Rubber Gloves, Isopropyl Alcohol and the Arizona Heat

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Rubber Gloves, Isopropyl Alcohol and the Arizona Heat

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Arizona State University employees, myself included, were sent home mid-March of 2020 due to the rising concerns of Covid-19. I recall driving home that initial day thinking that a sea change was upon us and that uncertainty lay ahead. How would I balance my concerns about this unknown virus yet help keep the peace in my house with my wife and our young boys as the country learned how to live with our new, unwelcome guest? Little did I know the biggest changes in our lives would be the small changes in our daily routines.
In looking back at those first days, one scene that was routinely repeated in particular plays out in my memory. We quickly shifted our grocery shopping from in-person purchases to ordering on-line and picking up food curbside outside of the store. Before bringing the food inside our house, my wife and I had agreed that we would wipe down our new food packages with paper towels soaked in isopropyl alcohol. At the time it was unclear if the virus survived on packaging for long periods so we thought it best to disinfect the food. Looking back on it now, it seems silly but the scene still plays out in my memory:

I can still smell the latex of the rubber gloves I would put on so as not to completely dry out or burn my hands. When pouring the alcohol onto the paper towels, the smell would sting my nose and a tingling sensation would pervade my nasal passages. When wiping the plastic packaging of say, frozen vegetables, I would hear the crinkling sound of the bag and it would resonate through my ears. To compound the smells and sounds of this process, I would be remiss to not include the fact that this was all taking place in our garage during one of the hottest Arizona springs and summers on record. The heat was oppressive that season, enough to identify with that 'oven blast' description we use in this region and I would be dripping with sweat by the time the task was complete. To say the least, it was a surreal experience; one where if you had told me two weeks earlier, I would be wiping down groceries in a stifling garage to prevent a possible infection of an unknown virus, I would have laughed at you but, alas, I was there and the senses surrounding the scenario were real.

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This item was submitted on August 20, 2022 by [anonymous user] using the form “Share Your Story” on the site “A Journal of the Plague Year”:

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