Quarantine Chronicles

My experiences in March during the COVID-19 pandemic

Lauren Dyer, Lifestyle Editor

Though newspapers generally report on current or upcoming events, we decided to record my personal experiences during March of the COVID-19 pandemic to be looked back upon later. This log was continued through April. April log entries can be found on the Torch website (torch.glenbrook225.org/lifestyle/2020/05/21/quarantine-chronicles-continued/).

Day 20 – Tuesday, March 31

9:00 a.m. – I wake up, eager to begin my first day of E-Learning and return to a sense of normalcy. The activities I find posted take around 10 minutes each, and I am done before noon.

2:30 p.m. – Pritzker announces that schools will continue remote learning through the end of April. I’m not surprised. At this point I’m just waiting for him to announce that schools will be closed for the rest of the year. 

Day 19 – Monday, March 30

10:00 a.m. – My great uncle is admitted to the hospital and put on a ventilator. My grandma wants to go visit him, but we insist she doesn’t. I don’t know how to feel. I’m surprised, I guess. If there’s one thing to know about my great uncle, it’s that he’s tough. It must have gotten really bad for him to go to the hospital.

Day 18 – Sunday, March 29

6:03 p.m. – We bring my dad’s dinner to the basement. My mom has decided to quarantine him within our home.

Day 17 – Saturday, March 28

8:00 p.m. – My dad jokes that he feels a twinge in the back of his throat. It’s not funny. 

9:30 p.m. – Once my dad goes into the basement to watch TV, I go over the handles, light switches and door knobs in my kitchen with a bleach wipe.

10:00 p.m. – I begin my homework from weeks ago. It brings me back to how I felt then. I feel wrong as I do it, like I have stepped into some sort of alternate dimension where time doesn’t exist. I finish my APUSH, but tell myself I’ll do English later.

Day 16 – Friday, March 27

4:00 p.m. – I bake a cake. Though I love to bake, this is the first time I’ve done it since all this started. I make it orange-flavored because we have a pile of uneaten oranges in our fruit bowl. 

Day 15 – Thursday, March 26

11:10 p.m. – I finally complete my Naviance surveys and my National Honors Society application essay. It’s the most school work I’ve done in a while.

Day 12 – Monday, March 23

9:05 a.m. – I hear that my great uncle is sick. He has the COVID-19 symptoms, but doesn’t want to get tested. 

Day 11 – Sunday, March 22

4:30 p.m. – It’s snowing. I walk my dog with my family and, for a moment, I forget about the pandemic. I lull myself into believing that it is winter break and that everything is OK. 

Day 9 – Friday, March 20

3:30 p.m – I hear that we will begin a “stay-at-home order” tomorrow, Saturday, March 21 at 5:00 p.m. We will still be able to leave the house to get groceries, and essential businesses will stay open. I’m unbothered. This doesn’t change much for me. My mom and brother leave for Purdue to collect his things before the “stay-at-home order.” He’s taking online classes from home for the rest of the semester. The drive takes them roughly twice as long because of traffic. They return home around midnight with a full car.

Day 8 – Thursday March 19

2:53 p.m. – I receive a text from my mom that reads: “I am hearing rumors we are possibly going on lock down (press conference this afternoon) I’m stuck [at work]. I’m wondering if you’d be willing to go to Mariano’s get some can goods, milk, some veggies. Three lbs chicken three lb ground beef. Anything else you think we may need.” I don’t think we will have government-enforced quarantine. Only two more weeks of this would be nice, though. I grab my brother and drive to the store. We fill our cart with the items we were told to get. The canned food aisle is mobbed, but there are still cans on the shelves. As we fill the cart and as we head into the checkout, I feel guilty for buying so much. I feel bad for the young checkout employee. She has no gloves, but has to move the dividers touched by other customers. She is working while I am distancing. My brother helps me load the bags into my car and we drive home. 

Day 6 – Tuesday, March 17

2:10 p.m. – I decide to paint on an old shirt for a change of pace. I paint Squidward’s “Bold and Brash.” It turns out well. I wouldn’t have painted if I didn’t have all this free time. 

3:45 p.m. – My mom’s walking buddy visited the emergency room with her husband for non-COVID-related reasons today. I told my mom she should probably avoid walking with her for a couple weeks because there are cases at Lutheran General Hospital. My mom says it’s fine and plans to continue spending time with her. 

