life

The Letter and the Spirit

It’s one thirty in the morning.

Pye is racing from room to room, stopping short with all four legs splayed out, bellowing into the night before zooming off.

I’m sitting on my (half-asleep) partner, eating a sandwich and babbling about this completely awesome idea I just had to set up a blanket tent in the living room, make s’mores, and watch a marathon of The Twilight Zone. (He does not remember this conversation, and it’s probably just as well.)

I also never thought I’d get to the point where my misophonia would be hardcore enough to make me want to punch myself in the face for chewing, but here we are.

 

letusout

“I think we need to… go on a car ride, or something,” my partner suggests, voice heavy with concern.

“No,” I tell him. No, because, right now, the only place either of us goes is to the grocery store. No, because burning gas unnecessarily means eventually having to make an extra stop at the gas station to refill. That means touching surfaces that someone else has to touch afterward. It means walking on the ground where other people have to walk, then track whatever’s on that ground into their homes. What if we get in a car accident? That takes up two spots in the ER that could’ve been used by someone else.

It’s bad enough we have a (probably also unnecessary, but work with me here) decontamination protocol established for going to the grocery store: He goes. I make him wear elbow-length rubber gloves and cover his face with something to keep him from touching it. He comes home, leaves the groceries by the door, strips off his clothes and puts them by a bag near the door, dumps the gloves into a bucket of soapy water also by the door, and hops in the shower immediately. I empty any groceries I can into separate glass containers and throw the packaging out. If I can’t do that, I wipe the packaging with disinfectant. As soon as he’s out of the shower, he washes his clothes, takes out the trash, then washes his hands. It’s exhausting, time-consuming, and pretty ludicrous, but it keeps the health anxiety at bay. (At least, a little bit.)

Confinement’s making a lot of us kind of weird.

oddball

What’s still completely baffling to me, though, are all the stories of influencers choosing to skip town. “I’m doing what’s best for my family” seems to be the reasoning (though a cynical part of me wonders when they started considering their ad partners “family”). Doctors decry the behavior, worried that they’ll inadvertently encourage their followers to do the same. People in rural or tourist areas are worried because they aren’t set up to feed and supply these people off season — and they’re damn sure not set up to care for them if they get seriously ill, or bring the virus with them.

“I’m doing what’s best for my family,” but all leaving does is let you travel back in time a few days, maybe a few weeks. Before long, all of the places that people are fleeing to will experience their own peaks. What will they do then? Return home, after their home is finally seeing a decline in cases, and bring a new increase with them?

“I’m doing what’s best for my family,” it just involves acting contrary to the advice of doctors and potentially killing other people’s families in the process. For what? Instagrammable content and an illusory sense of temporary safety?

I read a comparison of pathogens to a coat of invisible wet paint. You touch it, maybe with your hand, or even your shoe, and it gets on you. You can’t see it, though, so you don’t notice all of the places you leave it behind or all of the people who end up touching it after you. You can avoid seeing other people, but you’re not really socially distancing if you’re out touching wet paint and tracking it everywhere you go. It’s the difference between following the letter of the recommendation, versus the spirit.

I get it, confinement sucks. I’m fortunate, in a strange way, because circumstances have made me used to keeping myself busy at home. I wish there was a way I could help take care of my grandfather, or go see my partner’s family, but we’d be doing more potential harm than good if we did. Staying confined isn’t just a way to keep us safe — it’s a way to keep us from unwittingly killing someone else. Taking care of each other means not making the (often underpaid) employees of stores, gas stations, and accommodations expose themselves to unnecessary risk.

Stay home. Please.

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