Unless you’ve been in the middle of a Rip Van Winkle nap since January, you are aware of the coronavirus. And if you live anywhere in or near New York City (like me), you are probably reading this because you’ve already washed your doorknobs, sanitized your phone, had your fourth cup of coffee and run out of Schitt’s Creek episodes. It’s ok, I’m not offended to be at the bottom of your daily to-do list.
I live in Westchester County, just outside of New Rochelle. So I was all ears when, on March 10, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo declared the creation of a containment zone in that area. I looked all over the internet for legible maps of the zone to see if my tennis center was within its parameters. I finally found one. And no, the place where I play tennis wasn’t in it – but my house was. Uh oh!
So, what did that mean? Well, we were assured we could still leave our homes, but places where large numbers of people gather (houses of worship, schools, etc.) would be closed. The National Guard would be rolling in to sanitize those places and would deliver food to people under quarantine. Not to sound ungrateful, but I think being under quarantine and worrying about developing Covid-19 was bad enough without having to eat government-issue rations. But I wasn’t under quarantine, so…
What follows on this blog today, and in the coming days/weeks/months, will be accounts of what’s going on here in the containments zone. Let me catch you up from that first day to today:
March 10, 2020
As I mentioned above, I play tennis; Wednesday mornings in a foursome. My tennis partner and the other two people we play with are in their late 80’s. I am the infant of the group. Needless to say, I worry about them, as they are in the high-risk group. I called my partner and told her we should suspend playing for a while. She would not hear of it and assured me that the tennis center had done a deep and thorough cleaning. Against my better judgement, I agreed to play the next day.
I texted my niece and told her I was worried about exposing myself to the virus and worried about them because they’re all nearly 90.
She said, “Wow! What’s their secret?!”
“Tennis,” I said.
As luck would have it, my manager emailed me. I had an audition which would preclude me from playing. So, instead of putting myself in harm’s way by going to tennis, I would take the Metro-North commuter train into Grand Central Station and a subway to Times Square. Yeah. I know…
March 11, 2020
I arrive at the theater and sign in for the audition – with gloves on so I don’t have to touch their pen. Ever try filling out a form in gloves? Judging by my handwriting, I might have come across as a doctor (or an ax murderer) who moonlights as an actor.
The audition goes well but I am anxious to get back home and away from the general public, who I do not trust to be vigilant with hand-washing or covering of their coughs.
Sure enough, there’s a guy on the subway picking his nose. Seems he didn’t get the memo.
On the Metro-North, which is virtually empty, I sit as far away from everyone as I can. Three women board the train and sit directly behind me. This annoys me. The existence of coronavirus has made me very territorial about my personal space.
As we pull out of Grand Central, one of the women, the one sitting directly behind me, starts making phone calls. She’s trying to get a doctor’s appointment for her daughter. She makes three calls before she’s able to book one. Here is what she says each time:
“Yes, my daughter has had a fever for over 24 hours and when she tries to take a deep breath, she starts coughing uncontrollably and says it really hurts.”
I look across the aisle at a twenty-something woman. We are both wild-eyed. She mouths the words, “Holy shit.”
I want to turn to this mom and ask, “What the hell are you doing on public transportation, Typhoid Mary?!”
Instead, I change my seat, whip out my hand sanitizer, although I’m still wearing my gloves, and marvel at her stupidity. Side note: her traveling companions, who are sitting shoulder to shoulder with her, look as alarmed as I feel.
I arrive home, take a shower (relishing the opportunity to touch my face and rub my eyes) and then email my management team. I tell them, until further notice, I will not be taking anymore in-person auditions.
March 12, 2020 (Toilet paper inventory: 13 rolls)
I decide to hunker down indefinitely but this requires gathering provisions. Since I’m not under quarantine, I can still go out and get whatever food and grocery items I need, allegedly. My neighbor, Amanda, and I decide to venture out to Fairway. Our plan is to stay as far away from everyone else as possible and not touch our faces. That’s our strategy.
Each shopper in the market has the look of a scared wolf: head down, eyes darting back and forth, pupils enlarged. Some of them cover their mouths and noses with masks or scarves. Amanda and I spend two hours trying to get what we need. The shelves are woefully lean; toilet paper and cleaning products are only a memory of days gone by. There are a few bags of frozen vegetables, some boxes of pasta, bags of salad…I snag the last chicken.
It takes another full hour to reach the check-out.