10:56 p.m. – I miss being in class. I think what makes this break feel so different from summer or winter is the uncertainty and suddenness of it all. After those breaks, you know when you’ll see all your friends again and you’re free to contact them and hang out. Now everything is “until further notice,” and we’re supposed to be social distancing. I know it’s for a good reason, but, as Toby Flenderson (yikes!) from The Office once said, “It must be really hard for her to sign on to be unhappy if she doesn’t know when it’s gonna end.” 

Day 5 – Monday, March 16

11:23 p.m. – I just learned that the College Board canceled the April SAT. I was counting on that to get my score up, and I think I will test in the summer now. I don’t know if it will be free like the April one. 

Day 4 – Sunday, March 15

2:30 p.m. – Now is when I would be leaving for a family party celebrating March birthdays. Luckily, my mom opts out. My step cousins are all feverish and coughing and my step uncle interacted with an infected coworker. My grandfather and my step-grandmother are hosting. My step-grandmother argues that the virus is just a hoax, and that she and my grandfather are “young and healthy.” They are not.

4:23 p.m. – My mom comes home from volunteering with a cat rescue organization at Petsmart. She barely washes her hands. I keep a tally in my head of all the things she touches. I worry I’m being too paranoid. Is she not being paranoid enough?

Day 3 – Saturday, March 14

10:04 a.m. – My mom tells me that the police were called to Woodman’s Food Market because of rowdy customers.

4:11 p.m. – I’ve been trying to practice social distancing, but after watching 15 episodes of “Jeopardy!,” I cave and ask friends to hang out. We drive to Kenosha and visit the Mars Cheese Castle. Gas is so cheap right now that we don’t feel bad about it (she bought 8 gallons for $15.00). The highway is empty for a Saturday evening as we head north.

6:12 p.m. – I find myself in a Kenosha Woodman’s Food Market, searching for cheaper cheese. I am reminded again of the panic surrounding the virus as I pass by the paper and toiletries aisle on my way to the dairy. It looks as if a hurricane had run through it. Products are strewn across the floor. Shelves are mostly bare and completely disorganized. People are gathered with overflowing carts picking over the aisle like birds fighting over meat on the bones of a dead animal.

When I find my cheese and go to check out, I see a line stretched across the store. Separating the “express” line from the normal line is a parked cart filled with bottled water and paper towels, its contents stacked above my head. The “express” line takes ten minutes even though all of the machines were working. While my friends and I are waiting, an older man turns to us and asks if we’ve bought our masks yet. We offer a polite nonanswer to get him to stop speaking with us. He is kicking his basket of items along the floor in front of him, presumably to avoid contact with its handle. Despite his obvious concern about the virus, he picks up and eats a blue jelly bean from a candy dispenser to the right of the line. 

Day 2 – Friday, March 13

7:30 a.m. – I arrive at school to find a sparsely filled parking lot. I wonder for a second if I missed an email or call that school was canceled today, too. I get a pull-through spot near the building (which would likely have been occupied any other day). As I walk to the publications room, I notice that the cafeteria, the SAC, the ERC and the library are notably empty. The realization is dawning on me that this pandemic is not only real, but present — that this is going to upend my life and the lives of the people around me.

8:45 a.m. – Two girls cough in my gym class and the teacher wakes them from a quiet moment during yoga to send them to the nurse. 

9:32 a.m. – I have sanitized my hands to the breaking point. I feel the gel sting as I rub it over my knuckles, dry, cracked and bloody from obsessive sanitizing and washing. I continue to sanitize anyway. 

3:15 p.m. – I leave for the day and it feels strangely final. With the trip I had planned for spring break canceled, I’m left wondering what I will do over the next two weeks. 

Day 1 – Thursday, March 12

12:01 p.m. – An email from Superintendent Charles Johns has been sent out canceling all events and trips through Sunday, April 5. Immediately, I’m a bit disappointed because I was planning to participate in Tri-M board elections after school and because the Glenbrook Symphony Orchestra had a concert scheduled for Wednesday, March 18. Uncertainty is beginning to ramp up among many students as we realize that school closure is a very real possibility. 

7:30 p.m. – GBN staff receive an email and screenshots of it end up in student group chats and Snapchat stories: We will have a two-week spring break beginning Monday, March 16. After that, we will begin E-Learning. 

8:01 p.m. – GBN students receive an email announcing the closures. I begin to worry. What does “E-Learning” mean? Why does it take an extra week to set up? What about APs? The SAT? The college fair? My research paper? I feel a little selfish worrying about all these things when people are quarantined and dying, but I also feel robbed. When you live in a suburban bubble like Northbrook long enough, you grow to believe that normalcy is a right and not a privilege.