Reflections: Diary From the Great Sheltering of 2020

What 10 weeks of virus avoidance can do to the human mind. Spoiler alert: It ain’t pretty.

By Dennis Boone

Noon, March 15: Spring break. At last. Will be deep in the Ozarks before sunset. Good to get away for a bit. No telling where this Wuhan stuff is headed. Geez, they canceled the Big XII basketball tournament, my pre-vacation therapy. Odd, though, on the way down, not much traffic headed back into the city. What’s up with that? 

5 p.m. March 15: Can’t find the Selection Sunday show. Surely they’ve figured that virus thing out by now. If it’s messing with March Madness, it must be worse than we thought. Noon, March 16: Need some things for the cabin kitchen, run up the hill to the little discount store. Don’t forget paper towels. Wait a minute: what the hell happened to the paper-products aisle here? And over there, what gives with the empty shelf for eggs?

4:59 p.m., March 16: Better scrap the plans to go off the grid for most of the week and see if anything’s going on with the news. 5 p.m., March 16: Uh-ohhh … 8 a.m. March 17: Resort operators say the pool and hot tub are closed. Maintenance crew must be behind schedule. Well, at least we got the aquatics in on Sunday and Monday.

Noon, March 17: NOW they tell us. Pool, hot tubs, rec center and on-site restaurants are closed for the duration. Something about an abundance of caution. OK, fine. Plenty to do in the great outdoors. Just make a plan to really get into the outdoors by morning—hiking, biking, horseback riding, canoeing. The sky’s the limit. As long as that sky maintains this bright shade of blue.

4 a.m., March 18: Monster lighting strike rattles the whole resort. Rain starts to pound the wood shake shingles. Might be a late start on that morning hike.

3 p.m., March 18: Pouring out there like a frat-house kegger. Good thing they let us check out board games at the front desk. 11 p.m., March 18: Scrabble squares chucked over the deck after eight hours of arguing about whether 
“syzygy” is a real word.

March 19-22: Cook breakfast, eat. Wait two hours. Cook lunch, eat. Wait three hours. Start dinner. Eat. Rinse and repeat.

8 a.m., March 22: Well, at least the rain stopped and the cold front moved on. Glad to get out of here before cabin fever sets in. 9 a.m. March 22: Good grief, what happened to gasoline prices? I haven’t seen them this low since Jimmy Carter was popular.

3 p.m. March 22: Wow: highways are wide open. Home in record time. Time to grid up and reconnect with email. Let’s see … Mayor Lucas issued a stay-at-home directive two days ago. That explains the traffic. There’s one from the office. Everybody’s working from home starting this week. Computers have been set up for remote access. No sweat: I just did five days in a cabin in the Ozarks. How bad can being cooped up at home be? Guess it’s for the better—I’m way overdue for a haircut anyway. At least nobody will be around to notice.

8 a.m., March 23: Thank goodness for this thing called Zoom: First time in my career I’ve interviewed a United States senator in my flannel jammy pants. (Cue the Groucho: “How he got in my jammy pants, I’ll never know …”)

8 a.m., April 7: Two weeks now, and getting pretty scraggly. Wonder if the barber is ever going to be open again. What was that guy’s name? Phil? That’s it: Phil. In Waldo. Pocketing some serious coin on grooming costs. Saving a ton on laundry detergent. Gas, too: At this rate, it’ll be three months to a tank. But it’s not terrible, working like this. At least the three teens aren’t around to cause any distractions.

April 9: Gov. Parson announces schools will be closed for the remainder of the spring semester. Remote learning for all. How hard can that be? Maybe I should double-check with home-schooler, just to be sure …

8 a.m. April 10: Half a head of growing hair has me looking like Larry from the Three Stooges. Been more than a month since I’ve worn socks. The clothes washer has been inoperative for six weeks, and the hamper still isn’t half-full. About the only good thing amid a season of panic buying is that the chest freezer was packed before any of this nonsense started.

9 a.m., April 10: Freezer shorts out.

April 11-May 15: Same deal, different day. Day after day. At least they’re lifting the sheltering orders. Things should be back to normal in a couple of days …

May 25: Final entry. Kids not only refusing to speak to me, but to anyone not on the other end of a mobile device. And they’re staging a mutiny over the leftover meat I gang-smoked after the freezer went out. Guess the Apache were wrong: Turns out it won’t last indefinitely without refrigeration. The upside? Only two weeks to go before June. Research models say we’re well past the viral peak. Great news. This should all be over by then and the country can get back to normal, at last. Thank goodness: Things couldn’t get any worse, that’s for sure. Hold on a second: TV news in the background is blaring something about a police killing in Minneapolis …

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