The first thing I did when I realized the lockdown was coming was get my hair done. On the way home, I stopped by my almost-completely stripped supermarket and bought everything I could find.
I have been home, with few rare exceptions (doctors, hospitals, my son’s house) ever since. I realized the other day that I have been wearing gym clothes for five months straight.
And let me be clear: I am privileged, really privileged, because I can work remotely. I don’t have to take public transportation to an essential job or newly opened business. Many of these owners do their best; others don’t, and their workers pay the price. I have no doubt they are jealous of a person like me, who gets to mostly stay inside with my beloved friend who lives with me and goes out to get chemo for Stage 4 cancer. I stay home for her. And I will continue to do so. That’s what love is.
But, damn it, I want to go out. I’m not talking about parties with 250 people in someone’s mansion — really. No, I want to chat with the checkout guy about his diet. I want to talk to my pals at the secondhand stores I frequent to see how they are surviving. My big dream is to go to T.J. Maxx looking for nothing in particular (that’s the trick) and then carefully look through every department. I play this game where I assume I’m looking for something and see if I can spot the best bargain. Before it closed, I used to meditate in the Back Room of Loehmann’s.
Staying inside your home 24/7 is a difficult burden whether you live in a one-bedroom with roommates or a four-bedroom with a pool with a family.
Being with people, seeing new things, conversations at the coffee shop, dinners with friends, drinks after work, big family gatherings, seeing your grandchildren, the joy of community — for most of us — the inspiration that comes from collaboration, the caring of others, that hug you needed, that pat on the back, the whispered word — all pretty much gone.
Five months and no end in sight. We will be sitting in the same place for months on end.
So I understand the sloppiness I see. I understand that it isn’t just kids crowded a little bit too close in restaurants, on the beach (where it’s open). I understand that it isn’t just businesses worried about the bottom line but workers who have spent five months on unemployment or, if they are lucky, sitting in front of a computer telling the baby to quiet down and the dogs to stop barking. I have yet to find a soul who is enjoying one bit of this.
I wake up wondering what day it is. They are all the same.
It’s different, depending on your age. Young people are being asked to give up, for party purposes, one year of what will hopefully be a very long life. Those who are sick with serious diseases face the prospect of never emptying a single thing from their bucket list, of spending their last year on this planet seeing nothing and going nowhere. And for those in between, we know we are giving up a lot, losing jobs we can’t replace, missing friends we may lose, looking mortality in the face with utter ignorance.
And yet, we must keep doing it. I do love that joke about how your parents and grandparents were called to fight a war in which there was an excellent chance they would be killed. Our kids (and us) are just being asked to sit on the couch and watch TV.
This may be the greatest challenge we as a nation will face in our lifetimes. We are at war against this disease. But there is something different this time: We the people have the power to protect one another, to save ourselves and save others.
How can we fail to meet that challenge?
Politicians are not going to solve this. We the people must do so.
To find out more about Susan Estrich and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.