Federal Quarantine Order: Week One

A week ago I arrived at my “place of quarantine” in the early evening (about the same time I left Tokyo on the same day).

Immediately I place my luggage on the enclosed balcony outside my condominium.

There the bags and their contents sit. I wait for the period of time that it can be presumed (according to the best knowledge we have) that any COVID-19 which may have attached during the handling process has perished.

Then, standing in front of the machine, I carefully remove my clothing without shaking it and put it into the washer. Afterwards I sanitize the lid and any areas I have touched on arrival. That done, I step into the shower and scrub the way people are instructed to do before day surgery.

Once I put on my pajamas I establish clear red and green zones in my home. Only then, wearing gloves, do I remove any items from my bags that I need to use immediately. I thoroughly sanitize those and scrub my rubber gloves the way you’re supposed to scrub hands after I am done. Why? The virus lives longest on rubber gloves and hard plastic surfaces.

After that, I relax with a splendid single-malt while answering email and checking the news of the past 36 hours.

A neighbour who’s been keeping an eye on my place for insurance purposes has put a carton of milk in the fridge before my arrival (which also gets sanitized). I have coffee and oatmeal on hand, so I am okay until breakfast. After that I need to solve the problem of an empty fridge.

The restrictions expressly forbid getting my own groceries even though the person getting them for me might very well be one of the 25% who spread the disease without having symptoms, or be in the stage of the disease before symptoms show. But rules never cover everything.

Or coughs from other shoppers may have deposited the virus on anything in the store. The Finns have put a very creepy cough cloud animation on the web showing how far and how long the droplets travel. Normally, a healthy immune system takes that invisible stuff in and makes short shrift of it; however, we’re way beyond “normal” now. Without testing, we are wise to presume that everyone and everything is contaminated and behave accordingly. This is how people with compromised immune systems live all the time. The rest of us are waking up.

Saturday morning I call Thrifty’s home delivery service and explain my situation. The cheerful woman on the phone says: Oh yes. We can help. Do you have an account with us? No? Well, you go online, open an account and then early Tuesday—as early as possible—you put in your order. We only take orders on Tuesdays. We don’t, however, guarantee delivery before Thursday.

Yikes! Houston we have a problem. That’s six days without groceries.

Plan B: Before I left Tokyo a few people had offered to help with groceries and such on my return.  However, for various reasons when I contact them, they are not able to fill and deliver a list of groceries for me. I begin to consider how I might create a disguise with my old eyeglasses, a baseball cap and mask, go out after dark when my neighbours are not likely to be out and about, and shop at a store not in my neighbourhood.  Of course, I risk being caught and fined. But when weighed against 2 liters of milk, 500 grams of coffee and 500 grams of oatmeal to tide me over for 6 days, it seems my only option.

Of course, I would leave my phone at home as it could be tracked—and I had considered providing my Japanese phone number on arrival for exactly that reason. It’s possible that the officers scanning my information might not hone in on the 080 prefix as foreign, but in the end I thought better of it. I don’t want people in uniform on my case for any reason at any time. If noticed, they’d suspect I had something to hide and then things get even more complicated. However, my wicked plan has another hiccough. The transaction will show up on my credit card.

However, I have one person left on the list of those who have offered help. My last resort before undertaking my desperate clandestine operation. Fortunately L comes through. On Sunday she arrives with three bags of groceries and 4 liters of milk. I pass her a cheque in a Ziploc bag (which she can sterilize before removing the cheque which has not been in a red zone at any time).

Then the groceries go straight to the red zone. I sanitize each item before storing it. This is why I have ordered only items which can be properly scrubbed in soapy water.

In the following days I get myself sorted. I leisurely prepare and store the food I’ve received in single portions and for later use in various recipes. Usually I purchase smaller quantities, but I need to adapt to less frequent trips to the grocery store. Might as well start now.

I make comforting meals in quantities that I can enjoy immediately as well as freeze for later.

Frankly, though some say it gets harder with age, this has been the easiest bout of jetlag in the more than 22 years I’ve been traveling between Canada and Japan. Thankfully, I get to spend the quarantine order in my serene home and can enjoy online connections with friends. I can’t imagine a quarantine confined to a cruise ship cabin, military barracks or third-rate hotel as others have endured.

Except for a digestive system that resists the transition to the new time zone, my energy is great. I miss walking most. I would love to hop in the car and visit a park or beach during these glorious spring days.

However there’s always something to occupy my time. Whatever it is always takes longer now because I need to be mindful of whether my hands are red or green at any given time.

I know, I know. It’s early days but so far so good.

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