Tam Schlueter

Tam Schlueter

Journal log, Corona-March 2020:

I made a mad dash to the grocery store after deciding the near-empty parking lot meant there would be few people inside.

I skittered through the door like a hermit crab, pincers up and prepared to fend off anyone who broke my 6-foot mental/personal barrier. I scrubbed my hands/pincers and cart handle with provided disinfectant wipes. Thanks, store employees. You are very much appreciated.

“Act as though you are infected,” I whispered, repeating advice from every news outlet in the nation. “Do not spread it to anyone else. Got it. Let’s go.”

I shoved the cart through the store like a NASCAR driver who ate too much chili for dinner last night. Fast and efficient was the name of the game.

Bananas, check. Oranges, check.

Too many apples to choose from so I’ll pass on those.

Hey, they have a sale on... What the heck are you doing?! Focus and keep moving!

Eggs! (Sweet Disneyland, they actually have butt nuggets!) Milk (God bless you, farmers.)

Ritz crackers (I can’t face Corona-geddon without Ritz). Saltines (Hunka Burnin’ Hubby refuses to eat potato soup without them and nobody wants a crabby/hungry Hunka).

Oh no! There’s a woman standing in the baking goods aisle! I skidded to a stop and did a 2-wheeled U-turn, nearly launching precious Ritz to the floor. I went back after she was gone and snagged a bag of brown sugar.

That was close.

It was a near-sprint to the checkout aisle. Baking Goods Girl was in line before me. She gave me the stink eye.

“Stay out of my zone,” she seemed to say. I was happy to comply.

“No thanks,” I told the exhausted clerk at the end of my transaction. “I don’t need my stuff carried to the car.”

I jettisoned out the door, took a giant cleansing breath, ran to the truck, tossed the goods inside and peeled off for home as though the cops were on the lookout for a crazy-eyed/pincer-wielding woman.

Five Lysol wipes later, the goods were put away. That was traumatic. I may never shop again.

Inside Schlueterville, the paranoia spreads unabated. Hands are raw from constant washing and the floors smell of eye-watering vinegar. Duct tape on the porch floor marks a safe-distance from the front door, which bears instructions directing delivery personnel to drop packages and run away screaming.

Visitors wave from the driveway, or meander forlornly down the street. Someday, we’ll see the souvenirs from your Caribbean cruise. Until then your appointed face masks and rubber gloves are stored in the mailbox.

Governmental stay-home pleas have provided extra time to spring clean, with Hunka Burnin’ Hubby’s long-neglected closet and drawers receiving unwanted attention.

“I haven’t seen you wear this in years,” I accuse while flailing the faded “Hotfoot for Bigfoot” T-shirt he bought after Mount St. Helens erupted in 1980.

“I love that shirt,” he argues. “Bigfoot isn’t going anywhere.”

“How about these blue suede high-top sneakers?” I counter. “They turned your feet blue!”

“Fine,” he relents, “those can go.”

He distracts me with garden seeds and the promise of fresh vegetables preening in the sun. It quickly morphed into a garage filled with sprouting tomatoes, green peppers, garden peas and herbs, all clamoring for attention beneath a grow light suspended from the ceiling.

That light throbs bright and purple through my garage door windows, and I joke about getting a visit from the police to check the legality of my stash.

Of course, this is all exaggerated tomfoolery — well, except for the grocery store stop and the throbbing garage greenhouse. Hunka really does have a “Hotfoot for Bigfoot” shirt from Mount St. Helens tucked safely away in the back of his closet. He once owned shoes that turned his feet blue.

I remind myself that the surreal nature of recent days is just a temporary blip on the timeline of life, and that normalcy — or perhaps rather the new normal — will return soon enough.

Go away, COVID-19. Go away forever, please.



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