Don’t touch your face

For the past few months (or is it years?) I’ve been constantly reminded of an episode of M*A*S*H, in which Margaret accuses Charles of having touched his nose in surgery. I can’t imagine why.

I also – for some strange reason! – keep thinking of Stephen King’s The Stand. Along with everyone else in the known world.

All of this is mainly so I’ll have a record in the future. Like the office issues I mentioned in the last post, I may not want permanent memorial to this Worst Year Ever, but … here goes.

Everything blurs… It was the Tuesday before St. Patrick’s Day (so March 10) that, after work, I went to see my mother – living at a nursing home here in town – to be turned away at the door: they had literally just locked the place down (in accordance with state guidelines) to all visitors. That brought it home; Covid-19 was here.

The reason I remember when the lockdown of the nursing home was is that on the following Monday, March 16, was the last day I worked in my office. I assume the higher-ups had some kind of plan before that, but it didn’t seem like it. Our IT manager was out sick (along with one of the two customer service reps (the other one also being sick but in), my manager, and two of the three women of what we call the Equipment Track team), so the IT intern had to step up and be a hero in – suddenly, it seemed – setting up six billers (two of them new hires who hadn’t even started yet), two collections people, and six people in accounts payable and receivable and third party billing (plus higher-ups) for working from home. I was last, for some reason (I didn’t mind), and I was there with him until nearly 7:00 as he tried to iron out issues (like trying to get a second monitor to work with the laptop, which never happened). And starting on March 16 we, the majority of the office, started WFH, while the equipment trackers and customer service were supposed to be social distancing in the office. We billers were planning to go into the office one at a time every couple of days or so to pick up paperwork (we have never been paperless. Till now). That didn’t happen: come to find out, one of the people who’d been out sick on the Monday tested positive for the virus. Next thing we heard, at least three people in the office tested positive, and one was hospitalized. So there was new scrambling to redefine what we were doing while self-quarantining for two weeks.

At the beginning of each month, once all the previous month’s paperwork is in, we billers have to get the invoices completed. Usually, all paperwork is in and processed by Equipment Track by the early afternoon of the first business day, and billers’ closing is supposed to be finished in five business days. (Doesn’t always happen.) Since not one but two of the ET team ended up testing positive, and one was in the hospital for an extended time and out of work until just last Thursday, everything was a lot harder; ET didn’t close until the sixth. It wasn’t a fun close. (It was also extra fun to ponder the fact that the hundreds of pages of paperwork I brought home to work on had all been handled by the girl who tested positive. Whee.)

I have not been impressed with my company’s response to this whole situation. Well, honestly, I haven’t been impressed with many responses to this whole situation; as I sit here writing this I can hear my neighbors out playing in the street, and they’ve had what sounds like parties every Friday and Saturday. (Complete with car doors slamming at all hours, so it doesn’t seem to be just whoever lives there having a good time.) But the only real contact the company has had with us has been an email that has gone out to everyone three times (the same each time, more or less) basically saying all the things anyone with half a brain should have already had drilled into them: wash your hands, stay home, social distance, don’t touch your face, clean frequently handled surfaces. Yes. I know. Oh, wait – there was one other email, early on, from the president of the company. It was in three parts. Part the first: good job everyone (thanks). Part the second: in so many words, you’re lucky to still have a job, you know (yes, I do know). Part the third: but we’re going to lose money in this whole thing (not according to the invoices I’ve processed), so we’re not going to continue matching your 401K contributions until it’s all over (… thanks).

I have to admit I didn’t behave perfectly myself. On that first weekend, I realized suddenly that I had very few clean clothes; I had the flu (definitely not the virus) in January, and got behind on laundry, since I don’t have access to a washer here at home. And then when I started hearing about non-essential business being required to close on the next Tuesday, I decided I needed to take a chance and go wash a load or two while I still could. I did the best I could – I left the house at 6:15 AM, avoided people, wiped down surfaces before and after I handled them, sat in the car while waiting for the washer and dryer to go – but I should never have done it. Particularly since – as I learned from a sign at the laundromat at the end of my trip – laundries were considered essential services. Welp.

One person who joined me in doing their laundry bright and early that Sunday morning wore a mask. Everyone else did seem to be trying to keep space between them, but only one or two other people went out to sit in their cars (it was still pretty cold). What shocked me, though, is that I had to drive by Wal-Mart on the way home, and it looked like Christmas Eve – packed. A couple of weeks later I made a careful trip to pick up bagels, and again passed the same Wal-Mart: packed, again. It was scary. Also scary: I was the only one at the bagel place to even try to wear a mask. I had a head scarf over my face. The two girls who worked in the shop and the two customers who were there before me? Nothing. For the hell of it, I drove by a local grocery store to see what things looked like, and there were very few masks in evidence. If they were controlling the number of people who went into the store, I couldn’t see it.

I have not been able to bring myself to go to the store. The whole order-online-for-contactless-delivery thing has been … interesting. One of the things that will go down in history about this pandemic is the remarkable difficulty in getting … toilet paper. There’s a special place in hell – or at least purgatory – for the scum who hoarded toilet paper at the beginning of this thing. I happened to luck out by having last year subscribed to a tp delivery service (called “Who Gives a Crap”, which, yes, is one of the reasons I did it, along with a weird level of annoyance at running out), so I still had enough for a few weeks and was guaranteed to be getting a box of fifty rolls before long. The first order I placed was a little alarming – I received about two thirds of what I ordered, none of the produce or meat or bread or dairy being available. (I got all the chocolate I ordered, though, and since I was stressed I ordered something like ten different kinds. So I’m good for a while. I may end up with scurvy if produce goes scarce again, but my chocolate addiction is covered.) (So: scurvy and cavities.) Oh, that one was supposed to be delivered between 11AM and noon, if I recall correctly; it got here around 8PM.  I’ve gotten a couple more orders since; the second one was difficult to schedule and there were quite a few outages and substitutions. The last one, a small order the other day, was quicker and more readily scheduled, so it seems the companies have been adding staff. I have to say, I’ve never been a huge fan of grocery shopping, but I kind of can’t wait to get back in the store myself; less the fees and the biggest tip I can manage and the fact that I ordinarily only buy what’s on sale and I don’t entirely have that option now – boy, are groceries going to seem cheap when I can go get them myself.

I’ve also never been a fan of having food delivered – I don’t like being waited on, and that’s the ultimate in being waited on, in a way. I always feel a little guilty. (And I have been consistently shocked to see people order pizza or Chinese or whatever during weather in which they wouldn’t go out themselves, but that’s another post.) But now it’s almost a virtuous act. I’ve gotten a few deliveries, and it’s kind of fun – especially not to have to eat my own cooking. Because I have not, unlike most of Facebook, been doing much cooking.

And that’s another post, I think.

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