So I know it’s June and it’s been a while since the first Corona Dairies but I don’t want to forget to post this. These are the ramblings I recorded on my phone in between grocery store shifts last spring. It’s strange rereading them now, as the world—my corner of it, at least—opens up like flower petals after a storm. I’d forgotten how scary the stay-at-home mandates were. I’d forgotten how panicked I felt sometimes. I don’t want to forget. Even then, I wanted it to change me for the better. This, maybe, will help with that. At the very least, let it remind me to be grateful as I start to go to events, eat inside, and take off my mask.
I just remembered that the Sunday before spring break, the Sunday before everything got crazy, there were prepackaged communion cups and crackers at church. I was bold and dipped my cracker in the communal cup, but I had forgotten that even then they were changing some things. It was just a joke still—prepackaged communion sets, what a concept!
And now today, 4/3, there were lines stretching down the length of Wegmans on both sides outside, a self-checkout line going back to dairy, and a normal checkout line going to the bread department. We’re wiping in between each customer and only have six self checkouts open. As I drove home, I saw a man throwing a fist in the air and possibly yelling about the length of the lines outside. It made me scared. I wanted to cry.
Most people get it; they thank us for being there and for cleaning, and they are resigned to the lines. But some people are tense, and more and more people are wearing masks. I come home and hear that the order to shelter at home has been extended to June 10, and this isn’t as exciting anymore. It’s scary. Not so much the fear of actually getting sick but the fear of things never returning to normal. This vague fear that I think we all feel, that I think drives people to the grocery store, that things are changing and we’re not sure how serious it is or how long it will last.
It’s scary also because the orders keep getting more severe. I think they need to in order to keep us safe, and I think it’s good that the government didn’t start out with severe orders—don’t do it unless it’s needed. But still, every time there’s a new order, there’s a new awakening of fear. What does it mean? Does it mean we should be more scared? Probably not, but that’s the natural human reaction.
When I get home, I wonder how zealous I should be about cleaning. Should I wipe down my water bottle, my bag, my glasses case? What have they touched—anything someone who has Corona touched? How likely is that? I know I am nowhere as close to the front lines as medical workers are, but I am working in one of the only places left open. I’m helping provide stuff that’s essential to survival.
I feel kind of important but also kind of afraid.
Yesterday they had hand sanitizer at Wegmans again, for the first time since Corona began. It was such a comfort to see it there; it lifted such a weight off my shoulders. It made me have hope, that this would end, that it wasn’t as bad as we had thought. Amazing how the little clear bottles of bubbly fluid could make my spirits so much lighter.
April 13, the day after Easter
Although the curve may be flattening in New York, the death toll is still so high. And although I felt a lot more peaceful this week at work, the lines were crazy insane Saturday (probably mostly due to Easter). I guess I’m just wondering how long until the recovery period actually starts—how long is this going to be a crisis? I feel like experts have been saying for weeks that the next two weeks are the most important weeks. In one sense I guess they have to say that to keep us being extra vigilant, to keep the sense of urgency alive so we don’t relax too soon.
But also I think we just don’t know. We don’t know what we’re talking about. That doesn’t make me scared, just sober. We have to be really careful. I think we have to err on the side of caution, heavily. John Piper talked about on World News on Friday how incredibly difficult the decision between the possible loss of lives to the virus and the damage done to the economy (and thus to people’s lives) by stopping everything is. No one can really know how to balance the two, he said. That’s why we need to pray for our leaders.
It’s weird, I guess I feel like I should feel more—more something. More distraught or frightened or weighed down by the seriousness of it all. But a lot of it has just been adapting to a new normal, getting used to wiping down registers 500 times a day, figuring out how to use Zoom. I’m thankful I’m so busy. And I’m also realizing that I’m not as busy as I thought—part of the trouble of being home is that I just have a lot more time to be in my head, which is usually unhealthy for me. I’m trying to be okay with it now, though, and realize that now is a season for a lot of introspection and wrestling with things. If I feel like a lot of things are coming up, internally, that’s okay. Don’t try to drown them out. Sit in silence. “Car Radio,” by T0P, that kind of thing.
