Saturday, March 13, 2021

apocalypse ravioli: one year later

 A year ago, as the world was shutting down, slowly and yet all at once, I found myself in a house with virtually no groceries.  Part of it is that I usually shopped for a two week period, and then only for what I needed.  Breakfast stuffs, salad, pasta & sauce, maybe some chicken for soup or the ingredients for pizza, Most of my eating took place at work where I usually have takeout, vending machine fare or microwaveable meals. Nearing on a paycheck, I panicked that I'd get sick or the world would end, and I had nothing to hole up with for an indeterminate period of time, so I took the money I had in my business account and placed an Amazon pantry order for some things, but the problem was that everyone had the same intention, so virtually nothing I was looking for was in stock. So I made some odd choices--gluten free macaroni, a giant can of tuna I will probably never use, low sodium soup, chef boyardee ravioli .  I then picked up some other things like bread and eggs at the little convenience store near my apartment late at night, which was mostly empty and  still very well stocked.  On the news, people were rushing the grocery stores with an air of panic, shoveling canned goods and paper products into full carts. It all seems a little silly and dramatic now. 

The last morning I worked downtown, I stopped to get coffee and I spotted two men carrying several giant multi-roll packs of toilet paper down Michigan Ave. That day, we had a socially distanced staff meeting and made plans to close the library indefinitely, but I worked til 8pm that night, while we encouraged our student workers to go stock up at CVS and Walgreens because the grocery stores were long-lined, short stocked,  and full of people.  A friend bought bags of rice and beans and seemed shocked when I told her I was ordering snacks and frozen dinners because what if it was the end of the world and the power grid failed?   She later said she really didn't know what to do with the dry beans, was sick of rice, and really wished she had snacks. 

That order took four weeks to be fully filled, by which time I'd been paid and able to place a regular  grocery order (I had just a month before switched from Peapod to Amazon Fresh. )  There were still weird shortages and people hoarding strange goods. For a month or two, you had to grab delivery spots in the middle of the night.  I toggled between Fresh and Whole Foods, where I had developed a love of their bakery bagels. It was months though, before ordering groceries got back to normal. A couple weeks ago, I was putting things away and spotted that can of ravioli in the cupboard and wondered if I should just go ahead and eat it.  If the worst of covid has passed, and barring any other disasters, it's easy to think I could. But I'm not so sure.  

I think about the things I've learned and done this past year. I finessed my cooking skills once I was working from home and got a little bit more culinarily adventurous. I got really good at building online exhibits and programming. I watched every apocalyptic disaster movie on streaming, all of The Office, and the entirety of the Friday the 13th sequels.  I went back to working onsite in July, but I still managed to finish a manuscript of poems. To go to Rockford a couple times to see my dad & sister before rates went up in the fall, then again at Christmas after a short quarantine. I've done readings, hosted meetings, and ran trivia nights on zoom. I released a new book into the world last summer and another one this week.  Sometimes doubly masked, I've white knuckled it on bus rides to and fro for months. While my co-workers and I share distanced spaces and chat, I haven't socially seen anyone but my boyfriend in months. 

What didn't I do?  Read books for pleasure for one (lack of concentration).  Or really, outside of a couple more practical paintings and couple postcards, make art.  While I filled orders for books, I lacked concentration for layouts or cover designs. Just reading manuscripts last fall was unbearably hard, as was answering the simplest emails. I didn't eat takeout for months because I wan't sure it was safe.I didn't go to movies or thrift stores or the places I enjoy greatly. At first, I didn't spend money because I thought for sure, the academic world would collapse and me with it.  When the first stimulus came through, I bought sheets and new bedding since that was there I spent most of my time.   

The worst of it has not been locking down, which I actually do pretty well. I like my apartment and hanging out with my cats and wish I could do it more, but moreso, also know that it makes me a little crazy and afraid of the outside world. While on one hand, going back out into the world had me scared of my commute, staying at home had me scared of everything and with too much time to doomscroll and predict the next disaster. I liked waking up later, taking my time in the shower,  and making liesurely breakfast.  I did not like doing so with my phone clutched in my hand waiting for the apocalypse. Sometimes, even now, waiting for vaccinations, I feel like we're in the last few minutes of the movie and the monster seems dead, but the door is still very far away and we might not make it. I try to limit my scrolling and access to news at least til later in the day.  This helps a little. 

Since I had to go back to work and so much of the world, especially now, seems to be going back to normal, at least, thankfully,  in reduced capacities and masked, I keep encountering those who have been  basically fully locked down for a year and it surprises me, though it shouldn't, as a good number of library staff who don't touch the actual collection have been home since last March.    I had shorter weeks during scary spikes, but ultimately, we're still short staffed and I need a full week onsite to not be super stressed the days I'm there. For me, it seems less like stasis since last summer and more like a series of obstacles I've been trying to get through alive.


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