By Jefferson Weaver
I was patiently waiting in line at a local store the other day, a few routine purchases in my cart, and the gentleman in front of me sneezed.
A young mother slowly drew her busy little boy closer, mashing his face into her stomach. The cashier’s eyes grew wide as a deer facing a pack of coyotes during the Hunger Moon. A lady of a certain age backed away from the sneezer, bumping into my cart.
The gentleman’s eyes were red, and he apologized.
“The pollen is going to kill me before that there Coronavirus,” he said.
It’s a strange world right now.
I reflected on the new, hopefully temporary norm as I trundled down the highway the other day to an appointment. A masked motorist heading in the other direction waved at me (we’re Southerners, and wave at strangers) as I passed a school that was closed in the middle of the day. Folks were lined up outside a popular restaurant, waiting for their orders, but the dining room was clearly empty. When I stopped at another store for a snack, there were signs warning of limits on toilet
paper and bleach, and there was absolutely no hand sanitizer.
Discarded latex gloves in the parking lot made me wonder if I’d barely missed a crime scene, until the cashier began grumbling about a customer who ostentatiously pulled on the gloves as she entered the store, then dropped them in the parking lot as she left the building.
“This store is probably cleaner than her house,” the cashier sniffed.
My initial Saturday plans to punch some holes in some tin cans and paper were set aside, since ammunition is getting harder to obtain, and I was worried, deep down inside, about when that might change.
Despite the confusing wording of the governor’s advisory, we went to church Sunday. Rather than sharing pews with favored brothers and sisters in Christ, however, our Baptist congregation stayed as far apart as Episcopalians who don’t like each other. The time of fellowship was composed of calling out to one another, rather than hugging and handshakes. If you’ve ever been to a country church, you understand how social distancing is anathema to much of the congregation. At the same time, we had no desire to share germs.
It’s a strange new world, with this Corona-bug floating around, but there’s still plenty of normalcy, too.
A dear friend called the same day to talk about how the crappie and shellcracker were stirring in his pond. A mutual friend had just caught his first shad on a flyrod, as the big silversides frantically worked their way upriver in the spring migration. It’s becoming easier to find the best fishing spots in the area again, since some folks have more time on their hands, and are spending sunny spring afternoons drowning worms. Fishing is good for self-quarantining anyway, since you want the length of a fishing rod between you and your neighbors.
A lot of parents are learning the hard way what teachers go through every day, but at the same time, quite a few others are treasuring this enforced time with their children. I know of several who now plan to homeschool next year—and at least two others who are making plans to do something special for the teachers who deal with their darling little monsters.
I saw a dad and his son awkwardly throwing a Frisbee in the gathering dusk the other evening. Both looked like they were trying to figure out how to do something together. I’ve heard of a lot of parents and kids reconnecting – or in some cases, connecting – as they are forced to avoid the usual activities that sometimes keep us busy for the sake of busy-ness. Another dad I know who is forced to stay home from work is teaching his kids about woodworking. The timing works nicely, since just about the time his wife has had it with ensuring classwork is completed, the dad is finished with his telecommuting, and the kids are restless. Both children are discovering a love of something they previously ignored, and I’m willing to bet their family will be stronger too.
With a restless need to get outside and do something, people are rediscovering gardening. Since the whole “stay away from everyone” thing started, I’ve noticed more folks tenderly tending flowers in their yards. New gardens are popping up here and there, more than I have seen in years. Some of it may be out of a fear for food security, but I know for a fact much of it is because people are learning that it feels good to get your hands covered in good, healthy, productive dirt.
Since the newspaper office is essentially closed, I’m working from home. Miss Rhonda and I have had to adjust, but it’s not that different from when I previously worked from home, nearly 20 years ago. Now the mornings are not quite as frenetic, and we can actually enjoy the farm chores together after the morning coffee. The dogs wander in and out of my newly-resurrected office, and seem to forget that I am home – until they see me again, and act like I’ve been gone at work all day.
I must admit I sometimes get distracted, since the view out my window is more enjoyable than the gray-beige of my “real” office, but natural light beats fluorescent and halogen any day of the week, not to mention the fringe benefits of watching kittens chase dust motes in the sunshine. I miss my coworkers, but I also love watching my goats harass the cats.
The underlying concerns are always there – when I go to lunch in town with friends, we stay several feet apart, and our favorite tables are naturally off limits. A wave has replaced a hug or a handshake in greeting. There’s suspicion when one sees a stranger, especially if that stranger has out-of-state plates on their vehicle.
But we’ll get through this.
As we move into the Easter season, it’s a good time to remember God is still in charge. Plagues ain’t a new thing to Him.
America defeated Nazism and communism, and has nearly defeated the terror of Islamic extremism. We adapt and thrive.
We help each other in times of need – anyone who went through Matthew or Florence knows this firsthand. I see social media posts where people are asking who they can help, and how. I see people opting to buy a takeout meal from restaurants when they have plenty at home, just to support their neighbors. People are learning how to sew facemasks, much as folks grew Victory gardens during World War II, or assembled care packages during the wars in the Middle East.
We might fight and fuss and fume, our elected leaders might fail or triumph, politicians will try their best to grab control, statesmen will try their best to do the right thing — but we will get through this.
There will be a time and place to determine exactly how this virus went wild; there will be a time to determine how to prevent it from happening again.
But right now we all need to just use some common sense.
Be nice to someone, whether they deserve it or not. Don’t rush the store because you heard a rumor that a bread truck has arrived. Don’t scare yourself or others into a tizzy because you heard a rumor from someone whose cousin’s neighbor’s girlfriend who knows someone who once drove past a hospital and thought they saw a helicopter loaded with vaccine being attacked by zombie chipmunks.
Be smart. Be kind. Be strong.
And go wash your hands.
We’ll get through this. That’s what America does.