A Little on Edge

Pennsylvania pulled the trigger last week. School’s out for summer.

I’d have done a summersault if I were 16. Or 13. But I’m not. I’m 39. So I didn’t do a summersault. Quite the opposite. What’s the opposite of a summersault? I haven’t the foggiest. Maybe a fetalsault. Crawl into a corner. Go fetal. That’s my reaction to school being out for summer.

I miss seeing my college students in person. Miss my colleagues. Miss teaching my classes on campus. In the little classroom in the little building at Penn State Altoona where education classes are held. I walk by a babbling brook to get there from my office. There’s rolling hills in the distance. Campus is beautiful in April. Who knows when we’ll go back?

Katie started crying when she broke the news about school to Solomon. He started crying too. He misses his teachers. Misses his friends. Misses kindergarten. Who knew he was saying goodbye at their party before spring break? I certainly didn’t.

Sometimes Solomon opens up his Chromebook. He plays videos of live lessons that his teacher recorded for students to look at on Zoom. Solomon will even talk to his teacher as though she can hear him.

It’s heartbreaking.

***

This virus stuff has me a little on edge.

How much so? Okay, you asked for it. Here’s a confessional story. Embarrassing to say the least. Super embarrassing to say the most.

It was too cold to walk to the park last weekend. The wind was blowing. There was even snow on the ground. So we went for a drive. I brought some sanitizer wipes because I needed gas. I pulled into the tiny gas station up the road. There were four other cars. Hard to keep social distance. The other drivers were protected with masks and gloves and hand sanitizer. I felt naked. I wiped the nozzle. Filled my tank for twelve dollars. Swiped my card.

“Please pay inside,” flashed on the pump’s screen.

I looked inside. A few people with masks were standing too close to each other in a tiny, crowded gas station.

I ran my card again. Same message. I hadn’t planned on breaking social distancing for twelve dollars of gas. I had a moment of extreme anxiety. Out of nowhere. Probably building over the last four weeks of quarantine. I got in my car and sped off.

“What are you doing?” Katie was aghast.

I muttered some stupid response.

Twenty minutes later we were back at the gas station. I went inside and paid.

“I’m sorry,” I told the attendant. My face was beat red.

She looked at me as though I were a lunatic. I guess, for the moment, I was.

We finished our drive through the Pennsylvania countryside. I could barely look Katie in the eye when we got home.

So there you have it. This virus thing has me a little on edge. Turned me into a common criminal. I’d probably have been shot if I weren’t a white man.

***

Mass graves in New York City. Twenty-thousand cases of this thing in Pennsylvania. Everybody with a Facebook or a Twitter account acts as though they are an epidemiologist. Politicians are talking over doctors and scientists. Meanwhile, I’m locked in my house. Racing from one virtual meeting to another as though the world hadn’t shut down a month ago. The boys locked in the house with us. Screamy as ever. With enough energy to move a mountains. I should be so lucky if the worst decision I make is to almost steal $12 of gas rather than risk standing in line with four other people in a tiny gas station.

I’ve got no answers. No profound advice on this the fourth week of quarantine. I’m annoyed by people who don’t seem to be taking this seriously. Irritated by those who are throwing themselves into their work as though something bad wasn’t happening. Downright flabbergasted by people protesting a sane reaction to a virus that is capable of exponential growth. Frustrated by the political spin being given to this submicroscopic infection agent that has replicated itself across the globe.

I’m just tired of this. A little on edge.

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