Don’t Stand So Close To Me

This social distancing thing has been really eye opening on a lot of fronts for me. I have learned that some people just don’t understand what combinations of words like “social” and “distancing” mean together, much like “self” and “checkout” at the grocery store seems to confound people. I have also learned that people have spacial relation issues and do not understand the difference between six feet and six inches. And worst I have discovered that I may actually be a rule follower deep down.

Let me start by saying I am not a catastrophizer, I am also not a joiner. But when I heard that we could avoid spreading an illness and give our healthcare workers the space they needed to help the sick simply by staying away from other people, I hopped on that bandwagon, and quick. I promptly took off my pants and crawled under a blanket on the couch. This kind of social action is right in my wheelhouse. It took me a full two days to realize that my family would also need to stay at home putting an end to my month long pants-free marathon of Jaws and Taxi Driver on repeat.

Luckily the weather has been beautiful, and I am taking advantage of it when my house gets too peopley for me. I have been going for walks at the nature center up the road which is where I have been learning all kinds of things about nature of the human variety. There are usually a handful of people walking the paths, but for the most part people are pretty respectful of the distancing rules. We see each other coming and both parties walk out to the far edges of the path to allow about 8 feet between each other. I have seen plenty of teenagers wandering around, reeking of weed, holding hands and climbing on tree stumps, that I can only assume are not from the same household, but they stay away from the other pedestrians. I have seen old people, young people, moms with their littles and dads with their older dads.

But a week ago I saw something that made me wonder what the hell is going on. I was approaching a little bridge and from about 50 yards away I saw what I thought was a punk rock mom with turquoise hair and a baby stroller standing at one side of the bridge headed my way. I calculated the time it would take me to get there and assumed they would be across by the time I got anywhere near them. As I came closer to the bridge I realized that the figure I saw was not in fact a young mom with a stroller but an elderly blue haired woman with a walker. She had only made it about halfway across the bridge and as I approached she started yelling hysterically “give me 6 feet please! Stay back! Give me 6 feet!” I was at that point about 30 feet from her but I stopped where I was. I watched as she hobbled with her walker closer to me. I was wondering why she wasn’t at home seeing as she was elderly and clearly worried about coming in contact with other people. I was also wondering why she chose to take her walker for a stroll through wood chips and tree branches instead of the sidewalk. I was wondering if she would make it up the hill ahead or if they would have to medivac her out once the sun went down. I was wondering if I should warn her that the entire trail was engulfed in mud a little further along. I wondered if the wild turkey would have a run at her seeing that it’s mating season. I wondered about a lot of things. Mostly because I had about 40 minutes to wonder as she crossed the bridge. I may have taken a short nap as well. It’s hard to say now. She finally passed and I headed back down the trail. I have yet to encounter her dead body or discarded walker so she somehow managed to make it out by the following day. I’m just thinking if you can’t distance yourself from other people and you have to rely on others to make room for you as you are out and about, maybe you should not be out and about. Just saying.

A few days later I was back out in public, avoiding being around people. I had a few large envelopes that needed to go in the mail. I figured going at night and using the kiosk would allow me to avoid people, but I was mistaken. I pulled up and saw two other cars in the parking lot so I waited to enter. As I waited, another car pulled up and a woman jumped out and walked in with no mask or gloves. She emerged a few minutes later, as did another person. Only one other car sat in the parking lot so I went in. Of course the car belonged to a woman who was using the one operational kiosk in the building. I took my place in line about 10 feet behind her and waited as patiently as I could. She had been in there for at least 5 minutes prior to me walking in so I assumed she was near finished. I was again mistaken. It took her another 7 minutes to finish her transaction. I know this because I timed her. I’m not sure what she was doing, but she only mailed out one package in the end. During that time another woman walked in and jumped in line right behind Molasses Sally. She turned to see me standing there, made an uncomfortable shrug and proceeded to walk right over and stand next to me. Not 6 feet next to me, not behind me, but directly to my right. We could have held hands. Said woman was not wearing a mask or gloves or anything. Although she was wearing pants, so she had that score on me. I was in fact in pajamas and flip flops. I stepped away from her as she jabbered at me about how she had been to two other post offices already and just had one envelope to mail but couldn’t get it done. I looked around and backed away like she was holding a bomb. She clearly was unable to judge 6 feet or was one of those people who just didn’t understand what is going on right now. I literally doused myself in hand sanitizer when I got back in my car. I try to view all people as if they have a really bad case of head lice. That’s how far I stay away. If I can picture one of those little bastards jumping on me from someone else’s head, I back up. Maybe that’s how the media should be explaining the six foot rule to people.

