The weather forecasts are wonk. Something to do with a sharp decrease in the number of airplanes in the air. It wasn’t forecast to rain today. But it has rained, and not just a few drops. My wife and I console each other with talk of silver linings. The air quality is improving, just ask the stars.
Here in St. Louis, as March slogs on, the rain has been a cloying companion during days of isolation. I can’t recall going on a walk when I didn’t have to watch out for puddles and dreck as the dog Hugo and I walked in our desultory fashion, neither one of us leading the way. This month hasn’t been atypical in its raininess but I suspect the total rainfall is at the upper end of its historical range.
If only weather were the wackiest aspect of March 2020. In recent weeks, political leaders at every level—federal, state, county, municipal—have levied upon the country so-called social distancing measures, in an attempt to slow the spread of the highly contagious coronavirus, also known as COVID-19. Most businesses have been ordered to close. A lot of people, if they still have jobs, are working from home. The gyms are closed and some tennis courts are roped off—but running, biking, and walking outside is permitted.
My wife and I went out for a run this morning. The sidewalks have gotten busy. Sometimes we veer into the street to maintain distance from other pedestrians. This would be unremarkable if not for all the pickup trucks, lawn crews with trailers, and the myriad construction vehicles still operating business-as-usual. Let history reflect that the two industries to remain wholly untouched by any level or type of government restriction during the COVID-19 lockdown were construction and lawn care.
I’m at a park now, as I write this, and it’s quiet, even peaceful. Hugo and I will go for our daily walk. I can find contentment in that, as it’s been possible to find bright spots borne of our society’s response to the pandemic. There are a lot of things that haven’t been as bad as I thought they’d be. I put the supply chain on this list. For example, I can fill the car up with gasoline—no lines, no problem. In fact, the price of gasoline has fallen and will continue to do so. Current price for regular unleaded, $1.89 per gallon.
Yesterday, I was in the grocery. A sign read, “No more than two cartons of eggs per customer.” But there were zero cartons of eggs in stock, so I couldn’t have gotten one if I’d wanted. Thankfully, eggs were not on the shopping list. Otherwise, I was able to purchase everything else I needed.
Yes, the restaurants are closed for dine-in but overall we’ve been eating a little better. My wife has started working from home and we’ve gotten along alright. She’s been doing a lot more cooking, and I can’t complain about that. As I listen to my regular lineup of podcasts, the voices at the other end of the earbud suggest they might like working from home. One gravelly voiced fantasy baseball analyst said he has started to learn the game of chess, he’s even doing some yoga.
But there are bad days. Two weeks ago I made a jittery drive (in the rain) to an all-night grocery supercenter in pure overreaction mode as I tried to convince myself I could prepare for a pandemic. My bill that dreary, anxious morning was $197. I still have food lying around from that debacle that will probably set for a while longer yet. Three words: whole wheat pasta.
On that trip I also bought a Tombstone pepperoni pizza. You remember those commercials? There would be an inmate on death row, facing his final meal, and the warden or some gruff guard would pose the question. “What do you want on your tombstone?” The joke was a pun on the pizza brand.
Even though I’ve largely stopped buying frozen pizzas I couldn’t pass up the idea of having one ready in the freezer, just in case. Those pizzas remain, all the while, one of my favorite things to eat, sodium bomb or not. They remind me of my childhood. Splitting one with my brother in the summer, after we’d gone swimming or played tennis. One time, upon taking a Tombstone out of the oven I dropped it, or it slid off the pizza sheet and turned over in mid-air, landing pepperoni-side down. I still ate some of it. I can’t remember if Nick did.
I sit here in my car in the park, a park that’s still open, not closed like some, praise God. And I can feel a little lucky. My essay writing class has gone online, the libraries are closed, and even though my laptop’s too old to run the trendy videoconferencing app known as Zoom, I’ve got pen and I’ve got paper. The water’s not been turned off, the lights are still on, and the dog loves having us both around. But even if things get really bad, if I get to the point where I think I’ve only got one good meal left in my life. Well. You know what I want on my Tombstone.