Viral Paranoia or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Cabin Fever

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By Michael Essington

At the beginning of every month, I go to the store and stock up on water, paper towels, and toilet paper. If I get a deal, like 500 rolls for a buck, I’ll skip a month. Well, at the beginning of March I went to the store and walked around for twenty minutes looking for a shelf or end-cap with cases of water. I looked everywhere, I stopped a hurried-looking woman in a blue apron and said, “Hey, where’s all the water?” She paused, and said, “We don’t have none.”

While not the proper grammar, I caught her drift. No water. At this point in the game, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti had not issued legal and binding death warrants. So I was confused. I continued to walk around and saw no paper goods of any kind, even shop paper towels, the blue ones also gone.

I got home and logged into Facebook, which is now the cloak of despair. On my feed, there were twenty or thirty images of empty store shelves. It felt like there were hundreds of Karens raging, “You fuckin’ hoarders!”

This was my first sign that people got wind of the COVID-19 virus, and they were ready to go full survivalist mode.

Soon afterward, my son’s school closed down. He has a twice-weekly drum class; I wasn’t sure how that would work from home. Well, his teacher had a class full of drums and a handful of practice drums made of old tires and clear packing tape. The teacher emailed saying to come by the school at 7:30 the next morning and you could take a practice drum home. We got there at 7:15; I admit I was already feeling the nerves of this plague. I didn’t want to go. I was trying to keep a sixty-foot distance and all that shit. Anyway, we are at the class at 7:15, the teacher doesn’t show until 7:30, he unlocks the door and all the drums are gone. Turns out some ritzier parents conned a teacher to open the class super-early and they took them all for their beloved Chads and Biffs.

Now I had to figure a way to get the boy something to drum on during his video-conference classes. Call a dozen used tire shops, and I finally found a guy that would give me one free. I got in the car and headed off into the dystopian wasteland of the San Fernando Valley.

The project of wrapping the tire with packing tape took about a half an hour. I rotated and turned the tire while my son covered it in tape. Came out perfect. Now twice a week he pounds the drum and if you’re not ready for it, it is the perfect laxative.

My birthday rolled up on March 13th. Normally, the family would get together at some restaurant we all grub. My wife said, “What should we do since we can’t go to a place with over twenty-five people?”

I said, “Nothing.”

“But it’s your birthday.”

Serious paranoia was setting in, “I’ll have some Mexican food and we’ll watch a movie at home.”

Instead, my wife invited two of her sisters, two nephews and my brother-in-law David. Even then I was like, “Don’t breathe on me, fuckers.”

Nobody had anything, we’re fine.

Last week my paranoia kicked into high gear. The Mayor released some statement saying this thing is far from over, you will have friends and family that will die. And then some weird statement about lining-up for Soylent Green rations.

The next day my sister-in-law calls my wife and asks if she could meet her at Costco because she had forgotten her card. My wife says sure, she’d meet her there. She leaves.

My brain starts going, “Forgot her card, what the hell?!”

My wife returns with her SUV packed to the gills. Food, water, toilet paper, and paper towels. Many trips back and forth from the house to the car.

As the day went on I started obsessing over this outing. So, I say, “You know to leave the house when we didn’t, desperately, need anything was reckless.”

“What are you talking about?”

“I have a comprised immune system. I was born with asthma and allergies; I have diabetes, high blood pressure, and a bum heart. You walk around Costco and a guy passes you and a corona germ rolls off him and lands on your jacket, you come home, take off your jacket and that germ rolls down the hall to my room. I wake up in the morning, take a deep breath and suck in that germ. And with my immune system, I would have a good six or seven minutes before I croak. Thanks a lot. You killed me.”

“You know you’ve been a real asshole for the last three days.”

Even in death, I’m ridiculed.

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