I told my husband the other night that I have seen a lot of people who are treating this whole pandemic like it’s end days or something. I’m watching people have no fucks left to give and it’s kind of pissing me off. Mostly because it’s making me be a rule follower and be all church lady about the lawlessness going on. I saw a young couple walk into the nature center the other day with a dog. They stood in front of the giant “no dogs allowed” sign discussing it before they entered, and apparently made the decision that rules don’t matter in a crisis. I was livid. Like, unreasonably angry about their brashness. And this was not the first time I have seen such guffawing at the law. People are riding their bikes down the middle of the road in my neighborhood, people are getting in the express line with 11 items and people are unashamedly jaywalking. Jaywalking, I tell you! I saw a guy smirking at me as he strolled across the road the other day while I was driving. I said right out loud “Yeah, keep smirking. I’ll run your ass over!” God help me, I’m not only following rules, I am disgusted with the people breaking the rules. I have turned into one of those assholes. I came home, told my kid to quit doing her homework and go play in the street just to prove everything was still okay. Tonight I am going to drop a Henry Rollins book in her hand just for good measure.

The world may be a little upside down right now, but I’m confident we are going to come out of this a little better than we were as human beings. I’m going to give the hysterical old lady twelve feet instead of six. I’m going to just let the clueless lady cut in front of me instead of breathe on me next time. And I’m going to try my hardest not to mow down any jaywalkers. I can’t make any promises, but I have been getting away with breaking the rules my whole life, so I am going to just let that shit go.

**”Waiting Room” has been in my head since my husband started singing it to me last week. Put it in your head too!

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Pandemic Vacation

My daughter has spent the last six months mentioning how we haven’t been to Disney World in “forever” which is the equivalent of three years. Every time she said this I mentioned that if she remembered going a few years ago that it clearly hasn’t been that long. But apparently I am highly susceptible to brainwashing because about two months ago I started feeling like we hadn’t been to Disney World in forever. I always knew I would make a great cult member. So I booked a trip for her birthday which just happened to fall on a Monday after a long weekend for parent-teacher conferences. It was like the universe was screaming at us to take this vacation, so we did.

We were getting ready to head out and people kept asking if I was worried about flying. I wasn’t worried. Not even a little. I am one of those people that doesn’t really worry about much. My husband on the other hand worries about everything, so between the two of us, we have a pretty healthy outlook, but it only works when we are thinking in sync. I also carry buckets of hand sanitizer and sprays when I travel. I may not worry, but I am disgusted by other people’s bodily fluids, skin and breath. I was trying to get my hands on a hazmat suit to wear on the plane. Not to protect me from germs, just because I thought it would be hilarious to board a plane dressed like an extra in Contagion. My husband had been texting me photos of the lunatics in China walking around with plastic bags over their heads or helmets made out of water bottles. I’m sure these are the same geniuses who don’t wash their hands before leaving the bathroom, and every one of them would be seated around us on a plane. I didn’t see any bubble helmets but I did see quite a few paper masks. One of those masks would have been helpful during the flight when the couple in front of us sat down. I’m fairly certain the man rolled around in dog shit before boarding and the woman had tried to set herself on fire. It’s bad enough when you have to spend several hours in a giant metal fart box hurdling through the air, but when your fellow passengers are not vacationers, but residents of the land of meth and hennessey returning to their swampland, it’s especially ripe.

We planned this trip prior to any worldwide health concerns. We are assholes, but not the kind who put other people in danger. Social distancing is actually something I can excel at. I don’t particularly like people, and I certainly don’t like having to spend too much time with others, so I have been social distancing for most of my life already. Unfortunately this is not something that can be accomplished in a theme park. The night we arrived was the night they made the announcement that the parks would be closing in three days. Since the point of no return was miles behind us, we pushed forward. We loaded up on hand sanitizer and sunscreen and headed to the parks for the three days they remained open. Not so surprisingly, the parks were still packed with overweight sweaty dads licking their fingers after consuming a half dozen churros and tiny booger machines wiping their filthy hands on every surface possible. The only difference was the moms occasionally squirted a dollop of cleaning product into everyone’s hands after screaming “stop touching things!” The whole place smelled of alcohol by the second day, which was nothing new for Epcot.

