You don’t want to kill anyone. It’s not really your style. But the urge hits you as a call to adventure of sorts. It begins as an amorphous desire to shake up the relentless monotony of your life and resolves itself as something sweet and frosted, and possibly jelly-filled.
You realize — with growing dread — that the time has come to acquire donuts.
And that means you might kill someone.
In the ancient past (approximately 60+ days ago), acquiring donuts was a simple proposition. You went and got donuts. There wasn’t much more to it. How you did it didn’t really matter as long as donuts were acquired in as a quick and efficient manner as possible. It was rarely lethal.
Today, not so much.
A series of steps, precautions, and quasi-superstitious rituals must be abided by so that you don’t inadvertently kill anyone. At all times, you must operate under the assumption that you are harboring a highly contagious and unusually deadly virus while simultaneously taking care not to become infected by said virus. You are both potential vector and victim. This duality rules your behavior.
The best course of action is to stay put. Stay inside. Refuse the call. Forget about the donuts.
But you can’t. You’ve been without donuts for far too long. And delivery will take forever.
So you must venture into the outside world.
Before you do anything, you must wash your hands. Your hands are the enemy. They are in cahoots with the virus and they are always scheming of a way to sneak the virus into your mucous membranes. Wash them good. Clean them until they hurt. Punish them.
Don’t forget to moisturize.
After that, you are ready to put your shoes on. Like your conniving hands, they cannot be trusted. All shoes have been banished to the hallway, outside your unit. They must never cross the threshold. And so you put them on in the hallway, trying to keep your balance as you work your foot into each sole, without touching them. Making contact with the shoe means your hands have become contaminated, and thus, ends your donut quest. All progress is lost. You must start over. You must wash your hands again.
But let’s say the shoes are a success. You come out of the exercise triumphant. You’re ready to go on your way. But you’ve forgotten one thing, my friend. Your mask.
Here you have been, huffing and puffing, grunting in frustration and growing embarrassment as you jammed your feet into a pair of double-knotted tennis shoes, all the while, your lungs have been saturating the shared hallway of your multi-unit building with countless droplets of nebulized water, each and every one of them possibly teeming with the virus. Just imagine the calamity you would’ve unleashed if you had sneezed.
In all likelihood, you have put your neighbors and the greater community in mortal danger. Anyone of them could blunder face first into your vile breath-cloud and inhale the virus. Or it could land in the corner of their eye and make its way through the cranny of a tear duct. Or land on their hands and the next time they go to itch their nose, they will have unwittingly given the virus a complimentary lift to their respiratory system.
Anyway, you are an idiot. An absolute buffoon.
You remove your shoes and retrieve your mask before mucking things up further.
Finally, you are now properly equipped to make the most dangerous trek of your donut journey — exiting the building.
There are exactly four door handles you must make contact with. This is unavoidable. You could wear gloves, but then you’d have to wash them and it’s trickier to wash nitrile gloves than your hands. So you opt to navigate these doors barehanded. You use only your left hand, localizing all contamination to a single appendage. Use it to open the doors and the doors alone. Keep it away from everything else — especially your face. Treat your hand like a piece of radioactive waste.
You stop at each door and listen for anyone on the other side of it. But you hear nothing. This allows you to exit the building without exchanging any air with your neighbors. You can breathe a sigh of relief (not too deeply though). The danger is over for now.
Only problem is that your left hand could be contaminated from touching all those door handles. There is no soap and water readily available on the outside of your building. It’s a virtual handwashing desert. But never fear. You are prepared. You have a canteen of hand sanitizer.
You use it sparingly and with more than a bit of apprehension. Supplies are low. Who knows how long it will last and when you will be able to get another bottle. But for now, your left hand has been sterilized. Clean again, it is able to assist in the drive to the donut store.
Under no circumstances should you enter the donut store. It might as well be a superfund site. Use the drive thru. There, your order is safely relayed through an intercom system. Your breath — absolutely replete with microscopic pathogens on a good day — is converted into a weak electrical signal, amplified, and converted back into sound waves by the tiny electromagnets in the donut clerk’s headset. It is the only 100% safe way to communicate your need for donuts. You hope they can understand you through your mask. You hope you can understand them through their mask.
You pay with a credit card. Never cash — unless you have exact change — but you never do. So you use the credit card and douse it in hand sanitizer once it is handed back to you.
Congratulations! You have acquired donuts. And you very probably didn’t kill anyone in the process.
But you must resist the urge to eat the donuts. Now is not the time. Your quest is far from over.
Upon return, the keypad that opens the front door to your building tests you like a touch-tone sphinx. You have to punch in the door code. Four unique digits. Four points of contact. Each button on the keypad is a concourse of disease. Countless species of microorganism mill around, waiting for their connecting flight and the tip of your finger is the next scheduled departure.
After the ordeal with the keypad, you must negotiate the four door handles all over again — this time while balancing a box of donuts.
When you finally enter your unit, you must remove your mask immediately so as not to frighten your young daughter.
Now you have some decisions to make. Do you wash your hands immediately or do you remove your jacket then wash your hands? Maybe you wash your hands then remove your coat then wash your hands again. Do you set the box of donuts on the counter then clean the counter later? What if you forget? You still have to touch the box to open it — which could be contaminated. Which means another round of washing. You could disinfect the box but getting rid of it would be the most expedient course of action.
So you dump the donuts on to a clean plate. The box is deposited directly into the trash. You wash your hands again.
You disinfect the door knob and the baby gate on the way into the kitchen. You wipe down the counter and the sink faucet. You wash your hands again. Because they have disinfectant all over them. By this point, 60+ days into a global pandemic, your knuckles are a nightmare. Don’t forget to moisturize.
You stink like a public pool. It is the smell of victory.
The donuts are now ready to be eaten. Your wife and child regard them with the kind of deep — almost spiritual — reverence usually reserved for holy relics.
You have to admit that you feel like a minor hero. Your donut quest has amounted to a scale model monomyth. You deftly avoided trillions of microscopic pathogens and returned with The Ultimate Boon — a dozen of them in fact. You became neither vector nor victim (for now). You are a master of two worlds, as Joseph Campbell would’ve put it. In other words, you earned these donuts. You may now eat them. And nothing makes a donut taste better than knowing that the chances you killed anyone along the way are very, very low.