• Richard Hyatt

Struggling through the stress and fear of the Coronavirus...

The hotel was a western style high-rise somewhere in the heart of Moscow. Our room wasn’t air-conditioned so the windows were left open and we could hear the clatter of street noise from down below.

This time the racket started blocks away. A runaway mob was rumbling our way and I moved to the balcony to see and hear. People were rushing toward the block where our hotel was located. To the left of us was what had been an empty market. Now beat-up trucks were unloading goods with armed Russian soldiers looking on.

It wasn’t the smartest thing to do, but hey, I was a nosy newsperson, so I jumped on an elevator and rushed downstairs to see what was happening. When I got there hordes of people, carrying market baskets and burlap bags, were pushing and shoving their way to the fresh produce. The displays of vegetables weren’t attractive by American standards but it was all they had to offer.

The hotel lobby was packed with young musicians from Hardaway High School. The late Bill Pharris, their band director, had booked these talented teens for appearances in Moscow and Leningrad. It turned out to be an educational experience in every imaginable way.

Among the lessons learned was that in 1986 the Soviet Union did not sell Big Macs or Coca-Colas, you should not drink the water, people still drove ‘54 Chevys, on the open market your blue jeans were worth more than what you paid for them at Peachtree Mall and the sun might still be shining bright at bedtime.

We packed our own toilet paper for that trip and you had to keep an eye on every roll for to our surprise it was tempting to others whether it was one-ply or two. We saw people stand in long lines for food — even tongue and beets — and this was our first experience with bottled water.

Struggling through the stress and fear of the Coronavirus and COVID-19 has made me relive that trip. Thirty-four years ago none us of imagined those things happening in our world and our community. Now they’re happening every day.

We’ve seen mob scenes develop at our favorite grocery stores as neighbors compete with neighbors over items that that we always took for granted such as Charmin, Cottonelle and Lysol. (Adding to the paradox is the fact that a saxophone player from that high school band 34 years ago now manages one of our town’s busiest supermarkets where meat counters are sometimes bare.)

Change came quickly in our world and we didn’t see it coming. We blinked, and life went topsy-turvy. Look around. See the changes.

Church pews are empty and choirs don’t fill the loft.

Kids are home, not in the classroom.

Favorite places to eat feed us in the parking lot not a booth — and I appreciate it.

As someone said, there was March sadness, not March madness.

When we raid stores for toilet paper early in the morning we look like we’re dressed up for Halloween with masks on our face and gloves on our hands.

Several times a day there are fatality reports on radio and TV.

We wonder if there’ll be a football season this fall.

We know how many times a day TV stations rerun “Law and Order.”

We wonder if our world will ever again be normal — whatever that is.

We cherish family and friends and wish we could be close to them.

A friend said she missed her granddaughters, reminding me they were quarantined at separate addresses.

Will I ever again go an hour without washing my hands?

Our children are stuck at home, being schooled by parents. Before our schools were closed, assignments were sent home. Now we’re running out of assignments. Technically, this is spring break but trips to the beach are out of the question. So are sleepovers and play dates. Kamryn, our 10-year-old, begged us to take a quick trip to Atlanta to get a sack of hot dogs from the Varsity. That’s a family tradition that Kaye and I have passed down to her. Only like so many other places, the Varsity is closed under further notice.

What about news? It’s vital, but where do we get it?

I walk around with my iPhone in my hand. I don’t put it down very often. When I do, I plug it into the wall and impatiently wait for it to charge. I want news, even bad news. I’m not hungry for the weather or ball scores. This disease that came out of nowhere consumes me and makes me wonder what our world will be like tomorrow.

CODIV-19 is affecting people all over the globe, but we’re concerned about our state, our county and the people who live down the street. More than anything we’re worried about our family. We’re quarantining ourselves in our homes like bears hibernating in winter but is it enough?

I want to know what’s going on. I’ve spent most of my adult gathering and presenting local news. Now I’m a critic, especially of newspapers. There’s a sameness in the report every day and little effort to engage me. There’s nothing to make me smile or feel comfortable.

I’m not that confident in what I read either. Believe it or not, I’m turning to television for information, something I never thought I’d do. Social media also fills voids and keeps me up to date though I have to be careful what sites I use.

We’re stuck at home, except for quick trips to the super market or the pharmacy. We’re bored, confused and scared. Sometimes we get tired of each other’s company.

People like the Rev. Jimmy Elder are helping us cope. At first the minister at the First Baptist Church in Columbus talked about continuing to have regular church services on Sundays with members filling the pews. Services would be televised as they had for decades.

Then Gov. Brian Kemp asked Georgians not to congregate in groups larger than 10 leaving six feet of distance between our neighbors and us. Elder quickly rethought his plan.

Now his 11 o’clock worship service is broadcast on WTVM and live streamed through the church Website. It includes a message from Elder. Uplifting scriptures are cited and read. There’s music, a pianist, a small choir — with separation, of course — a special children’s sermon, a Sunday school lesson and prayers for our town, our state and our nation.

During that hour, viewers sitting in front of their TV sets can reach out and touch old customs. They can find harmony and spiritual relief and escape a routine of tedium and boredom that is increasingly threatening our daily lives.

For that one hour of the week, they find hope and peace.

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© 2020 by Richard Hyatt