My daughter’s birthday was the day after they closed the parks. We had purchased after-hours park tickets and had reservations for the restaurant that you have to sell a kidney to get into, so needless to say, she was a little bummed out. Luckily I was able to move up our dinner reservation and my little princess was satisfied with being able to celebrate her birthday for several days instead of just one. We also realized after almost murdering each other after the first ten hours of stampeding from one ride to the next, that we would never have survived a late night together. It was probably for the best that our time at the parks was cut short by a day. We even made it over to the shopping district and to the pool, which never would have happened under normal circumstances. I even discovered a massage chair in the arcade that simultaneously squeezed your calves and skull in a death grip while punching you in the butthole. I’m not sure who designed this chair, but it may be the same guy who came up with waterboarding for the military. And I actually paid money to sit in this chair and then convinced my husband to do it as well. Apparently he could be a cult member too.

Shockingly, there were quite a few parents who either had no idea that we were at the beginning of a pandemic, or just didn’t care. I watched as children of all ages rubbed their hands all over every surface within a ten foot radius. They touched literally everything they could get their grubby little paws on while their parents stared at their phones. These parents obviously were not checking out CNN or they may have told their kids to keep their mitts to themselves. My husband watched one child pick his nose and eat it for a solid half hour. His mother was either immune to this behavior or just happy she didn’t have to worry about his lunch because she seemed not to notice that this kid was two knuckles deep trying to scratch his brain with his tiny fingernails that had just been submerged in a buckets of the seven dwarves fake plastic jewels. On the second day I offered my daughter $10 for every hour she managed to not touch anything. I explained that she could earn a cool $120 over the course of the day simply by keeping her hands germ free. She made $10 the entire day. She lasted the first hour and then never made it past 15 minutes after that. I must have poured two gallons of candy scented sanitizer on her hands that day.

By the time we checked out of our hotel and got ourselves to the airport they had announced that pretty much everything was closing down. All of the filthy little monsters licking their hands and then swinging on the railings were following their unaware parents to the beach. We watched the footage of swarms of bikini clad idiots storming the shores mistaking the word “pandemic” for “epic party”. All I could think is at least we are thinning the herd. If we had stayed any longer, we may have had to take out a loan to cover the tips I was handing out. I was throwing money around like a rapper in a strip club, knowing most of the workers were going to be sent home shortly. I was anxious to get home by this point as I knew we would need to quarantine ourselves for at least two weeks after having been exposed to so many people.

Once we got on the plane we were subjected to instructions on how to properly cough into our elbows and how to wash our hands in the bathroom. I was shocked that anyone would actually use the airplane bathroom, considering I will hold it for hours in normal circumstances before stepping foot in that petri dish. I guess I should have been more shocked that adults needed instructions on how to avoid spreading germs. The woman seated behind me proceeded to sneeze on the back of my seat for the next two hours and lean her head against the little airplane window. I don’t know if I have ever been so happy to get off a plane. Our vacations are always an adventure, but being home has never felt so good. Bring on the social distancing, it’s not often I actually get to show off my skills, and I could win a gold medal in this competition.

*I wrote this while trying not to kill my family and listening to X-Ray Spex!

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Dr. Feelgood

My daughter had her first wellness checkup in two years last week. We had switched pediatricians a few years ago after I got fed up with the snarky receptionist at the office we had been going to for the first seven years of my daughter’s life. We made it to her seven year wellness visit at the new office and haven’t gone back since. I’m not anti-doctor, but I view them the same way I view the police, only contact them when necessary. Since my kiddo has remained relatively healthy over the past few years, we really had no reason to visit our new doctor.

I was feeling pretty proud of myself for getting my daughter to her nine year visit an entire month before her ninth birthday. This would have been impossible if she had gone to her eight year visit, especially since insurance will only cover one visit in a twelve month period so we keep getting one more month behind. At some point I’m pretty sure our health insurance company will require that the doctor be seen at the hour of your birth annually to be covered. We pay a small fortune for coverage and they cover virtually nothing. My health insurance company has single-handedly made me defend socialism on more than one occasion. I am fairly certain I could break a bone per month and still not break even.

