Social distancing. Quarantine. Lockdown. Shelter in place. Oh, the times in which we live.
Taking the words for what they actually mean, social distancing isn’t really what we’re doing. Anyone who’s ever been to a cocktail party, a church pot luck, or a family reunion knows that social distancing is what we do when we’re avoiding contact with another specific person. If you’ve ever glanced around a room looking for that someone, you know exactly I mean.
As for quarantine, one must be ill to be quarantined, right? Everyone who’s seen Jezebel knows that it was Henry Fonda who was quarantined to some vague, yet hellish, island when he came down with yellow fever in 1850’s New Orleans. (Bless its heart, New Orleans seems to always get more than a fair share when it comes to calamities, including coronavirus.) Bette Davis went into quarantine with Hank, risking her life to care for the man she loved and had so badly mistreated. The mousy and unquarantined Margaret Lindsay, the Yankee girl Hank had married, is allowed to stay safely behind at Bette’s upstate plantation.
From across the pond, we can see what it is being called lockdown in various countries with a variety of restrictions. The term “lockdown” itself seems ambiguous at best, seeing it applied to everything from mandatory quarantines to non-enforceable recommendations that folks stay home and decline invitations for brunch on Sunday.
It’ll feel like a real lockdown when Eddie at the window barking means the police are outside patrolling. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that and remains close to the current implications, which include the fanciest restaurants in Dallas offering to go food and effectively turning Il Bracco into Jack in the Box.
No, this current situation here in Dallas seems to be most like a voluntary shelter in place, a strategy that those of us who have lived our lives in tornado country know all about. For me, it involves an interior bathroom and gathering the dogs into it while my husband is outside looking at the clouds and I calculate how much life insurance I have on him.
But sheltering in place to avoid an unplanned trip to Oz has a duration that lasts only as long as the sirens are blaring. It’s pretty clear to anyone paying attention that what we have here is going to last for at least several more weeks, meaning all my caftans that Karl calls muumuus are going to be rotated like linens at an English country house.
From the age of four, I was the only child in the house, so I’ve always been good at keeping myself occupied. Though we’re not entertaining or visiting friends, I’ve gone on a road trip this week with Mama Rose, June, and “sing out” Louise. There’s home movies to watch of family Christmas at Chinon in 1183 with Henry and Eleanor.
Should anyone be looking for a role model, I’d always recommend Mrs. Miniver, with Greer Garson as the title character. She is the epitome of grace under pressure, knitting and reading Alice in Wonderland aloud to the children while German bombs fall on her house. Talk about sheltering in place, Mrs. Miniver showed us all how it’s done.
With the stock market still in freefall, I’ve been playing online poker quite a bit this week. I’m up $42,000. Of course, it’s not real money, but at least I’ve brushed up on my card skills. I’m sure Karl will be relieved that online gambling is not allowed while we’re in whatever it is we’re in, and that the casinos are closed for the near future.
Watching movies, re-reading favorite books, and online games are comfortin, harmless, and somewhat helpful amusements. But then there’s eating.
Unless you’re one of the skinny bitches out there (I say that with love—and envy), you know exactly what I’m talking about. Horde all the toilet paper you want, I’ll feel safe when there’s a month’s supply of party size bags of Cheetos in the pantry.