Day Zero-A State-Wide Shut Down Journal

“We can’t touch our faces, mama?”

My four year old mimicked the concern in my voice as he repeated back to me my instructions.

“That’s right, baby. It’s important.” I sounded distracted, I know I did. Because I was. I wiped down the surfaces surrounding us, doing my best to make sure he couldn’t accidentally touch anything and then touch his face..

“We can’t touch anything?”

“You can touch what I sanitized.”

“Because we don’t want to get Pop sick?”

“We don’t want to get anyone sick.”

It was a tough thing to explain to him. I did it as best as I could. We’d be fine, but others wouldn’t. I tried to keep the concern out of my voice to not scare him, but he picked up on the atmosphere. Things weren’t as bad here as they were in other places, but it was in the air. The fear.

The bus was usually a fun experience for us. I took it every day to work and he loved riding it. But now, he picked up on the fear that crossed the other rider’s faces every time someone coughed or sneezed.

We couldn’t sit in our regular seats because there were people there. I tried to explain as lightly as I could why we couldn’t sit behind them. Social distance. This is a hard concept for him to understand because he doesn’t understand personal space. All he knew is that he wanted to sit where he could see out all the windows but he wasn’t allowed.

I tried to keep our life as normal as possible, but there were things in our routine I had to cut out. Our bi-weekly visit to the arcade had to be cancelled. That was also tough to explain. He looked forward to it on my paydays.

That day we were on the bus headed to his doctor’s appointment. A normal well child checkup. We arrived in town only to get a call that it was cancelled. His doctor had to deliver two babies. Easy enough to explain to him.

He told me he had to use the bathroom, so I took him to the transit center waiting room to use the bathroom.

We stopped when we entered as I gazed over the taped off waiting room.

“Mama, what’s that?” he asked.

“The waiting room is closed due to the virus,” the man told us.

“That’s caution tape. We can’t wait in here.” I told my son then glanced back at the man. “Are your bathrooms opened? He needs to go.”

“Sorry, restrooms are closed, too.”

I thanked him, and asked what bus I needed to get on to take my kid to get lunch.

“Can you hold it until we get to burger king?” I asked.

“Yeah.”

He was potty trained, but he was four. I wasn’t sure if he could hold it. He had his backpack on with his extra clothes so it wasn’t a big deal if he couldn’t. The bus was already there, not twenty feet from us. Yet, as we headed for it, I heard the chatter of the bus drivers.

“Have you seen the latest? Fresh off the press.”

I didn’t get to hear it, but couldn’t ignore the thought that I missed something. After we boarded the bus and I sanitized our area again, I checked my phone.

The bus ride is short and I don’t have time to read the article. I’m not quite sure what this means but it leaves a sinking feeling in my stomach. Burger King’s door has a message on it but my kid is moving too fast for me to read it.

“Why are all the chairs up?” he asked me.

“Because the dining room is closed. We can’t eat in here.”

I’m assuming that’s the gist of the note on the door, and the General Manager confirms it. We order our food and I ask if their bathroom is open. It is, and he uses it and we wash our hands.

We eat our food on the side walk outside, waiting for the bus to come back around.

It isn’t until I get home that I can look at the news article. All businesses that are nonessential should be closed. I text my boss asking if that includes our store, which is a bookstore, and then call my mother.

She’s a nurse who works for Geisinger, so the mandate doesn’t apply to her, but she thinks it will apply to me. Even as a book lover, I have to agree that buying new books is not essential when it comes to health. Many of our customers are older and are high risk. It makes me worry about the store because we aren’t a large business. We aren’t a corporation. Small bookstores are on the verge of extinction in some places, and the permanent closure of my store would change my town. It’s been around before 200 years, give or take some years. Oldest Independent book store in the country.

I’m not too worried about the bills just yet. I only work part time and it’s mainly just spending money. Otherwise, I’m a stay at home mom who pays minimal rent in exchange for keeping my grandfather’s house clean and do repairs. I’m extremely lucky compared to many others. He’s 87 and insanely diabetic. A huge risk for this illness.

I have no great urge to travel to and from work every day on the petri dish they call the bus and bring him COVID-19 to him.

“Has anything like this every happened to you guys?” I asked my mom, who had me on speaker phone so my dad could hear me, too.

“It’s a first for us, too,” my mom said.

My boss called me later that evening and told me that Wolf’s message wasn’t clear on a local level. We would still be opening to the public in the morning, and I would get to go to work. He said he’s posted on our Facebook page that morning, but it may be void. They were still trying to figure it out. If we were closing, it would be to the public only, but the senior staff members would still be on site for email orders, phone, and website orders. They would be working in shorter shifts.

My boss called me later that night to tell me they were officially closed to the public, and he’d drafted another statement for the Facebook page. I was officially off work for two weeks, like many other Americans. It sucked for losing the money, but the money was not worth the potential to carry the illness back to my grandfather or four year old. Just because I would be fine doesn’t mean those I care about would be. My dad is diabetic, too. A lot of my family is.

I’ve seen a number of theories regarding COVID-19. Some present facts, some are conspiracy theories.

No matter what theory you believe, the one thing we can all agree on is we are in unprecedented times. The first for many of us. No matter the outcome of all of this, many of us will not forget what has happened. How it has affected us. For some, it will affect our lives more than others. For now, this could be the beginning. The beginning of something greater. Or, this could be the means to the end of COVID-19 and life will go on as normal after the shut downs are lifted. Time will tell.

Check on your neighbors to make sure they are surviving. Call your family. Practice social distance. Wash your hands even when this is over. Be safe, my friends.

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