The doors slide open and I walked in. I walked in like I've walked into that building countless times before. This time was different.
Two nurses, fully covered in scrubs that covering every possible body part stood before me. One on my right and another on my left. I was stopped at the door with one long question.
“Have you traveled outside the country, had a cough, been sneezing, had a fever, or have been exposed to anyone with the coronavirus in the past few days?” The nurse on my left asked, behind her plastic shield face mask. It was the new greeting.
This is really happening? I thought to myself. At the time, I was on my phone with tech support. “I have to hang up with you now,” I cautiously told Adam on the phone.
“I’m sorry about that,” she smiles and then repeats the question, “Have you traveled outside the country, had a cough, been sneezing, had a fever, or have been exposed to anyone with the coronavirus in the past few days?”
“No,” I smiled... a forced smile.
“Okay,” she said stepping aside to let me enter the building. Scanning my surroundings, it felt like some kind of a zone―an illness zone, a war zone, maybe a twilight zone. I’m not really sure that I can completely confirm what that felt like. I noticed the emptiness of the clinic and continued into the elevator. There were hand sanitizer machines at every turn. Like some kind of new habit, I reached out for some. My hands were already sanitized. I had already rubbed my hands with sanitizer before walking into the building, but I took more anyway.
Now in the elevator, the buttons. There are buttons to push. I’m in a clinic. I… I took a clean tissue from my pocket, wrapped it around my index finger and pushed the glowing number 4. I traveled up four floors in this elevator, alone. I could breath. Alone. Still a little nervous. I was suddenly consumed with the feeling of not wanting to touch anything. I wanted to avoid touching anything in the newly built, almost empty, clinic.
I checked in, paid my co-payment, and waited… alone.
“Hello. How are you?” my doctor asked and then he stretched out his hand, like he always does. Maybe out of habit, or maybe for just a moment he forgot. “Hello doctor…” I began to respond and like an old thoughtful habit, I reached out for his hand. Habits. Should I not have… It’s pointless to reflect on it now.
I shook his hand. One hand directly touching another, palm to palm. He is my ear doctor. The guy who keeps me from going deaf. We laughed nervously, took some hand sanitizer and with that cleared off any remnants of the possible dangers of goodwill.
The visit left me wondering if this is now our new normal.