Back to Normal

By | May 21, 2020
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Back to Normal

Back to Normal - A Cloudeight EssayIn my part of the world, we have endured over two months of lockdowns, quarantines, closings, reopenings, shortages, runs on toilet paper, Clorox, Lysol, hand sanitizer, alcohol -not the drinking kind – and so on.

In a nutshell… things have really gotten crazy!

And just about everyone, common people, rich people, kings, queens, governors, politicians – everyone is clamoring to get back to normal. 

But not me. 

I’m an old guy and I won’t live long enough to revisit these times through the lens of history. And though I’ll never see it, I’d certainly love to know how history will view us and judge us as the novel coronavirus fades into vaccination oblivion (hopefully) and the world gets back to “normal”

Back to normal? 

Do I really want to get back to normal? Not that I think the world is ever going to get back to normal in my lifetime. And it’s not like I’m planning to drop off any time soon. But I’ll tell you what, if we never got back to normal it would be too soon for me. 

I’m one old guy who is really glad we are never going to get back to normal… at least not in my lifetime.

Some “food” for thought…

When I look back at what we once considered “normal”, I wonder how normal ever got to be such a crazy place. Were we so cavalier about the invisible microbial world? Were we really germ deniers?

I think back on life as it was a few months ago and I think about going into a restaurant and sitting down, opening a menu that had probably never been sanitized or even cleaned – a menu touched by a thousand fingers — no doubt many of them unwashed — and I never gave it a thought.

“I’ll have the chicken breast, baked potato, green beans, and the salad bar. And to drink I’ll have unsweetened iced tea. Thanks”, I say, handing the germy menu back to the waitress who may have not washed her hands for her entire shift.

I get up and waddle over to the salad bar where all kinds of goodies await. There’s a stainless steel container of lettuce mix with tongs sticking up out of it. There are containers of cottage cheese, shredded cheese, coleslaw, banana peppers, chopped onions, French dressing (I like to call French dressing – undressing – ooh, la la, you know the French!), bleu cheese dressing, ranch dressing, Italian dressing, and thousand island dressing, pineapple chunks, butterscotch pudding, chocolate pudding, and fruit cocktail.

Every container in the salad bar has a big silvery spoon sticking out of it so us salad-bar patrons can scoop up the contents and glom as much of whatever it is onto our salad plate(s).

Looking back, I wonder how many germ-filled hands grasped those big spoons, how many nose-picking digits alit upon those big silver handles, how many patrons sneezed and coughed their way through the salad-building process… and all those aerosolized droplets spewed forth from anonymous noses and mouths now clinging to all those serving spoons and scoops.

Oblivious to those thoughts at the time, I returned to my table, grabbed the salt and pepper shakers, all, I now know, crawling with bacteria, viruses, and dirt — and shake a dash on my overflowing salad plate.

I pick up my fork, which I blissfully imagined having been sterilized in boiling hot dishwasher water laced with germ-killing dishwasher soap. But never did I ever think about the un-gloved, dirty, bacteria, and virus-laden hands that wrapped my silverware into its pristine-looking paper-napkin cacoon.

As I write this, I realize I’m about to vomit,  I mean it. I now have all these disgusting images dancing through my head – and intermixing with the overwhelming amount of conflicting COVID-19, “you say yes, I say no” data stuffed into my weary, but still-not-senile (knock on wood),  brain.

Maybe I’m the rule not the exception. Did you ever think about this kind of stuff BEFORE the novel coronavirus knocked us silly and out of our complacency? Did you think about all the slimy, putrid, dirty hands that had caressed those ubiquitous ketchup bottles that once sat upon the tables in almost every restaurant?

Yes, I know that ketchup is frowned upon in those five-star joints, but nevertheless those five-star places have caviar spoons, individual sweetie-silver teapots, crystal glasses, and other things us normal folks seldom see or get to touch. But you can bet on one thing: those uppity people use things that are just as full of germs and viral particles as the ketchup bottle in the eateries of the common folk. AND… those fancy places always have nine forks – so you have nine times the chance to expose yourself a lot of dirty filthy germs.

I don’t think I could ever go back to a salad bar — or worse – a buffet-style restaurant without losing my lunch at the door. And it’s not just the coronavirus, it’s just all the little nasties too small to be seen that crawl upon the things we touch every single day.

Other than taking my walks almost every day, I’ve left my house maybe six times in seven weeks to buy groceries and pick up prescriptions, and run other suicide missions.

