A horror tale for your Sunday morning. Picture this scenario as I play it back for you.

We were early into the darkness-at-noon-era of COVID-19. I am sitting late in the afternoon in my dirty Prius after a day of make-work errands. I pull off my designer mask and place it on the sun visor and check the list of stops on my phone:

Grondin’s Cleaners — check.

Post office — check.

Starbucks for croissants —  check (She loves croissants.).

Picked up mail from box on driveway, tossed all non-essential junk — check.

Off to Toyota garage to get tires changed and get sticker — check.

Back home, I turn off the engine and pick up the essential mail: residual checks, bank statements and important magazines, Time, New York, The New Yorker, This Week, Los Angeles, Eating Well and Arthritis Today.

As I arrange the clutter, I glance down at my hands to discover that … OMG! I’M NOT WEARING MY BLUE GLOVES.

Clutching my pearls, I begin to panic.

I check the passenger seat where I always discard them after I arrive home. I check the floor mats, the back seats. There they are, the ones I brought to the car before setting out on errands.

I never toss them there. Why are they there? Only one answer: I didn’t put them on. I DIDN’T PUT THEM ON!!!!

I whisper to the guardian angels I invented who sit in the back seat. They whisper back, “Don’t panic.” Why should they panic? They’re angels.

I begin to sweat and wipe my brow. Now we all know that there are two important rules. First wash your hands after every action taken — after eating, bowel movements or urinating — and don’t  touch your face.

The first is easy, the second is the hardest rule to obey. I touch my face maybe 600 times an hour. HOW CAN YOU NOT TOUCH YOUR FACE?

There are  probably a million reasons to touch your face, and I do them all.

That means today, I touched my face — God knows how many times — ungloved. Even with the gloves, after I touched something forbidden, the virus would stick to my glove and move to my face.

Be calm, I whisper to my guardian angels. Don’t panic. Try to remember where you were and what you touched. You can do it. Concentrate.

The pump handle at the gas station? It’s a death stop for the unfocused. Whew, I didn’t get gas today.

The cup the barista handed me through the window at Starbucks? She wasn’t wearing a glove, and that was probably the 77th cup she had touched since opening.

Then, in a flash of horror, it came to me. The pens, of course. All those pens.

Pens used to sign receipts like the pen I signed with at the cleaners, the pen that came through the window at the bank. How many people had touched that pen before I did? Maybe a hundred. A hundred filthy, virus-infected hands that had touched the pen I was using.

Surely, most of those customers could have been wearing the blue gloves.

Don’t be fooled. I’ve watched my fellow Mainers every day from Augusta to Hallowell to Waterville.

I watch them sitting outside at the many sidewalk cafes, sans masks, sans gloves, six or seven of them at tables designed to sit four. They laugh and then stroke one another’s arms, cheeks and thighs. Oh, the horror.

My newspaper today recorded that 38 new COVID-19 cases were reported in Maine and one new death. I don’t mean to be disrespectful, but how many of those cases came from one of those cafes, from the cup, from the pens?

It’s July 26 and She and I — and apparently you — are still alive. We’ve been tutored online and on television about the methods of survival. There are no more excuses for stupid mistakes. Buy a mask, something cute and comfortable and safe and wear it. And whatever it is, a pen, a door handle, a gas pump or a soft, cute hand, DON’T TOUCH IT.


J.P. Devine is a Waterville writer.

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