“Did you wash your hands?” Momma would ask. “Did you use soap?”

Now, She, who has replaced my mother as arbiter-in-chief, has her own list of questions. My favorite is when she hears me come out of the bathroom in the middle of the night.

“Did you flush?”


So you can see that washing my hands to “Happy Birthday” is no problem.

My point today is that I have been preparing for COVID-19 my entire life. Medically, I have a pre-condition: OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder).


It was in New York that a dancer I was dating, Joya Feldman — the third swan from the right in “Swan Lake” at the New York City Ballet — was alarmed by my wiping and rewiping the restaurant’s silverware over and over, so she sent me to her uncle who was a psychiatrist.

I don’t remember his name, but he gave me a sheet of paper that read: “Compulsions are learned behaviors, which become repetitive and habitual when they are associated with relief from anxiety.”

Anxiety? Where do I start? At birth?

I asked if OCD was a fatal condition.

“Only if you’re compelled to jump in front of subway trains.”

I made that up. You can see that I compulsively need to make you laugh.


Seriously, I’ve discovered that my affliction has prepared me all my life for COVID-19.

For example, long before any virus appeared, I never touched a public door knob, especially in public restrooms, which I usually avoid. I can’t imagine doing such a thing.

I employ various techniques, too many to list, to avoid this.

I used to use a paper towel, but nowadays such rooms have hot air blowers. So, mostly I wait for someone to enter.

Should I drop a piece of clothing when I take my laundry from the drier, I immediately throw it back in the “dirty pile.”

Also, if you come to watch me make my bed, bring a book.


When driving my car, I keep a baseball hat on my right knee. I don’t know why. It simply comforts me. That’s what it’s all about with OCD. It comforts me to know that as long the hat is there, there will be no earthquakes or tornados that day.

But now the crunch has arrived.

This month, I have an eye exam. That means sitting 10 inches in front of a stranger in an enclosed space for probably an hour, even though Dr. Fauci insists on “10 feet, no longer than 15 minutes.”

At the dentist, I will be asked to sit still while the hygienist in mask and face shield sticks her fingers in my open mouth, which evokes memories of Rosemary De Branco in high school.

I’m told that wiping down each piece of mail (I do remove magazine covers ) that comes into the house is no longer considered necessary. But I probably won’t stop. My mail person doesn’t wear gloves or a mask. Next question?

I’ve stopped wiping down the handles on the toilet, the oven and fridge. I mean, there are only the two of us.


And I ask you, what’s wrong with keeping masks arranged by color?

Mix two different shades of blue? Are you crazy?

Did you receive a Valentine today? Did you wipe it down? Go wash your hands.

J.P. Devine is a Waterville writer. 

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