Coffee heat rising

Meditations in the Time of Plague

So how long have we been officially locked down? Nigh unto a month? And a couple weeks before that we who had any brains were wary enough that we were effectively self-locked down. How long, all told? I’ve lost track.

Over the past home-bound weeks, I’ve slipped into a kind of goofy daze. Have managed to keep the house reasonably clean — that’s something. But otherwise have loafed, loafed, and loafed some more.

Consequently, I’ve put on 10 pounds!

So as of today, it’s back on the diet. The dog and I walked, briskly, for an hour this morning, and will do it again this evening. And tomorrow morning and evening…and the next day’s morning and evening…and the next day’s…

Who would think you burn 10 pounds’ worth of calories driving around town, walking across parking lots, climbing into the choir loft once a week? How?

On the other hand, I haven’t purchased gasoline since March 1st! Today is April 18, and the car still has 2/3 of a tank of gas. I normally buy gas once or twice a month. At this rate, I certainly won’t have to get a fill-up before the end of the month, and probably not then.

A tank of gas that lasts two months? Wow!

The main reason for this has little to do with my own desire to hunker down and everything to do with my son’s request that I not leave the house, especially not to go into retail stores. I’ve honored that, especially since he’s willing to do the shopping. It also, in theory, gives me an opportunity to experiment with merchandise delivery services, though so far I haven’t done so because my son is doing all the running around.

So this is one of several little revelations: if I’m not running to AJ’s whenever I happen to be at the church or in the mood, if I’m not trotting hither, thither, and yon for no very good reason but instead organize trips to serve specific needs, not impulses, probably there’s no need to buy gasoline more than about once every two months. Indeed, if I were to have groceries delivered, most of my driving would be mooted. And since a tank of gas costs about $30, that could represent a considerable savings.

Next revelation: Halellujah brothers and sisters, and thank God for Costco!

Because of my habit of shopping at Costco, which pretty much forces you to buy lifetime supplies of staples and household goods, I was bloody well not about to run out of anything that mattered. Except, of course, for toilet paper. I happened to have a half-dozen rolls of Walmart’s Best in the house, but since I prefer the Kirkland brand, it was by sheer chance that I wandered into the Deer Valley Costco on a Friday just as the TP frenzy started. And sheer luck that I happened to walk into the paper goods department in time to grab the third-to-last package of the stuff.

Thirty rolls will, as they always do, last me for several months. So will the nine rolls of paper towels that I happened to have remaining from some earlier Costco run.

Those paper towels will last me even longer now that the next little revelation has dawned:

Why am I using paper towels all the time, anyway? Yeah. Why???? When I was growing up, my mother and I didn’t have paper towels. We used dishrags. Anyone remember those? You had a square rag for kitchen and bathroom cleanup, and for washing the dishes. You didn’t throw it away when you were done using it. No. Hang onto your hats, young folks: you washed it!

You used paper — newsprint, actually — to wash windows and to wrap garbage. That was about it. Oh — and to write on, of course. In those days, people could write. With pens and pencils.

Well, I happen to have about 30 microfiber towels just about the size of a classic dishrag, courtesy of Costco. Thank God for Costco! So I tried using one in place of the wads of paper towels I pull off the roll, swab around, and then toss into the trash. And lo! It works. It doesn’t just work, it works handsomely. It absorbs more moisture. It cleans the counter better. It shines the brightwork better. And…should I say it again? It goes into the washer, not into the landfill.

Revelation the Fourth: Life in These United States is one hell of a lot more precarious than we think it is. (Why do these things seem so obvious to me now?) The present public health horror could not have happened at a worse time, with an ignoramus in the White House play-acting at being President — or Emperor, or King, or Tsar, or Führer, or whateverthehell he imagines he is — while craven interests that do not have the public’s welfare at heart work behind the scenes.

In the absence of good leadership, the covid-19 contagion has brought our country damn near to its knees. We’re looking at a recession that will at best rival but more likely exceed the Great Depression.

Do I really need to point out that Europe is not on its knees? And neither is China. A failure of leadership at this juncture — at just the wrong time — is likely to prove catastrophic.

And that is not an exaggeration, my friends.

Revelation the Fifth: The Mormons had it right. Stemming, as it does, from a rural culture, the Mormon church urges its followers always to be prepared and stocked up for a rainy day. What’s a rainy day? Could be just about anything: a year when the crops fail…a tornado that takes out the farmhouse and barn…death of a breadwinner…loss of a mother…a lost job…a Great Depression…a flood…a drought…a tornado…a Civil War…a devastating contagion…a moron in the White House… The message appears to be that you need to make yourself, at least to a credible degree, ready for hard times.

My dear ex-husband had a law partner, Monroe McKay, an extraordinary man, who, after a stint directing the Peace Corps in Malawi went on to become a 10th Circuit Court of Appeals justice. Monroe was a good Mormon boy — on steroids. One of the interesting things we learned from him is that he and his wife always had a year’s worth of supplies stocked in for themselves and their nine children.

They had a pantry closet in which Monroe had installed shelving on a slight angle, slanting downward toward the front of the closet, with a lip at the bottom to serve as a block. At all times, they kept a year’s worth of canned goods on these shelves, the cans arranged on their sides in rows, so they would roll forward when a can in front was removed. Thus if you took out, say, a can of tomatoes, a dozen more cans behind it would roll down behind that can. When you next went to the store, you would buy a new can of tomatoes and put it in the back, up at the top of the row. In addition, they kept large bags of pinto beans and rice.

So you understand: when this latest panic happened, these folks didn’t have to go running around frantically stocking up on whatever they imagined might keep body and soul together. They had already thought it through. And they already had their stockpile.

What do you bet they also had a generator, should the power fail? What do you bet they kept a rotating stock of gasoline, should the country run short of fuel? What do you bet they had a propane stove on which to cook those beans and canned veggies, if push came to shove?

The time has come, my friends, to pay attention to this institutional wisdom. The time has come to get prepared.

You should not have to run around frantically trying to buy toilet paper: you should always have enough in the house to last several weeks or, better, several months.

You should not have to wonder what will happen if the power goes down for a long while: you should have a generator and enough propane to suffice until a major failure can be repaired.

You should not fear running out of food if you have to hunker down in your house for a period of weeks: you should have enough staple foods to last you and your family for a bare minimum of two or three months.

You should not go to the grocery store and find there’s no yeast and no flour on the shelves, to say nothing of no bread. You should have yeast and flour stored in the freezer.

You should not be in a position to run out of clean water should the water processing plants fail or be attacked: you should always have several five-gallon jugs full of fresh water. Once a month, pour one out onto your garden, refill it, and move it to the back, so that you regularly refresh your supply with new water.

You should never run out of detergent and soap and shampoo. You should always have enough in a closet or washroom to last your family several months.

And, let’s be completely frank about this: You should not fear roving mobs of “patriots” rioting to demand that the government shut down or open up under the most irrational circumstances. You should be armed and prepared to defend yourself and your family. And I don’t mean with a baseball bat.