This crazy ass pandemic is wreaking havoc on my OCD. Even working from home using my own keyboard, I sometimes panic and clean my own hands to protect me from myself. Good grief.
I have only left my house twice in about four weeks. My husband, Dale, was going to the nursery to pick up our new baby from the hospital. Not really. I’m way too old for that shit. He was going to the nursery to purchase some flowers to plant in our beds. It seemed like a low-risk adventure, so I decided I should join him.
The nursery is owned by a 70-something lady named Miss Betty. She has long, straight, gray hair, a slightly stooped posture, and a crooked, no nonsense smile. Several of her grandchildren work with her at the greenhouses in her backyard. Miss Betty seems sweet enough, but those grand kids remind me of a cross between children of the corn and Slingblade. I don’t know whether to feel sad or terrified.
While Dale and I were in the greenhouse, all I could think about was, “This is the perfect place for COVID-19 to blossom. It’s damp and warm, and not in a good way.” Then my mind starts to spin out of control. “What if I’m breathing COVID-19 right now?” “What if someone charges at me and I’m unable to stay 15 feet away?” “Don’t touch your face. Don’t touch your face.” I was frozen like a rabbit who spots some nearby danger.
Dale must have noticed the panic in my eyes. He came toward me and asked, “Are you okay? I mean, because you don’t look okay. Is everything alright?” I said, “Not really. I think I’m going to head out the back door now.” Dale said, “Um, there is no backdoor.” Seriously, this is a dialogue you’d hear in a horror movie. I was getting a bit dizzy when I realized I had been holding my breath for quite some time. Then, out of the fucking blue, Slingblade get ups and walks toward us. I started backing up, tugging on Dale’s arm to back up with me. There was literally nowhere to go. We were trapped in the greenhouse with vincas, the virus, and three feral grandchildren.
So what did I do? I awkwardly jogged away from Slingblade, while keeping one eye on him over my right shoulder. He yells after me, “Hey. Hey. The Gub’ner is on the radio talkin’ about da chrono virus.” I shooed him away with my hand, like an old southern lady using her handkerchief to shoo a fly off her glass of sweet tea. I was kind and genteel, considering I wanted to scream, “Stay the hell away from me!”
This trip to the nursery could not end soon enough. I made a bee line to the car with my head down and my tee shirt pulled over my nose. I sat down, locked the doors, and caught my breath. When I looked out the window, I convinced myself that everyone milling around looked like the kind of person that would be a carrier of COVID-19. I managed to release a guttural, Charlie Brown “aargh” that was apparently audible to the walking dead outside my car.
Dale paid for our flowers and brought them to the car. He took off his gloves and tapped on the window. “Where should I put these?”, he asked lifting his gloves up to eye level. I yelled, “Drop them! Drop them right there! I know it’s the wrong thing to do, but if you love me, you’ll drop ‘em right there!” And he did. I rolled down the window and gave him a hand wipe.
Later that same day, I realized we had no money at the house. Zero. A few coins, but other than that, nada. So after a quick meditation and breathing exercise, I mustered the courage to go to the ATM at our bank and withdraw some cash. Of course I wore gloves and put the money on the floor of the car. I wiped off my bank card and my hands before getting back in the car. Money is nasty. It’s likely one of the most popular places for the COVID to live. You can never be too careful.
When I got home, I was faced with a dilemma. How do I sterilize this cash? Dale had read that it could be spritzed with Lysol and microwaved for 10 seconds. That sounded very logical and scientific to me, but I couldn’t imagine this Godzilla of a virus dying in only 10 seconds. So, I thought to myself, if 10 seconds is recommended, then a minute and 10 seconds will surely kill those sons-o’-bitches.
I donned my gloves and prepared everything. I opened the microwave, sprayed Lysol on the cash, wrapped a wet paper towel around the bundle, placed the bundle in the microwave, closed the door, set the timer to 70 seconds, pressed start, and watched horrified as my cash started to burn after 30 seconds. I panicked. I opened the microwave. Smoke was billowing out and the smell was awful. I thought, “This is how I’m going to get infected. I’ve just warmed up the virus and now I’m breathing it in my lungs with the smoke.” So I blow onto the money. Some might say I fanned the flames. I realized I was making matters worse. I was doing that little dance you do on your toes when you have to pee really bad or when you are freaked out by a spider. I think I even twirled around once or twice. I finally regained my senses and put a plate on top of the burning pile of money.
