MATTHEWS: A day in the life under the new social distancing normal

I got up early Saturday to make it to the grocery store before it opened at 7.

I figured if I got there early enough, I’d be able to get some essential paper products.

There were about five or six people ahead of me waiting to get in. Almost everyone stood 6 feet apart from each other in a practice we’ve come to know as “social distancing.”

It was drizzling, so I put a bag over my head to keep from getting wet. “Come stand over here,” gestured one nice lady who was shielded by the overhang. She coughed and sniffled.

“No, thanks,” I told her. “I’m practicing social distancing.” I moved a few inches back to create even more distance between me and the coughing lady.

I didn’t get my paper products that day, but I did get a few other things I needed. The cashier wasn’t practicing social distancing that morning, which made me uncomfortable.

I was also shopping for my parents. They’re senior citizens, and one of them has underlying conditions that make the coronavirus especially dangerous.

My sisters and I have stressed to them the importance of staying inside as much as possible. So they are not to go grocery shopping or anywhere else outside of the drive-thru, for prescriptions or food; and the dialysis center, where my dad goes three times a week for treatment.

After going to another few stores Saturday and Sunday to cobble together some essentials, I trekked over to mom and dad’s house. Water, milk and paper towels were dropped off by the front door. Mom has a glass door, so she was able to see me as I put them on the porch. She didn’t open it until I went back to the car for a few more things.

I waited until she had gotten everything in the house and shut the glass door before I walked back up to where she was, the door separating us. We blew each other kisses. I could tell mom was crying. I was, too, but I tried not to show it.

It was agonizing not to be able to physically reach out to provide — and receive — comfort. We’re huggers. I don’t remember the last time we hugged, although I know it wasn’t that long ago.

But as long as it keeps them safe, this is the new normal.

At home, I’ve noticed the internet is slower, presumably because more people are home during the day since so many places have either limited hours or have been closed for the time being. This is something you notice when you work from home and are on the computer for a living.

You also notice all the cars in driveways or neighborhood parking lots that didn’t used to be there during the week. Parents are outside with their kids more so than normal, trying to keep them entertained. Fortunately, we had several days of pretty weather last week.

After the first week of worrying about paper products, there were cries of joy on the Nextdoor app as people announced Sunday the stores that have stocked back up on toilet paper. “Get there early!” was the standard advice. “What about Lysol? Do they have it?” others inquired.

There are also the jokes about toilet paper. My sister and I joked Sunday about what the “back up plan” would be in the event we couldn’t find it next time we needed it. These are the types of things that help ease the tension so many feel right now.

This is all more than a little surreal, especially for those of us in the south who like to hug, and pat people on the shoulder, and socialize at close range over lunch. But we do it.

Because it could literally save someone’s life.

Stacey Matthews has also written under the pseudonym Sister Toldjah and is a regular contributor to RedState and Legal Insurrection