Pandemic Tales: A Method to Madness

The email was very specific. Although it was “calm” in nature, I have come to recognize when doctors are frantic. They start using phrases like, “Why don’t we, “ or “I think it would be a great idea if….” Those phrases seemed highlighted. While the city schools had told parents that there was going to be a three-day grace period before they shut down the buildings, my daughter’s doctors had sent us an email gently begging us to “keep her out of large crowds.”

She falls in several “immunocompromised” categories and the idea of her coming in contact with a contagious person terrified the medical professionals.

My husband and I found ourselves in a conundrum. Do we send her back to school for those three days and let her say goodbye? Of course not! But how do we expl—

Nevermind….the state made that decision for us.

But what about my husband’s job? There had been rumors about people at his job that may have tested positive. Should he consider working from home since—

Nevermind….his job made that decision for us.

It was becoming very clear that we were headed into some uncharted territory. Something was happening to our state, in our country….and some of us were still quite unsure what it was.

As the worship manager of my church, I went to assist with what everyone secretly knew to be the last “in-person” service for a while. A church that normally sees about 1000-1200 people on an average weekend, was oddly empty, and rightfully so. The pastor had made it very clear about the precautions that everyone needed to take.
As we got closer to the start of service, there were only about 200-250 people in the entire building.

I stood next to the minister of music in the hallway. He and I had quietly settled against the wall next to one of the sanctuary doors. Normally, it was common for us to share a hug, but on this day we didn’t. It was completely out of character for me, but he understood. “I know you’re worried about your baby,” he said quietly to me.

He was right.

I hadn’t hugged anybody that day. In fact, everyone stayed a great distance away from me, each person respecting that I wanted to ensure that I didn’t have any human contact. Maybe they could see the worry on my face. Maybe not. Still, there was a level of respect that people had, even passing the minister of music and me in the hallway, to just smile and nod…and keep walking.

And then…it happened.

A boisterous older member came bounding around the corner. We had heard his loud greetings before we actually saw him, but he finally came into view. I watched as he grabbed people when he saw them, enveloping them in his arms; and while I’m not comfortable saying he was “forcing” people to hug him, I’m not entirely confident he was allowing anyone to come to the mutual decision.

When he reached us, I placed my palms flat against the wall on either side of me. My heart started racing and the anxiety attack that I had kept at bay all morning was starting to rear its ugly head.  In one swift move, the member grasped my arm, pulled my hand to his, and shook it. He then followed up with a hug that I did not reciprocate. “Don’t worry, “ he said laughing joyously, “ I don’t have it.” He continued down the hall doing the same to others.

I was shaken.

I stood there with my hands still out in disbelief as I stared in his direction. Being the early weeks of March there was so much we didn’t know…but I knew enough. Suddenly, I felt a cool wet feeling in one of my hands. The minister of music had pulled a bottle out of hand sanitizer (At the time I was convinced was the last known bottle in a 100-mile radius) and was squeezing the liquid into my hand.

I smiled a thank you.

About 48-hours later, the whole country was shut down.

As of today, we’ve been “sheltered-in” our house for 42 straight days. The only outings have been necessary store runs, a closed windowed-scenic drive, a walk in an empty park, and a “drive-by” visit to the grandparents’.

I get it. You’re tired of seeing the inside of your house. You’re tired of doing your own hair. You’re tired of watching church online. You’re tired of not being able to go into your favorite store or sit-down and eat at your favorite restaurant. All while you have convinced yourselves that all of the licensed, board-certified medical professionals have somehow had a worldwide meeting with the grand plan to keep you in your house.

This demand for states to go back to “business-as-usual”, earlier than they should, is stemming from a type of cabin fever that nobody has experienced literally since the Spanish Flu. And you’re thinking that you’ll be fine, or that you’ll be careful. You’re thinking that you’ll know to refrain from touching your face or be incessant about washing your hands. You’re thinking everyone’s making a big deal out of nothing because everyone will know how to act accordingly.

But me….I keep thinking about that man at my church…the man who didn’t give people a choice about contact, the man who didn’t practice social distancing, the man who was terrible at reading the obvious social cues that people didn’t want greet him in the standard way, the man that I’m pretty sure I heard cough as he rounded the corner, the man who had no idea if he was asymptomatic…

I think about that man….

Because there are more of him than there are of you…. “careful people.”

And frankly, his audacity, and your boredom, are not worth my precious daughter’s life.

This time…I don’t care if you think I’m right.

-Danita LaShelle

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