I hope, I really hope, that this time for all of us to reflect and explore what’s going on in the silence (The Chosen! Potok) will change things. I’m sure it won’t look like how I think, but I don’t want us to just go back to normal after all this and have it be the same. Maybe that’s wishful thinking. And I’m sure that whatever changes happen will not the ones that I expect. Thankful for a good God to trust, so that thought doesn’t have to be as frightening as it could be.
New update on Wegmans: Last Tuesday, the 14th, was the first time I had to check in with someone who read off a list of symptoms and asked me if I had any of them. I said no and got a sticker on my badge and I wondered who would actually say yes. On Saturday, the 18th, they had upgraded it to actually taking our temperature and then asking us about the symptoms, which is better because then you can’t lie about a fever. But you hear about all these asymptomatic people, or people with just a slight sore throat or something, who have it, and it discourages me how little we’re able to detect it.
I was getting panicky a week or two ago wiping down stuff, thinking about how much more thoroughly I should do it, about all the little patches that I’m not wiping down that could have the virus on them, how I brush the register with my gloves and I don’t change my gloves very often so I could be spreading the virus that way…you can drive yourself crazy.
So I had to just pray and ask God to bless the work that I was able to do, knowing that I can’t perfectly sterilize everything in between each customer. I had to just hope that people wash their hands when they get home and aren’t stupid enough to think that this is perfect prevention and pray for God‘s grace as I do what I can do. It was very freeing, and I’m thankful for it.
I wonder if the economic devastation of this will be what people remember, that will be judged the true tragedy of this.
If it is, I hope people remember what it was like for us in it:
The death tolls rising, first sweeping through nursing homes and making everyone think of their own fragile grandparents. The stories of nurses and doctors overwhelmed, committing suicide, saying they’ve never seen anything like this before. The images of them in hazmat suits and descriptions of them stripping completely when they come home, like coming back from Ebola only it’s here on our continent, in our country, in our cities. The orders separating us, from 100, to 50, to 10 and less than that, like some reverse Sodom and Gomorrah, making us feel like the other person is the threat. Taking a walk and approaching another person, each of us stepping far off to our own side of the sidewalk, wondering if it’s necessary, too afraid that it is to risk it, hating it now we have to treat other people like a virus themselves. The stories of people coming down with it without seeming to have any contact with a sick person, like it’s a ghost ready to invade your house at any moment, despite your best precautions. The stories of the first young person dying, the fragile feeling that you weren’t as safe as you thought, you can’t cling to your youth or health, the mounting feeling of being closed in, it an unseen enemy everywhere.
And maybe most of all, the feeling that we are doing something right, the instinctive rise of compassion—how could we do something that lets others, especially the vulnerable, die? I have this thrill of pride and relief and thankfulness that my country still cares about the vulnerable, about preserving life. Life. How could we do anything to cheapen our value of it? How could we live with ourselves if we selfishly went out to buy luxury things, extra clothes and movies and sports, and in doing so caused someone else to die?
I reread Station Eleven and realize how minuscule these numbers are, how good we have it, really. But then Station Eleven is supposed to be horror, apocalyptic, and the fact that a part of our reality, even a tiny fraction of it, seems to be mimicking it is frightening.
Of course we are aware of the terrible economic devastation. For the very beginning we’ve been arguing about when you start hurting too many people’s livelihoods to make it worth it. How do you weigh life and livelihood? We see concrete deaths; it’s harder to see the immediate consequences of shutting down the economy. Will it actually kill anyone? Even if it doesn’t, it still matters that many people are suffering severely. But isn’t death the worst suffering? Shouldn’t that rank above everything?
I just hope people realize how hard these questions are, and especially hard when you’re in the midst of it and you are carried about by the news and the orders from governors and the way your own life has turned upside down.