Pandemic Journal: Essen, July 2020

By Melissa Knox-Raab

Knox-Raab in corona fashion – perfume by isopropyl alcohol

1. Five minutes of CNN Covid coverage makes me feel like running into the bathroom and following Sanjay Gupta’s method: scrubbing the backs of my hands, between fingers, grabbing and twisting soapsuddy thumbs, and pushing the tap off with my elbow. I know I’m here, where the curve’s flat as a pancake, but American statistics make me feel like the virus can vault through the TV screen and get me.

2. Right now, I’m thinking of a John Donne poem:

When my grave is broke ope again
Some second guest to entertain . . .

New York used refrigerated trucks. In Donne’s day, they just dug up a grave and dumped in another customer.

3. When Miranda Bailey, chief of surgery at Gray-Sloan Memorial Hospital on Grey’s Anatomy gives a patient a dangerous bug, the fault lies in the cheaper brand of latex gloves the hospital had ordered in a misguided effort to save money.

4. The governor of Florida now claims there’ s plenty of PPE around. Meanwhile, medical professionals end up, at best, like Miranda Bailey: with a shrink who prescribes anti-anxiety pills.

5. In a stuffy office today–windows were closed–I asked the lawyers to wear masks. I was wearing a mask. One of them pulled her mask off her chin and covered up, all the while complaining, “it’s really hard to understand you when you’re wearing a mask.” The other– hawk-nosed, shock of white hair flopping intentionally–stared right through me. Maskless, he held forth like a winner at Toastmaster’s International throwing in a few words about the new alliance with the Rotary Club. He spoke for forty-five minutes.

6. Richard Quest, his signature rasp still intact, described the symptoms he keeps asking his doctors about. The breathlessness. The weakness. The pain. Now that he’s been cured for weeks, when will these symptoms stop coming and going? “We don’t know, Richard,” say his doctors.

7. When I went to the gym yesterday, the nice bearded trainer, the one who doesn’t follow the rules, let me in a whole twelve minutes early. There were only three people in the gym, whose capacity, when we all stick to designated areas on the floor marked with yellow tape, is seven. When the two people who enforce the rules are around—“No, you can’t go in for another four and a half minutes!”—everyone’s stuck breathing on each other in a grubby foyer right in front of the (spacious, windows-wide-open) gym.

8. The form I was trying to get the lawyers to help with is, according to them, “really complicated.” This is Germany.

9. The nice lady behind me in the Edeka line inquired where I’d gotten my plastic face shield. Turning to answer, I forgot about social distancing. Good thing that thin, impregnable plastic stood between me and a friendly conversation.

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