Imagine how magical this moment must have been for New Yorkers waiting for the subway in 2016? Art has been a saving grace for so many of us during this COVID-19 pandemic, and this video is one more reason to love New York as it tackles an unprecedented crisis. This is the land of Ellis Island, the Statue of Liberty, Broadway, Rockefeller Center. The city that wept and grieved and came back stronger after 9/11. This is the city that needs our prayers right now. It is the epicenter of our country’s COVID-19 crisis, and it is the epicenter for all that our country stands for: Diversity, freedom, innovation, capitalism, and so much more. Enjoy this moment of music.
The parking lot at Walgreens is packed. People no doubt are stocking up on prescriptions, over-the-counter-meds, toilet paper in preparation for isolation. I need a feminine product I forgot to get at the grocery store earlier.
Inside, the store doesn’t reflect the full lot outside. Where is everyone? Is there a party in the backroom I don’t know about? I pick up my product and take it to the cashier.
For once there is no line. That in and of itself is strange. There’s almost always a long line of people in this store, sighing impatiently and rolling their eyes. Often, I am one of those people.
I hand the cashier a twenty and glance to my left. Standing about seven feet from me is an older woman wearing a loosely tied hospital gown, baggy hospital looking pants, and worn out sneakers. She is drinking liquid out of a glass bottle, her right hand shaking as she holds it to her lips.
Her appearance, so unexpected in this setting, is shocking. I begin to wonder if I’ve entered a twilight zone.
I look closely at her. She could be anywhere from 60-75 years old. It’s hard to tell if it’s age or hard living showing up on her face. Her hair is dirty blond, thin and dry, either from poor diet, medication, or too much home dying and perming.
She is shaking. She is in some kind of trouble. People don’t walk into stores wearing hospital gowns. Pajamas, slippers, curlers in their hair yes, but not this.
I can’t help myself. I never could keep my mouth shut. “Ma’am,” I say. “Are you supposed to be in the hospital?”
Her voice sounds stronger and more reasonable than her appearance. “I was quarantined for three days. But don’t worry, I’m not contagious.”
Could she be referring to COVID-19, the deadly, novel virus sweeping America and the world? The cashier, a young woman in her late teens, hands me my change. She is looking at the woman warily, probably wondering how to get out of having to wait on her.
I persist, because the older woman looks like she needs help. People that are okay don’t walk into stores in hospital gowns, and she is shaking. More than her attire, it is the shaking that troubles me.
“Did they let you out of the hospital without your clothes?” I ask her. “Do you need help?”
The smile that passes over her weathered face is full of mischief. “I couldn’t take being in there anymore.”
It dawns on me in that moment that she must have escaped! There is a hospital across the street from this store. Was she suspected of having COVID-19, placed under quarantine, and left against medical advice? I could imagine it. I had a great aunt who used to do it all the time. Whenever she had chest pains, she would call an ambulance, be taken to the ER, then against medical advice, would call a cab and leave for home.
I have a decision to make. Do I ask more questions, try to further assess the situation? If I do, am I responsible for what might come next, like guiding her somewhere safe, calling a family member for her, maybe contacting the police? The situation could get complicated, and was it really any of my business? For all I know, she has someone waiting outside for her in a car.
My instincts are telling me to help. How can I live with myself if I don’t? My mind is telling me to leave it alone. She might have Coronavirus, for goodness sake.
I lean over and whisper to the cashier, “You may want to call your manager. She looks like she needs help.” And I leave.
The moment when…your living room becomes your office/yoga studio/fitness center/rubber room.
I used to believe working from home would be a dream. I could sleep later, not deal with commuting, wear sweatpants all day, and do housework during breaks. Wrong!
I hate it. I’ve never been a homebody, but a week of forced telecommuting and being housebound due to COVID-19 and already I’m stir crazy. And forget housework. All I want to do on “breaks” is get the hell out of the house. I go for walks, drive around in the car listening to music, run quick errands with gloves on, after which I wash my hands and wipe down every surface I’ve touched before I washed.
When my husband comes home from his “essential” job around 4:30 pm, I see his eyes dart to the dishes in the sink, to the stove where dinner isn’t yet cooking, and to me, looking for answers. I don’t say it out loud, but inwardly I dare him to ask the unspoken question: Why, when you are working from home? Something of my thoughts must show on my face because he doesn’t, smart man.
He can’t comprehend why I’m going stir crazy, or how my desperate need to separate work from home, my feeling of being trapped, the fear of the unknown, and the torture of limbo have taken over my sensibilities. I can’t either, for that matter. I only know that I am not handling this isolation well and it’s both surprising and disappointing.
I know it could be so much worse – it could be war or famine or a layoff, or we could be homeless or ill – and I know containing the virus from spreading is critical. But man, I never thought I’d hate being in the house so much, and especially spending most of my time in this new multi-purpose space that I once loved and now hate.
Note to self and others like me: Breath. Relax. Pray. This moment in time won’t last forever. Someday it will be a story to tell.
I would love to hear how you’re coping with the COVID-19 pandemic. What has changed in your life? Are you finding any magic in these moments?