Everyone has experienced the pandemic in different ways over the past three months in the United States
4 min read
PHOENIX — Working from home is a blissful reprieve from the many sounds of the office. The gum-smacking, the open-mouth chewing, the drink-slurping, the hand-sneezers that haunt my nightmares. I live by a tire shop, so now I deal with incessant beeping that I drown out with noise-canceling headphones.
At home, it’s just me and the dog. She’s not a big talker. The most noise my dog makes is a dramatic sigh at 6 p.m. when she wants to be walked. I can’t always hear it because of the headphones, but I can feel that sigh in my soul. She stands at the door and stares at me. I have an hour left in my shift.
But working from home amid the pandemic has its drawbacks. A coworker posted in Slack that he needed a 10-minute break because he found out an old colleague had died from coronavirus.
Less than 10 minutes later, he was back and working. “I’m sorry for your loss,” I wrote via IM.
“Thanks,” he replied.
And that was it. I couldn’t see him. I didn’t know if he wanted to talk or to grieve alone. I couldn’t see his face. I could only stare at a white box with a blinking cursor and wonder. I had trouble sleeping that night.
No one I know has died. All day I edit stories about sickness and death. I double check the daily numbers from each state. I calculate the percent change from one day to the next. No one I know is included in those statistics. I edit obituaries and read about the lives ended by this new virus. I feel relieved to be untouched so far. I feel guilty about feeling relieved. I also feel dread. No one I know has died. (My inner voice adds: Not yet. Not yet. It’s coming.)
I walk my dog a lot more during this pandemic. I see more people walking their dogs, too. We humans wave more. We’re all desperate for community. Our dogs — desperate for playtime with a friend — stretch to the limit of their 6-foot leashes. Who knew a dog leash would be the perfect length to measure recommended distance during a pandemic? More people are outside gardening or talking while I walk my dog. I met a neighbor. I met a few. Everyone is going stir crazy. Everyone wants a chat. I learn the neighborhood gossip. I live for this gossip.
I go grocery shopping with a mask. I bring my own wipes to wipe down the cart. I feel guilty for not having my act together enough to order food online. I walk through the alcohol section on my way to the freezer section. I say a silent thanks that I don’t drink anymore. Five years sober and proud.
But as I walk down the wine aisle, I take a moment to think about the sheer amount of alcohol I would have purchased if this pandemic had hit while I was drinking. I would have posted a photo of all the booze. Everyone would laugh. It wouldn’t be funny.
Thank God that’s behind me, I think as I load four different Ben and Jerry’s pints into my cart. We all have a vice; now mine is ice cream. My consumption of it has skyrocketed under lockdown. If ice cream protected you from COVID-19, I’d be the safest woman in the world.
As I leave, I promise myself I’ll order online next time, fully aware that I will not.
Virus Diary, an occasional feature, showcases the coronavirus pandemic through the eyes of Associated Press journalists around the world. Follow AP West Desk editor Michelle A. Monroe on Twitter at http://twitter.com/mmonroe—ap