March 13 & 14, 2020 (Toilet paper inventory: holding at 13 rolls)
I try to be creative with chicken recipes.
March 15, 2020 (Toilet paper inventory: 12 rolls)
I should mention here that, before this whole pandemic, I started following the keto diet. Timing really is everything in life.
I realize that I do not have enough vegetables or proteins to last more than a few days since the pickings were so slim at Fairway. But I have enough pasta, bread, popcorn and crackers to keep my husband happy for a while.
Since I’d rather lick a subway seat than go into another supermarket, I log into my Instacart account and start shopping for all the things I think I’ll need for the next three weeks. To my amazement, it’s all there – frozen veggies, ground beef, dairy items galore and yes, the holy grail of coronavirus shopping: toilet paper and Lysol! I take my time. I want to be thorough. I don’t want to have to enter a store for one or two forgotten items.
Once my order is completed, I attempt to check out. Plot twist: there are no delivery times available. Not today, not tomorrow, not at all. Hey Instacart, that would have been useful information BEFORE I started shopping!
Undaunted, I try Amazon’s food delivery service from Whole Foods. When I log in, it clearly states 2-hour delivery for Prime members. Hooray! I begin my list again. They do not have toilet paper or Lysol, but I see everything else I want. While trying to add frozen cauliflower, Amazon alerts me that I have the maximum amount of items in my cart. Now I am faced with the impossible task of picking and choosing what can stay and what must go. When I attempt to check out…yup, you guessed it…no delivery times available. @$#&%!!!!!!
So this is how it is. I have no choice but to go to the local supermarket. First I do a drive-by. Judging from the number of cars in the parking lot and the number of carts in the corral, the store is not too crowded. I decide to go in.
The first thing I notice is that most of the shelves are empty. Then I notice they all bear signs reading “Limit one per customer.” That goes for bread, meat, chicken, milk, butter, water, paper products and cleaning supplies. There is no flour. There is no sugar. The next thing I notice is that I feel dizzy. It is in that moment that I realize I have been holding my breath since entering the market. I quickly move far away from the nearest human being and draw a deep breath. I will get through this.
I need proteins. The meat case is empty. The poultry case contains one friggin’ chicken. If I feed my poor husband any more chicken he will divorce me. I take it anyway. I find frozen meatballs and want to cry with joy. I see cottage cheese and, since it’s not restricted, I get two. I take two cartons of cream. I take two containers of sour cream. I grab some cheese. I pause to thank God that I am not lactose intolerant. I go in search of Lactaid pills for my husband.
For dinner, I prepare a chicken feta pesto casserole and promptly spill it all over the inside of my oven. I salvage what I can, and we have dinner.
After dinner I start texting with my friend, Bradley. I tell him about my shopping misadventures. He tells me he hates the hoarders because he’s down to three rolls of toilet paper and can’t get anymore. I agree with him. He says we should “save our corn cobs ‘cuz that’s what they used in the olden days.” I remind him that I’m not eating corn because I’m doing keto.
March 16, 2020 (Toilet paper inventory: holding at 12 rolls)
I clean the oven.
March 17, 2020 (Toilet paper inventory: holding at 12 rolls)
My friend Tom organizes a Zoom video conference, featuring two ladies in the health and wellness field. I join with audio only because, since self-isolating, I have given up wearing makeup, presentable clothing or a bra. Tom asks me to turn my video on because he’d “like to see everybody.” I turn on my video and die a little inside.
The featured speakers talk about managing stress. I want to rub my nose, but think I might be judged for touching my face – in my own home – with my raw, clean hands. But they don’t know my hands are clean. However, throughout the presentation, one of the other participants polishes off his dinner, two brownies, and then picks his teeth with his finger. Anyway, one of the speakers wants to guide us through a meditation and asks us to close our eyes. I close mine and worry I’m the only one. Then someone in the group farts, loudly. I get the giggles and try like hell to surprise them. I am unsuccessful. I kill my outgoing audio.
March 18, 2020 (Toilet paper inventory: holding at 12 rolls)
Feeling confident that I have a comfortable amount of supplies and food, I spend the day puttering around, looking at too much news and social media. I decide to take a break from doing essentially nothing and watch a documentary.
After dinner (chicken again, but my husband can’t divorce me because all the court houses are closed), I get the urge to start a journal: GREETINGS FROM THE CONTAINMENT ZONE.