Yes, when I buy groceries, I do wear a mask – but I don’t know why because no one else in my little town does. And when I get home, I have a bench in my garage. It’s my grocery sanitizing and wipe-down station. All the groceries I tote home get sprayed with 3% hydrogen peroxide and then wiped down with very clean towels.

Then I wash my hands – for twenty seconds – at least.

I used to wash my hands after using the bathroom and before eating. Now I’m washing my hands at least twenty times a day. I wash them so much that the skin is starting to peel off the back of my wrists. I can’t walk by a bar or bottle of liquid soap without washing my hands.

When I’m not washing my hands, I’m using hand sanitizer. I buy hand sanitizer whenever and wherever I can find it. I keep some in the car, the kitchen, the bathroom, the bedroom – there’s even a bottle sitting right next to my computer. 

I’ve gone from a nonchalant, uncaring, cavalier, devil-may-care germ-denier, to super germophobe so as I think by now, My fear of all things microbial now rival the legendary germophobia of the famous aviator, industrialist, movie-maker, and nutjob, Howard Hughes. And yes, I still miss TWA.

So, when people say they want to get back to normal, it makes me nauseous — I feel sick. I imagine salt and pepper shakers, ketchup bottles, salad bars, germ-laden silverware, gasping salad bar customers wheezing their misty germ-laden droplets of mucus into the cottage cheese.

I imagine buffets, replete with self-serve ice cream machines, drink machines and hundreds of long silver spoons and scoopers sticking up out of all those billowing basins of cold and warm food… and every single one of those scoopers and spoons teeming with trillions of germs and viruses from the hundreds of unwashed hands and fingers of hundreds of hungry people who I don’t know.

So when will we get back to normal? Never, I hope.

12 thoughts on “Back to Normal

  1. Pete

    TC :
    You are 100% right on, and I agree with you. We vulnerable ones have to be really careful from now on. You and I both know God is in control and our time is already set.
    Great piece!

  2. Nancy Zilch

    TC – Sadly I must totally agree with you. I think that I may be older than you, but then does it really make a difference…no it does not. May the world continue to survive and hopefully , in the long run, be a better place.
    Wishing you well…..and Darcy, too.

  3. Harold Feldman

    Thank you this is the best thing i have read in fact this should be posted in not only the New York Times but all over the country . I am a senior and like you fit rite in the world we are living in now will never be the same also i am a World War 2 vet have seen more that I care to talk about .
    So again thank you and this one I want to print out and keep as a reminder as to how we will be living .

  4. Jackie Keesee

    I loved it and of course I agree because I am 82. I was surprised to read that the Golden Coral here in Elyria is re-opening. I guess it’s privately owned as opposed to the franshise ones. I would starve before I would go to a buffet.

    We did a pickup at Texas Roadhouse last Sunday, never had to get out of the car and it was smooth as silk as is Taco Bell. This will be a new normal for all I think. I will not feel safe until there is a vaccine. We heard from our pastor as they will do the masses in the parish hall because of better ventillation and they will be 6 ft. He asked that we seniors stay home and they wull continue to stream. Not as great as being in person but we can do it.

  5. Yvonne

    I really try not to think about our germy world. After looking at TV shows where experts visit restaurants, and hotels needing help to generate more customers and guests, and seeing all of the yukky nasty conditions they find in rooms and kitchens, it has turned me off from wanting to eat out and stay in a hotel…. And when I think of all of the millions of germs living on the surface of our bodies and other strange creatures living inside of us including the dust mites, etc.; if I really thought about it, it would make me an insane raging lunatic trying to kill myself.
    So I place it in the back of my mind and hope whatever has kept me healthy and thriving all of my 70+ years will continue until it is time for me to leave……

  6. Margaret Crozier

    TC, you nailed it! For many years I have been disgusted by grimy menus, sometimes licked condiment containers that are certainly handled by numerous hands but not sanitized until maybe the end of the day. And the servers pick up soiled dishes, things dropped on the floor, make a swipe across the table with a cloth, (Here I have to say, in my experience, I have seen a very small percentage who do a commendable job of CLEANing tables, including around the edges) then immediately pick up fresh plates of food and deliver them to you and to me.
    Can I say I will never return to my favorite buffet or plate served restaurants? Probably not but maybe always having sanitizing wipes available to use immediately before eating would be wise.
    At home – almost always – I believe the frequent use of warm water and soap is sufficient.

