The literal translation of the Spanish idiom“ Mi casa es su casa” is “My house is your house”. The phrase suggests “Make yourself comfortable in my home”. With the COVID-19 pandemic, most governors here in the U.S. have issued “stay at home” orders. We are only to leave the house for essentials such as groceries, prescriptions and liquor. Exercise and pet walking are allowed while maintaining at least six feet of physical distance from others, although the adequately safe distance is in dispute among infectious disease experts.
Aside from the ongoing angst of contracting and spreading the virus, we are confronted with remaining in our dwellings and caring for ourselves and our homes so that we feel safe from the invisible threat. Disinfecting is paramount. We are preparing all of our meals, snacks and beverages at home, working from home, exercising at home and, for those of us with families, trusting one another to each do our part to mitigate the spread of the virus among all. Our dwellings are fortresses. Once we decide to quarantine in place, we do not add or subtract new people while in process. Ahora (now), mi casa no es su casa.
I live in an apartment complex and am used to seeing piles of varying shaped packages in the mailroom that delivery services leave throughout the day. In early March, I started to see cases of toilet paper and disinfectant being delivered. By March 17, after our state governor closed all of the non-essential businesses and restaurants (allowing take-out only), I started to see many packages with kitchen appliances and gadgets delivered. Preparing ALL of one’s own meals is not the norm for many people. Food has become the focus of many peoples’ fantasies and the panacea for boredom.
The trip to the grocery store to replenish provisions is anxiety provoking. All of the rules have changed quickly. Scoring the items on one’s list is hit or miss. We are not used to finding essentials out of stock as is common in Communist run countries. No reusable bags, masks required, wear gloves and then don’t wear gloves, distancing, lower maximum capacity in markets and one way aisles. We are obsessed with the new priority of how to avoid cross-contamination and I am convinced that it is almost impossible for me to do with no practice. I foolishly hold my breath if I feel too close to another person, as though I don’t have pores. My goal is to just get out of the market and into the safety of my vehicle after removing gloves from the inside out and tossing them on the floor of the backseat for a week. I noticed that some people are just dropping disposable gloves on the pavement outside of their cars. We just don’t have much experience with this and all of the information coming at us is hard to absorb when people are anxious and fearful.
After I diligently scour my hands and disinfect the food and containers,I tend to feel less vulnerable. This is home, my fortress and safe haven. Many people are sharing the same sentiment. I am reading that internet searches for gardening, recipes, sofas, home office furniture, chickens and health and wellness related terms have spiked dramatically. Searches for clothing and leisure related terms have dropped precipitously. Major shifts in what consumes want are quite apparent.
As an apartment complex dweller, most of the residents in my building are cautiously entering and exiting the building, yielding to one another in order to maintain the minimum recommended physical distance. It is challenging. Nobody is loitering outside or inside the lobby to chit chat. We don’t knock on one another’s unit entrance doors any longer and certainly wouldn’t enter into one another’s units. One dweller reported to management that her neighbor brought non-residents into its unit for a lengthy soiree two weeks into the quarantine. Not cool. An email was sent to all residents. Nobody is petting all of the residents’ dogs when outdoors and the dogs are very confused and disappointed, lingering when they see their two legged neighbors.
I found myself locked down for 5 hours one recent morning reading reviews for a lightweight vacuum with a HEPA-filter. A month earlier, I hadn’t known that I needed one with better suction than my cordless Hoover because I wasn’t doing all of the home cleaning or passing as much time at home. I have wall-to-wall carpeting in the bedrooms. I know it isn’t as sanitary as a non-porous floor, but I chose to leave it because I prefer it underfoot during the 8 cool months here in New England. Carpeting is a crumb catcher, too. Studies suggest that COVID-19 can survive on porous surfaces anywhere from a few hours to a few days. Argh! I cannot let anyone into my unit to remove the carpets during this shutdown. Nobody would want to come in now, also.
The day after that, I purchased on-line a no-chemical mop system with reusable silver-infused microfiber fabrics that are self-cleaning due to silver’s ability to destroy bacteria over a 24 hour period of time. I, also, learned a month into using disinfectant wipes that I wasn’t even using them correctly. I was supposed to wipe hard surfaces so that the surfaces remained wet for anywhere from 4-10 minutes before wiping the surfaces. ‘Didn’t do that. Argh!!!
Now I am researching air purifiers as I know that I have never passed this much time indoors for such a sustained period of time with no known end date. (It could be anywhere from end May until 2024 according to various experts.) Cooking with a gas stove, unseasonably cool weather that has prevented me from opening windows and off-gassing flame retardants in the electronics that run continuously have poisoned the air that we breathe. High Anxiety.
My next task is researching copper and brass door pulls and switch plates now that I have learned that copper and its alloys kill viruses faster than other metals. Prior to the spread of the pandemic to the U.S., finding the right wall art to hang over the livingroom sofa had been my highest dwelling-related priority. Clearly, cleanliness and a healthy home are now my most immediate concerns in my dwelling. It is the only place that I can exercise the highest level of control while feeling out of control.
The impact of this virus will result in changes to residential, institutional and commercial design from structure, layout, materials to choosing interior furnishings. Already, home textile companies have introduced copper-infused bedding and interior designers are promoting the hygenic benefits of dedicated entryways in which we can shed our shoes and clothing before going further into the home. I’ve even read about the practicality of closed off, dedicated kitchens rather than open floor plans to keep bacteria confined and stop it from throwing house parties.
I will FOREVER be changed by this ongoing experience. I will continue to wash my hands properly, despite my always having washed them frequently. (Thank you, Sanjay Gupta.) I had been relatively “contagion promiscuous” pre-pandemic. During my lengthy lifetime, I have had just a few colds, no flu, no flu shots and never shied away from people with colds. But, I am emotionally exhausted and full of regrets regarding this promiscuity since I now understand that I can still contract and transmit these contagions even if asymptomatic. I will keep a face mask with me for the protection of everyone much like the useless Altoids that I always carry in my huge soulless satchel . If I bring guests into my dwelling, they will need to abide by my rules of sanitation. I will practice asking, “Do you mind removing your shoes?” After all, mi casa no es su casa.
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