I once met a woman who had to rent out an entire restaurant just so she could go out for dinner. She was agoraphobic. Basically she only left home when forced / encouraged. She had all of her daily needs delivered to her, after ordering them online or over the phone. The UPS man, the grocery delivery person, the mailman and the Purolator courier knew her well. They left her purchases inside the covered porch, where they would not be damaged by wind, snow or rain. As per her instructions, they rang the doorbell and left, without saying hello.
Since the middle of March, many of us have been pretty much confined to our homes. I don’t know about you, but I think I am developing agoraphobia, to an extent. The only time I leave home (or the cottage), is to buy groceries. I don the mask, the hand sanitizer and I check off the items on my list, quickly and efficiently. Following the arrows on the aisles. Keeping my 6-foot distance from the other shoppers. I see someone I recognize, but I don’t call out their name or start a conversation. Why? I don’t know. I just keep moving. Trying not to touch things that I will not buy. Thinking about all of the hands that have touched, and all of the mouths that have potentially coughed on the things that I have put in my cart.
I know that it is entirely possible that I have become a bit paranoid. It’s amazing what the brain will do when you restrict its interaction with other human beings. I see the Farmer, of course, and other members of our “10”; our 5 daughters and their mates, pretty much. My mother. My sister. But when I’m out in public, I tend to be a bit freaked out, lately.
This isn’t the first time I have noticed a strange reaction to interacting with the general public following a period of self-isolation. In the winter of 2017 I worked on a compilation of columns, publishing a book. In April, after basically being home since December, I went to a networking event. I remember feeling slightly offended by the first person who made eye contact and asked me a question. I felt my privacy had been invaded. Weird? Yes. Normal? Probably. This was my first exposure to people outside my family group, in about 5 months.
I am nearing 5 months now of just family contact. I suspect the next time you see me out in public, I might be acting a little strange. It’s ok – we are all adjusting to the new normal. And we might be a little “weird” until we get used to each other again.