To the new pediatrician’s credit, she didn’t even mention that we skipped over a year of office visits. Instead, she asked my daughter a whole slew of questions about her lifestyle. Not surprisingly, my daughter revealed that she listens to a lot of punk rock music in the car and hears all kinds of swearing and that her mom lets her do unlimited dangerous things. When asked if she enjoyed her hip-hop dance class she actually went into a 10 minute dissertation about how the other girls wanted to hear terrible music like “dance monkey” (whatever the hell that is) and she would prefer to hear some heavier music for warm-up. My child is an almost nine year old music snob. Part of me was incredibly proud while part of me was horrified knowing I would be on the receiving end of this filibuster in the not too distant future. She talked about her friends and how she really likes the new girl because “she lets her freak flag fly” and explained a game they play at recess in great detail. Her doctor listened to every word and took notes. I can only imagine what she was writing but “call Social Services” or “send referral for therapist” were probably just a few of the pieces of chicken scratch. My kid had this entire conversation while sitting casually on a leather couch. I watched as she became more comfortable and her feet spread further apart. At one point she had her elbows on her knees, leaning completely in to the conversation. It was like watching a mini Hunter S. Thompson talking about politics, simultaneously relaxed and intense.

The pediatrician ended the visit by asking my daughter if she had any questions. I’m surprised my inquisitive and thorough child didn’t ask to make another appointment just to gather her list. Instead she asked a series of questions all about the doctor’s family. Within 5 minutes my daughter learned more about her pediatrician than I know about most of my friends. Before leaving my daughter requested that on her next visit she be placed in the Harry Potter themed room. She actually asked if we could move the exam into that room about halfway through the appointment and was told that she could be there next time, so apparently it was a high priority. In the car on the ride home my daughter said “that was fun. Why don’t we do that more often?” I think I am going to have her call the insurance company to have this conversation. If I can’t get my money’s worth out of them through services, I can certainly get it through time and entertainment.

*I wrote this blog while listening to The Misfits. It has been a nice change of pace since the wee one has been blaring the Zombies 2 soundtrack for the last three weeks…

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Down in a Hole

My mom fell in a hole last week. To be more specific, she fell in a hole that my dad put in the floor, while she was trying to help him. So, he pretty much pushed her into a hole. Actually, it’s not that surprising. My dad is consistently creating hazardous situations and my mom is pretty consistently falling down. The fact that my mom hasn’t fallen halfway into the basement due to a giant hole in the floor before this time is pretty impressive.

I remember most of my dad’s home improvements based on how someone was injured by them. I have incurred scratches, bruises, burns and punctures to pretty much every extremity. I know now that when I see a piece of loose moulding on the floor that at least a few dozen nails are waiting to bore into the soles of my feet. While fetching my dad a tool one year during the closing of the pool I stepped on the diving board that had been unhinged and was catapulted into the half empty pool. The diving board followed me, whacking me in the head on the way. During my thirteenth birthday party the doorwall in the family room fell on top of a few party guests when a breeze blew it in. My dad was in the middle of a build out and the doorwall was free standing. It had literally been that way for at least a month prior to the party. I remember this because my mom was hoping to have just one home improvement completed within a calendar year. One of the constants in my life has been part of my parents’ house being a construction zone.

They bought a lake house 8 years ago and it took my dad an hour to start renovating. He may have actually brought a hammer to the closing, ready to get started. One part or another of that property has been under construction for the last 8 years. This bathroom renovation began last spring. I spent days swinging a sledge hammer at a shower wall for the better part of April. My mom spent that time following us all around with a broom and putting tools back in the toolbox (sometimes while still in use). I’m sure she tripped and fell at least three times back then too. That is why I was not at all surprised to hear about her tumble last week. She stepped directly into a hole my dad cut in the floor to accommodate the plumbing for the shower. There was a big hole in the floor right in front of her and she stepped directly into it.

My mom is spatially challenged. She falls often and sometimes even takes someone with her. When I was about 7 she was walking on ice and quickly grabbed me to use as a human pillow as she fell. She still somehow ended up more injured than me. I have seen her trip over her own feet and end up sprawled out on the floor on more than one occasion. You would think after living in a construction zone for the last 50 years that she would occasionally look down before taking a step, but no.