    1. Margaret Crozier

      A favorite chef is closing his wonderful establishment in our small city and moving 40 minutes north. Following are the regulations to be followed in the new place. They sound great to me.

      “With current restrictions ordered for restaurants our seating is limited (30) and we highly recommend reservations, walk-in dining is welcomed, but we cannot guarantee seating.

      ​For your safety our front of house and culinary team will be taking extra precautions to ensure your safety.

      ***please note staff can refuse service to anyone with illness symptoms such as coughing, sneezing etc

      Water will be provided in a bottle or jug at the table. Or pre-pour water glasses at the bar or server station

      We will not be offering any buffets at this time.

      Servers will leave food and drinks at the front of the table and guests pass them after the server has stepped away.

      In the event space is limited at a table, a chair will be removed to allow serving staff to safely deliver, and clear away dishes

      All items such as salt and pepper shakers, sauce dispensers, candles, and other tabletop items will be delivered on a as needed basis, removed after use and cleaned and sanitized fully.

      Avoid touching coffee cups when refilling ask guest to set at side of table for re-fill

      If customers ask to take unfinished food with them, provide packaging and let the customer put the food into the container.

      Single-use disposable menus or laminated menus that will be washed between customers

      limit the use of cash and limit the handling of credit cards and loyalty cards whenever possible, by allowing customers to scan or tap their cards and handle the card readers themselves. Encourage tap payment over pin pad use

      Staff a person to direct & facilitate the flow of people during busy times.

      Bar will be turned into service or pass through counters with plexiglass divider between bartender and guests

      Continued handwashing will always be required and between each touch of any plates, food etc.

      Sanitizer will be available to customers and staff. These bottles will be at the entrance and at various point throughout the establishment

      Increased cleaning between seatings. Tables, vinyl or laminated menus, and vinyl/leather/metal seats should be wiped when tables turn. Remove all items when turning a table. Discard any waste and removed all unused glassware or cutlery and condiments for cleaning

      Cleaning procedures for condiments and other items brought to the table or available for sharing will be cleaned after every use, a designated clean zone will be established for all items that are ready for service.

      Clean bathrooms thoroughly and on a more frequent basis. Looking to install additional touch-free soap and paper towel dispensers.

      Enhance cleaning of all frequent touchpoints including walls, tables, chairs, barstools, coasters, condiments, coat hooks, restrooms, doors including front door, restroom door, staff doors to office, kitchen, and breakroom.”

  7. Vicki Garrett

    Great Article TC!! I bought some bananas at the grocery store and automatically wondered just how people may have picked them up…yeah I know how they need to be peeled, but while doing so, you may ask yourself just how many germs may have been transferred from the peeling to the actual fruit of the banana as you are peeling it?? I find it more convenient to peel a banana then throw it in the trash before I eat the actual fruit. Something to think about, wouldn’t you say? I may never want to eat another one or an apple in a bin of loose ones and the list could
    expand easily.

  8. Irene Smith

    Perfectly well said!!
    Thank you for this great point of view!

  9. Bill Smith

    Excellent article! shared on my blog. It may be our ages and past experiences but my wife and I agree agree with the unsanitary experiences you describe. Maybe our being isolated in our “older” age may be literally saving our lives. Heck,I hope so, I am still hoping of catching up on the low military pay over 22 yrs. But, some health experts disagree and would say that we become more acclimated to the our general population of health habits. Ever notice, how often we tend to be sicker after returning from that grand vacation or visiting with the “grand kids” living in other parts of our grand country?

  10. Gail Bartley

    TC, I loved this and I do agree. At my age and the number is way up there I am not sure I have ever seen normal but if it is represented by what I have had to go through in this life, please, I do not wish to experience it again. I was raised to always wash my hands although I do it much better these days. I do wear a mask when I go out and I have to make grocery store trips but at least in the small town where I shop there are others wearing masks. Funny but most of them are in my age group. I guess the youngsters still think of themselves as invincible. The one thing that remains a mystery is why the need for so much toilet tissue. I understand anatomy and the functions of the human body and respiratory problems do not equate with the need for Charmin. Ah well, just something for this old gal to ponder while she walks the dogs. Have a great day and thanks as usual for your musings.

  11. DaveC

    And once upon a time long ago, we played in the dirt, drank communally out of a garden hose, swam in ponds, shared bottles of soda and lived to our 80’s. And now we recoil in horror if someone dares to sneeze in front of us.


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