke a couple muffled words behind my mask and felt, well, almost-but-not-quite, better-than-nothing normal-ish.
The jailers have vowed to set alarms on all future Sunday mornings, so this was probably a one-off. But it was sweet. Just like the Bridge Mix, which I’m starting to ration for the continuing days of darkness and worry and a world so weird the time capsule folks might not even believe it.
The kids haven’t taken my keys away yet, so I can at least dream of another chance to get a glimpse of life as we once knew it. And that possibility might be enough to get me through.