Home alone – a pandemic diary (day forty-one – 20.04.20)


It’s driving me crazy.


De-contamination, I mean. All the disinfection procedures we have to put in place so that we may be slightly – only slightly – reassured we have not brought the virus into our home.


It began with washing my hands every two minutes. Every time I touch anything, I wash them. After two or three days of this regime, I noticed some small cracks appearing. My hands were sore, red, dehydrated. I even had a cut on one finger, that was not healing because of too much washing. For a few days I wore a surgical glove on that hand and finally the cut healed.


The shopping nightmare

Disinfecting gel and wipes are not good for your hands either. You have to carry them with you all the time; one in your bag; one in your car. Another one in the pocket of your winter jacket, just in case. They say metal is where the virus survives longer, so when you go out and touch your keys, and immediately after the building door knob, you use it; then when you get into the car you use it again, so as not to contaminate the driving wheel. When you come back into the car again, full of germs from the supermarket, the pharmacy or the petrol station – and having to pay is a nightmare, be it by card or with money, because the seller actually touches your card and his gloved hand could be the home of a million viruses! – you rub the disinfectant again and as you get home you run to the kitchen and wash your hands not once, not twice, but three times to make sure every germ is gone. And when you breathe deeply, and think you are clean, you remember the two bags of groceries you have just left on the entrance floor (de-contamination area), where you have also left your shoes, that you take off at a high risk of losing your balance as you try to reach for the wear-at-home shoes you have left at a seemingly safe distance from the entrance door.


Then you divide the groceries in two groups. Those you don’t need immediately, and don’t need  to go into the fridge; you put them away in a safe bag and leave them there for a few days until they are – or so you expect – safe. As for the others, you put them on a big tray on the kitchen counter, and you take them out of their original bags and put them into new, safe ones; or you clean the surface of the products with a cloth with the kitchen disinfectant, so that you may put them away.


When you finish you are exhausted, and not one hundred per cent sure you have done the right thing. Then you remember your mobile phone, that you accidentally touched with your dirty hands, and you disinfect it for the thousandth time – I do hope so much disinfectant won’t damage it!


Aliens in your home

But this is nothing, compared to the adventure of having “other” people coming into your home. Last week my washing machine (an old one I should have substituted long ago) broke. Fortunately, there exists Mr. Jorge, who has provided me with all the necessary household appliances for more than thirty years. He came as soon as possible, bringing with him a brand-new washing machine, with all the programs you may imagine, from wool to sports clothes. But, my God, the nightmare of having two people coming into the house with their outdoor shoes, without a mask – I was wearing mine – and on top of it all his employee coughed from time to time, and not to his elbow as rules establish. I was in such stress, and hurry to see them go that I, who usually ask Mr. Jorge for detailed explanations on how the appliances work, this time only briefly heard what he had to say, declared myself enlightened – or maybe this machine is so easy to operate – and sent him away as soon as I could, not before thanking him profusely for saving me in such a difficult time.


As soon as they were out of the door, relief… and then, in a frenzy, I went for the mop and filled the bucket with water and a generous portion of detergent and bleach, cleaning the living room and the kitchen, where they had been. Then I cleaned all surfaces of the kitchen counters, and everything they might have touched while installing the washing machine, with the before mentioned products, including my new acquisition. Finally, with the smell of cleanliness in the air, I finally sat down and declared myself satisfied that all possible contamination had been eliminated.


Going crazy?

Maybe I have OCD (Obsessive Cleaning Disorder). The symptoms are clearly there, and I wonder  if this disorder is going to protect us from Covid-19 or if it’s just going to drive us crazy.


When the boys come for dinner, they already know. As soon as I hear the key on the lock I’m running to the door, shouting: put on the slippers! Leave the shoes by the door! Wash your hands! Give me your mobiles so I can disinfect them… and so on and so on. They just laugh at me and comply, knowing that only after this de-contamination ritual I will say a proper hello and sit down to hear the latest news they bring.


I’m not even talking about what it means to go out with a mask, never agreeable but even less so when your wear glasses that immediately get fogged, so that you barely see what’s ahead of you. I’m talking about the surgical ones; but now I have ordered a few cloth-made, washable masks; maybe they will fit my face better without that unpleasant result.


Oh, how I miss those days, not so long ago – barely two months – when we were not fighting this sterilization battle against an unseen, but much feared enemy! And I wonder if this is worth all the effort, as there are some who say we will all fatally get the virus no matter what we do…


If I am acting like this now, when most of the people are confined, I cannot begin to imagine how it will be after we start coming out. I won’t think of it as yet, I have decided to live one day after the other. Because, if I think about the future, the day after, the crisis that awaits, or simply about all the disinfecting procedures I will have to follow in the next months, year perhaps,  I will definitely, completely, utterly, hopelessly, lose what little sanity I have left.


After all, maybe I already have. There are moments when I feel I am acting like a demented person, with this cleaning obsession I had never before experienced in my life.

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