Life in the time of coronavirus: a strange new world

Facade of the Metropolitan Opera House at Lincoln Center, New York. Credit: Paul Masck.

Senior citizens lined up the entire length of the Tallahassee shopping center before daylight as Publix opened its doors before daylight to accommodate senior citizens.

The result was a store filled with crazed old people wandering the aisles looking for toilet paper.

The toilet paper was gone within minutes, Kleenex too.

In Miami, the toilet paper shelves are nearly empty in a store as people stock up. Stores around the country have seen a run on essentials as people react to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

I am not sure why we are all hoarding paper goods, but part of it is that no one knows how long this is going to last.  Will we still be fighting over toilet paper by Halloween?

The Publix at Village Square is a store many of us have visited for years — without the line where most everyone was practicing “distancing’’ and wearing masks and rubber gloves.

Publix is opening freshly stocked stores to senior citizens on Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 7 a.m., giving everyone an hour before the store opens to ordinary folks. Other stores are doing similar favors for us old folks.

We did not expect a crowd at that hour and we seriously underestimated the demand for toilet paper.

Most mornings I would still be in bed, fending off repeated approaches by cats who think I should be up and paying more attention to them.

Instead we ran into old friends and made new ones as the crowd quickly grabbed all of the shopping carts and jammed the aisles in the store, grabbing up the final rolls of toilet paper, paper towels, Kleenex and Clorox.

Strangers were busy helping each other reach top shelf items and exchanging kind words – trying to cope with a strange new world.

It’s part of the new normal.

For the first time in our lives we are staying at home most days, staying away from people and places where there might be traces of the new coronavirus that is killing thousands of people. And all of the experts tell us we may have to spend a few more weeks this way.

It’s a scary situation for many, especially senior citizens with medical problems or compromised immune systems that make them more susceptible to catching the virus.

The long line out front as the doors opened had the potential to become a nightmare, but all was orderly and there were managers helping us out to the parking lot at the end.

Many of us have spent more time at home lately, watching wall-to-wall discussion of the strange virus that is killing thosands of people in the United States and around the world while keeping one eye on a plunging stock market that is wiping out our 401K’s.

We could all wind up sick and broke.

The politicians are in an uproar, trashing each other and struggling to pass a bill that would provide cash payments to many taxpayers and bail out some of the businesses that are crashing.

President Trump at 2019 State of the Union, with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in the background. Photo, Wikimedia Commons.

And our President seems more worried about the stock market than the lives of citizens.

And there are still a few nut cases who think this whole thing has been orchestrated by those who want to defeat the President in November. Many of us think he is incompetent but I don’t know anyone that would visit this kind of plague on friends and neighbors to accomplish it.

Life as we have known it has changed dramatically.

Weddings, even funerals and travel are out as Americans desperately try to avoid the possibility of catching the highly contagious virus.

We no longer shake hands or hug old friends – instead if we touch at all it’s an elbow thing.  Most of us are avoiding movie theaters, churches, concerts  and other places where you might wind up sitting beside someone infected with the virus.

Many of us are getting food delivered by pizza shops and restaurants that offer “no contact’’ service – they’ll leave dinner on your doorstep – for a fee.

Over the weekend dozens of Tallahassee restaurants banded together to provide take out or delivered dinners as many businesses struggled to keep employees working and customers fed.

So many of those who serve us meals are terribly dependent on tips and are struggling to survive.

Online stars like Willie Nelson and Garth Brooks and many others are offering free concerts in front of cameras instead of live audiences.

The Metropolitan Opera is offering reruns of popular performances nightly as the entertainment world struggles to cheer us up.

There are other good sides to all of this: Gov. Ron DeSantis has ordered all arriving New Yorkers quarantined for 14 days!

And we are cooped up with two purring cats instead of having a house full of children begging to go outside. We love our grandchildren and great grandchildren, but we’ll let pictures on Facebook suffice for now.

And we have enjoyed the decrease in traffic on Thomasville Road.

Beyond that, it’s hard to think of anything good about all this.