While it’s been said that a man’s home is his castle and home is where the heart is, it has also been sung by John Kay, the front man of Steppenwolf — one of my go-to bands during my coming-of-age late ‘60s and early ‘70s — that we should all be getting our motors running and heading out onto our highways.
And, at least when it comes to my work travels, fortunately, after five weeks’ worth of finding my heart and the rest of me at home, my motor started running again on the first Monday in May albeit not how I’ve ever gone about my work days before. As I’ve heard it described, it’s the “new normal,” this whole having my temperature taken as I enter my Mid-American Cleaning Contractors accounts, often up to five times a day, and making sure I’ve my facemask in place and my latex gloves on.
While the gloves don’t bother me all that much since even before the global pandemic, I’ve generally had a pair on as I conducted my quality-assurance inspections, the mask is another matter. Listen, I love having a ball cap perched above my eyebrows, but I’ve never really cared for anything covering my face. Even as a child, come Halloween, I would never, no matter how much candy was involved, wear a costume that required affixing a mask to what my father used to call “my kisser.”
But, extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures if one wishes to work, and I certainly couldn’t imagine my life at this stage without working, so I wear a mask. This mask-wearing ritual has planted one rather unnatural fear, one prompted by those elastic straps that hook behind the ears.
When I don a mask, it tends to force my ears forward a bit. I’ve sort of grown accustomed over time to seeing them pinned rather unobtrusively to the sides of my head, especially since I’ve been rockin’ that classic horseshoe bald look for quite some time, so there’s really nothing there to hide them. My fear involves the unsettling notion that wearing the mask for long periods of time just may cause my ears to settle into new positions pointing outward, something I suspect may have happened to our favorite Jedi Master, Yoda, during some Star Wars pandemic crisis.
During my five weeks homebound, I found myself taking on a certain monotonous cycle of life. For example — and I’m claiming this as a record until someone can prove to me they’ve exceeded the mark — I cooked something on the George Foreman grill, an appliance that has often in the past been largely forgotten sitting down on the far end of a kitchen counter beside the also forgotten blender, for 30 consecutive days. To be honest, I see this mark standing the test of time in much the same fashion as The Great DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak back in 1941.
Like many of you, I found some extra time to read. Each time I sat down with a book for an hour in the middle of what should have been a work day, I thought of that “Twilight Zone” episode “Time Enough at Last,” the one that starred Burgess Meredith as Henry Bemis, a henpecked booklover who wants little more out of life than to be left alone and given all the time he wants to read.
Following a nuclear war that he survives and finding in the rubble of a destroyed library all the great classics, it appears Bemis finally has both all the books he needs and the time with which to read them. As for how he manages to survive nuclear annihilation and what happens once he finds the books and organizes them in monthly stacks, well, for those who’ve never seen the episode, one easily a top fiver for the iconic series that ran from 1959 through 1964, far be it from me to play spoiler even for a show that first aired on Nov. 20, 1959. After all, you may want to catch it on Syfy’s New Year’s “Twilight Zone” marathon.
While I tried to keep up with the local news during my home-alone time, I must admit I took some time off from Lester Holt, finding each evening’s news far too depressing. And, how did I fill that 6:30-7 p.m. time slot? Well, I skipped on over to TVLand and dropped in on a place where there has never been even a whisper of COVID-19, Mayberry, North Carolina, to spend some tranquil black-and-white time with Andy, Barney, Opie and Aunt Bee.
Of course, I suppose the silver lining of the furlough from work was spending some extra time with my Lady Jane. I actually created a little game that was fun to play. During our many travels over the past 20 years, I’ve snapped lots of photos and had the good sense to tag most of them on the backs as to what trips and what the images the photos depict. You see, once upon a time, I was writing quite a few travel pieces for both our local newspaper and for Our Generation’s Magazine and needed artwork to complement my copy.
I dumped the hundreds of photos into a zippered work bag, and Jane and I would take turns pulling out a photo and testing each other’s memory as to what trip and what image each showed. It sure did remind us of so many pleasant times in our lives.
Here’s hoping all our highways, both our labor and our leisure lanes, will one day be open again, and without restriction, so that we can all follow the musical mandates of Steppenwolf’s John Kay whenever the spirit moves us.
John Grindrod is a regular columnist for The Lima News, a freelance writer and editor and the author of two books. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.