The combination of Mr. Fix-it and Mrs. Bumbles living in the same house is akin to a 24 hour version of American Ninja Warrior. He sets up the obstacle course every day and she tries to run it. I think she is just happy that this game has moved from their main home out to the lake where she can escape. When I heard about her fall I decided to do what all good daughters would do, I found a way to tease her about it. Then, feeling guilty about this I ran right out and bought her some flowers. Strangely, there are no greeting cards for such an occasion. Apparently the greeting card companies have never met my parents. I may be their only customer, but I would certainly buy in bulk a card that read “Sorry Dad tried to kill you. Get well soon!” or “Seriously, don’t break a leg. Sorry to hear about your fall.”

**I listened to the Beatles when writing this because they are my Mom’s favorite.

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You Can’t Sit With Us

Little girls are supposed to be full of sugar and spice, but a lot of them are full of piss and vinegar. I volunteer at my daughter’s school for lunch and recess once a week and I see a lot of sugar and a lot of vinegar. It’s always comical to me when I see the girls who try to show me how sweet they are while spitting venom at half of the kids around them.

When my daughter was in first grade a new girl entered her class like a little lightening rod of drama. She told fantastic stories about having to fly to Paris for the weekend for her father’s wedding and how her brother got drunk on church wine at his first communion. It didn’t take a detective to figure out this kid was lying, but it annoyed me that she was so bad at it. Not one of her classmates believed her stories. I explained to my daughter that she did this because she was the new kid and fearful that the other kids wouldn’t like her if she didn’t have enough material to keep them interested. When the girl continued this behavior a year later, my daughter started to really question her motives since she was no longer the new kid. That particular girl went on to a new school last September. She had run out of good stories by then anyway, so it was probably better to put her in a new setting to recycle some of her old tall tales.

Just like a mini Breakfast Club, the role of little liar needed to be filled and another girl soon stepped into that position. The replacement liar is more of a physical story teller, so she not only tells stories, she fakes physical ailments as well. She has a handful of girls believing that her aunt is Beyonce and that a variety of things make her faint, including the mere sight of any cheese lighter than neon orange. She noses around everyone’s lunches and snacks looking for items she finds offensive so she can put her acting skills to use. My daughter is usually one of her targets for commentary since she doesn’t buy into the notion that children should only eat garbage. Apparently the little con artist thinks that being the niece of a pop star entitles one to take the position of snack police because she sniffs around everyone else’s food making sure it is nothing she finds offensive. God forbid anyone pull out a mini mozzarella ball or an ambulance may have to be called.

A few weeks ago at lunch the fabricator was lounging on one of her friends pretending to be out cold from some food item being in her line of vision when I walked by and told her to sit up. She continued to play dead as I asked the other girls what was going on. When I said that clearly she had not fainted because she didn’t wet her pants they all started to giggle and poke at her. She immediately sat up and asked what I was talking about. I explained that when a person faints they often wet their pants since their entire body goes limp, including their bladder. I concluded with saying “so now you all know she is faking if she hasn’t wet her pants” and walked away. She hasn’t faked a fainting spell in school since then.

Interestingly enough, this little con artist is not a big fan of my kid. I think it’s because she has never bought into the stories and fake fainting gimmick. She also called her out when she made fun of a middle school boy because he had eczema on his hands. My daughter’s bully and bullshit meters are pretty strong. She came home the other day and told me that twice in the same week Pinocchio came over to the table she was sitting at and said to the girls she was sitting with “come on guys let’s move over there” to leave my daughter sitting alone. When I asked my daughter what happened next she said “nothing, other people sat down with me” and moved on to the next story she was dying to tell me. The following day I watched my daughter pick up her lunch box and bring two of her friends over to sit with a kid who was sitting alone. Sometimes the lessons learned in the lunch room are as important as the lessons learned in the classroom.

At one point my kid asked me if I had talked to the little liar and her crew about how they had left her sitting alone and I told her I did not. Even though the ring leader was hanging around me more than usual chatting me up like any competent Regina George vying for prom queen, it staying out of the situation knowing my kid can handle herself. Truth be told, if I had my say, I would tell my daughter to stay far away from the little storyteller before she gets wrapped up in some ponzi scheme situation by middle school. But I don’t need to tell her anything, I’ll just continue packing all that munster and mozzarella cheese in her lunch sprinkled with a little holy water for good measure.

*I wrote this while listening to Rat Boy

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