Sure, the development and rollout of COVID vaccine, fans cheering for the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park, air travel up, Italy letting U.S. tourists back in, restaurants back in business ... they're all positive signs pointing to the return of "normal life" someday soon.
But like the first robin of spring, I saw the most promising, no-denying sign of COVID-free life this week in the most unlikely of places.
The Valero station in my neighborhood is giving away free hand sanitizer to everybody who pumps at least $5 worth of gas. And the Circle K store inside the station was piled to the ceiling with hand sanitizer and masks. It looks like a scene from Hoarders, stacks and stacks and displays of hand sanitizer.
The sign read:
BLOW OUT SALE
2 oz. hand sanitizers: 3 for $1.
3 pack disposable masks: $1.
25 pack disposable masks: $5.
3 pack reusable white cloth masks: $1
My local 99 Cents store has BOGO hand sanitizer and masks. It’s like the vaccine itself, they're having trouble giving it away.
Turn the dial in Mr. Peabody's wayback machine to one year ago: People were marauding supermarkets, scouring the Internet, and paying illegal, price-gouging markups for hand sanitizer and masks.
Remember those crook brothers in Tennessee who filled their garage with hand sanitizer and tried to sell it on the black market? I was part of an underground network of neighbors who texted if they found hand sanitizer, then we’d all run.
I knew when deliveries were made to local supermarkets and I'd be there at 6 am opening. I knew the layouts of these stores and would race to the aisle where hand sanitizer, Clorox wipes, and Lysol spray might be. Most of the time the shelves were bare, but occasionally I’d hit the motherlode.
I became somewhat of a hoarder myself. I know, part of the problem, but my survival instincts set in. What if they never found a vaccine for coronavirus? Nope, if I see Lysol spray, I'm buying my limit. And I need to go to Home Depot to put heavy-duty locks on my front door in case villagers with pitchforks and torches come for my Purel.
Actually, I got a delayed start to the scavenger hunt. I left for a 10-day visit to England in February, 2020. It was a promotional tour for the new James Bond movie, No Time To Die, scheduled to be released the following month. I packed a can of Lysol from under my kitchen sink. My plane to London was sold out, they were asking for volunteers for a later flight.
It was during my 10 days in London that COVID turned the world turned upside down. That fast. My plane back had only 12 passengers aboard. I slept on five seats across in economy. The James Bond movie was postponed and still hasn't been released.
I did bring home a treasure. I sweet-talked (begged) a hotel desk clerk out of a 24-ounce bottle of hand sanitizer. They had a supply room full of it. So I was okay for a few weeks of obsessive hand-sanitizing after I returned to Houston.
A bottle of hand sanitizer lasts a pretty long time, but I needed more. It became a cross between a game and compulsive obsession to find disinfectant wipes, paper towels, toilet paper, and hand sanitizer. I started seeing the same mole people hanging around the front door of supermarkets at 5:55 am.
I am fully vaccinated and I trust the CDC and Dr. Fauci and the other scientists. I know my risk of infection is practically zero.
But, I think I'll have a problem giving up the mask. You know that song, "I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face?" Well, I've grown accustomed to not seeing yours.
I'm not sure I'd feel comfortable in a movie theater now, even though I know it's safe, or at least somewhat safe, or a little safe. You know something? I'll wait till the James Bond movie comes out on DVD.