As retired introverts, Lynn and I have made a lifestyle out of social distancing. So our days' routines haven't changed much. Even though we're both in the house, we're scarcely within six feet of each other until suppertime anyway. I'm mostly in my study. I go down to fix my lunch about the time she takes Jemma for a walk. By the time she fixes something for herself, I'm heading back upstairs. We've been doing this for years. Only come evening, after whichever of us has made dinner, do we sit within reach of each other and have our first long conversations of the day. That much feels normal.
But there are fewer reasons to leave the house now. No physical therapy appointments, no trips to the pool. No book club for Lynn. My follow-up visit from cataract surgery was considered essential so I went for that, having my temperature taken by the masked people at the door to the clinic, filling out the form that testified that I didn't have a sore throat or a bad cough and hadn't been hanging out with anybody who'd been exposed. As far as I know.
Afterwards, I stopped at the grocery store, where one of the staff was wiping down the handles of the shopping carts before every use. The place was busy, but not crowded. There were some stretches of empty shelves -- bread, frozen entrées, jars of pasta sauce. A trio of middle-aged women were partially blocking the end of one aisle, chattering away. Miss Manners suggests that one might say, in a commiserating tone, "It is hard to stay six feet apart, isn't it?" The staff are as friendly and helpful as ever, looking only slightly haunted.
What I’m missing most are the weekly family dinners with Marian and Josie. They'd just come back from a big Cheer competition two weeks ago, when all of the seriousness hit Alabama. We thought it best to limit contact for a bit. We're all still symptom free, though, so maybe we can have them over some time soon.
Since we're not doing our usual weekly restaurant trip, I had dinner delivered to them a few nights ago and did the same for us last night. I've been tipping about 40%. I worry about the people in the restaurant and bar business. The margins are so small, the savings non-existent. Our favorite pub decided not to do curbside, so I bought a bunch of gift certificates, hoping it'll help them bridge to re-opening. Amanda Shires is doing a daily live show from the barn she shares with Jason Isbell. She uses the occasion to raise money for MusiCares, so I made a contribution there. I'm trying to donate a little something somewhere every couple of days. The need is overwhelming.
Grocery clerks are now considered essential. It took this for us to realize that? Does this mean we're going to restructure the economy so that they get a living wage? Sick leave? Health benefits? I'm not optimistic.
Solnit has an essay in the NYT asking what kind of country we’ll make as we work our way out of this. She writes about past crises and the changes they wrought. Will we become more authoritarian or more humane? There are strong impulses pulling in each direction. Do we go with fear or compassion?