Then the negative self-talk started immediately. “Jim. Who the hell puts $600 in the microwave?” “For God’s sake, who puts even $10 in the microwave?” “This is just like a 3rd grade science fair experiment gone bad—really bad.” “You are an idiot. You were supposed to nuke it for 10 seconds. What is wrong with you?” “What are you going to tell Dale?”
I thought on this a bit and decided to play the victim. I mean, why would money burn up? It’s cloth, right? There was a wet paper towel wrapped around the money and it didn’t burn. What’s going on here? I feel so bad. I don’t understand what happened.
My plan was baked so I walked outside to break the victimization story to Dale.
Dale said, I don’t understand it either. You spritzed the cash? Yes, I said. And you wrapped a wet paper towel around it? Yes, I said again in a tone that insinuated that I’m not stupid. And you microwaved it for 10 seconds? Yes. Well sort of. I microwaved it for 10 seconds plus. “How much ‘plus’?”, Dale asked. “Oh, 10 seconds plus 60 seconds.” Dale looked at me like I’d lost my mind. “You microwaved the money for 70 seconds?” I said, “no”. I had planned to do that but I thought 70 seconds was a very long time to microwave money.”
“So how long did you microwave it?” “Until it caught fire”, I said sheepishly. “Is any of it salvageable?”, Dale asked.
“Not really. Most of it is intact but heavily charred.” Then I started to pretend to weep. Dale Googled, “How to replace damaged money.” He quickly consoled me and said that my bank might replace it. I was so excited and relieved because I don’t have money to burn…figuratively or literally.
I put the charred money and some ashes in a Ziploc bag and took it to the bank the next day. I explained to the teller about my unfortunate sanitization miscalculation. She was so sweet. She said, “Well, let me see it.” I placed the Ziploc with the cremains of a few presidents into the tray beneath the window. The teller, her name was April I think, held up the bag and looked in disbelief—the disbelief that a grown ass man could be so stupid. I was beginning to feel like one of Miss Betty’s grandchildren.
April smiled at me in a sweet, yet condescending way. She said that she’d have to consult with her manager on this one. It felt like an eternity until she returned from the back. She was smiling…a better smile this time.
“My manager said we can replace the bills if we can verify the serial numbers.”, April explained. April spread the burnt bills on the counter and began masterfully reconstructing them, matching serial numbers and giving me a nod and a “This one can be saved, sir.” with each bill the bank could replace. I lost track, but April was making tics on a sheet of paper. When she finished, she asked if there were any other bills that I needed them to look at. I reluctantly gave her six pieces that I knew were beyond salvaging. Her eyes widened. “Oh, these are even worse than the others.” I thought to myself, “You’re sweet, April, and an astute observer but you’re making me feel really bad.”
Again, April exercised her magic puzzle-solving skills and like a surgeon bringing good news after testicular surgery, she looked at me sweetly and said, “These two can be saved, sir.” I was giddy. I did a little happy clap in front of the steering wheel and then turned it toward her so she would know how thrilled I was.
I think I made April’s day. She gleefully counted out my new bills, sprayed them with Lysol, put them in an envelope, and slid the envelope and a container of Purell through the drawer.
“I thought you might want to clean your hands…just to be safe. And next time instead of using the microwave, you might try not touching the cash for a couple days, the virus will die on its own. Or you could put your gloves on and gently wipe the cash down with a Clorox wipe—but not too aggressively. It might tear. Or…”
I vigorously interrupted her, “Okay. Okay. Thank you. I appreciate you, April. You take care now.” I drove away feeling very content with myself. I applied more hand sanitizer that I keep in the car regardless of whether there’s a pandemic or not, put both hands on the steering wheel, glanced over and winked at my new cash. “Up yours, COVID-19!”