The new abnormal

Me and mine have, as I’ve mentioned, been sticking close to home lately. Life looks like this:

  • Our social visits have been rare, masked, brief, and limited to our parents.
  • If I can’t pick it up curbside or have it shipped to my house, I don’t buy it. R makes occasional trips to stores, but only for essentials.
  • I’ve learned to cut my family’s hair, teach pre-K and second grade, and grow vegetables. I don’t do any of it particularly well, but I try.
  • I learned how to make rice cereal (it’s literally just pureed rice!), sparkling juice, molasses caramels, and am experimenting with gluten/dairy-free ice cream. I am currently abstaining from the scale.
  • We’re playing board games and bird watching and taking fun classes online instead of going out on the weekends.
  • I bought new melamine dishes so we can picnic on the patio, and we do so as often as the weather allows.
  • R bought the kids a new sprinkler to make up for the splash park being closed, and we are looking at pools.
  • I called a plumber to check out a weird smell coming from our spare bath, and we had to have a locksmith come out one day when we locked ourselves out, but mostly we’re fixing stuff ourselves. R fixed our washer. It took three days, but he did it. (I have since thrown out the rug that broke it.) He also fixed the toilet. On his to-do list are oil changes for both cars, replacing my broken side mirror, and replacing the broken ceiling fan in our bedroom.
  • We’re taking care of all the projects we’ve put off since forever, plus new ones that have arisen in the shutdown: Cleaning the registers and cold air returns. Fixing up our outdoor living spaces. Transforming the dining room into a classroom for the kids. Planning our pantry overhaul. Washing light fixtures and scrubbing grout and scoping out living room furniture.

We have become incredibly self-sufficient. We are eating more healthy foods than ever. We are connecting as a family. (Also getting on each other’s nerves, tbh.) We are making do, fixing instead of replacing, and making thoughtful purchases for our home and ourselves instead of a slew of impulse buys. Thanks to our reduced spending, I’ve even put some money back for emergencies. So long as we don’t leave the house, we’re doing all right, all things considered.

But sometimes you have to leave the house.

A couple of weeks ago, my daughter was down. Sore throat, low fever, aching legs, no energy. Ordinarily I would have given her a couple of Tylenol and some allergy medicine and told her to get on with things, but these are not ordinary times. When several days went by and she was still dragging, I called the doctor. They agreed that it was probably allergies and growing pains, but had me bring her in to be safe; you can’t swab for strep over the phone.

Here’s what the pediatrician’s office looks like these days:
The check-in station is now in the parking lot. The receptionist took my name and phone number and had us wait in the car until they were ready for us inside. We were escorted directly from the door to triage, and from there to an exam room. My son and I stayed masked the whole time. My daughter wore her mask at all times except when being examined. Since my daughter did not have a fever, showed no clear signs of strep, and was extremely anxious (hiding under the table anxious) about the thought of a throat swab, she was not tested for strep; instead, I was given signs to look for and told to call if she got worse. (She didn’t, thank goodness.) We then walked straight out — no checkout, no stickers. The visit was quick, professional, but also warm and considerate.

With a fair amount of trepidation, but somewhat reassured by the pediatrician visit, I had my first dental checkup since the shutdown. I may be able to cut my own hair and color my own roots, but I am not up to scraping my own plaque, and the buildup was really getting on my nerves. Also, I grind my teeth, so it eases my mind to go in for a biannual state-of-my-molars exam. (Current status: My last remaining one is cracking and needs to be capped. Yay.)

Here’s what a dentist visit looks like these days:
The receptionist was not masked, but she was behind Plexiglas. I was the only patient in the waiting room. I answered a symptom questionnaire and had my temperature checked. I wore a mask at all times except when actively having my teeth worked on. The hygienist wore a shield in addition to her mask and gloves. The dentist wore a mask and gloves. I was asked to rinse with Listerine before my cleaning. No spitting allowed; all liquids were suctioned. As I left, I saw one patient in the waiting room. There were patients in the other exam rooms, but we were spaced out so that we were never in a room together.

As much as is possible these days, I felt safe during these visits. I felt that everyone I dealt with cared for my safety and their safety, and were doing as much as possible to ensure we all stayed well. It’s the first time I’ve felt that way since mid-March, and it gave me hope that life can move forward a bit. Not “get back to normal”; this is not normal, nor do I expect it to be normal. Once the worst has passed, I don’t anticipate having the dentist’s waiting room to myself. At some point, our pediatrician will invite us back into the waiting room. There will be a new normal — perhaps that Plexiglas will stay up, and maybe the stickers will be handed out arbitrarily instead of offered in a basket. But what we have right now is not forever.

4 thoughts on “The new abnormal

  1. We are in interesting times, are we not? I had my first dental cleaning in months last week and it was similar to your experience, but the receptionist and everyone else was masked. Dr. didn’t even need to check my teeth as they are healthy and no concerns (Yay!). I even had my first massage since like February this week. It was awesome! But strange, having to get my temp checked and all. It seems to me that everyone seems to be adapting, which is so important, because that means we can safely venture out again. It’s cool how this pandemic has propelled us all to do those long delayed home projects and learn how to make so many things at home with what we have, isn’t it? There’s a lot I’m hoping to keep when (or should I say if?) this blows over.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Yeah, interesting times. Our doctor’s visits are backed up with us delaying everything over the last few months, my mammo is overdue, etc. I have loads of calls to make next week, but I’m trying not to be nervous. (And have been out for my son’s ortho appt., which was similar to what you described.) The hospitals I write for are urging people not to delay important (and sometimes life-saving) care any longer. People are having strokes and heart attacks at home, so nervous about going to the ER. Really, I’m guessing medical facilities have never been cleaner or safer than they are now. Or, this is what I’m hoping!

    Liked by 1 person

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