I am, under normal circumstances, a polite and courteous person. I am concerned and involved in the welfare of others. I enjoy and respect older people and will go visit elderly neighbors, and even other people’s older parents, just so they won’t feel lonely.

That was yesterday’s reality. Today, I have diagnosed myself as “COVID Crazy.” I have a definite fever that has been ramped up by Anderson Cooper and Chris Cuomo of CNN, who give me the daily death toll and numbers on positive tests of COVID-19 around the globe. Not a physical fever, but a psychological fever which has transformed my calm and delightful nature into a paranoid nervous Nelly. 

Maybe you have found yourself doing some of what I have done recently. Here is one story.

Recently, my husband, Keith, and I found ourselves needing to unexpectedly buy a vehicle due to a lockdown situation in our hometown.  We needed to purchase a truck in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.  I wasn’t even sure we could do that. 

Keith, clearly not himself, said the most unusual thing: “I don’t want to go out to buy a truck. You do it.” Clearly this virus was influencing his brain function that left securing the vehicle to me. Armed with a checkbook and COVID apprehension, I headed out. 

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I looked on my phone and found the nearest dealership, and fortunately it had its entire inventory listed with pictures and details. I chose the RAM truck that was listed on their website — a model I had driven for years. I called to make an appointment to see the truck with the request that the salesperson meet me in the parking lot with the key, so I did not have to go inside.

I arrived, and spotted the sales guy coming toward me with, of all horrors, his arm outstretched to shake my hand. Was this guy crazy? Did he not watch Anderson telling everyone to stay six feet away from each other? He kept coming and in my panic that he would breach the sacred six-foot distance, I yelled, “Stop right there, don’t come any closer!”

He screeched to a halt and helplessly pointed to the shiny red truck nearby. “My name is Marty and if I can be…” he trailed off, realizing he was an unwanted part of this transaction. I admired his astute observation.

Armed with a container of Clorox wipes, I had him throw me the keys. With my latex-gloved hand, I caught the key fob and wiped it down meticulously. As I walked toward the vehicle, Marty, my very confused salesman, began to follow until I shot him a glance that reminded him that he was not to get near me. He stayed back and yelled details about torque, load capacity, a 30-day limited warranty on used vehicles. 

I opened the door with my disposable Clorox wipe and looked in. I turned to Marty and asked him, “How much?” He invited me into his fancy glass-and-chrome office building to discuss the price. I declined.

I thought I should make my position crystal clear so Marty would get the picture.  I said, “Marty, I am sure you are a nice person. However, I would like you to stay away from me. Please let me know how much this truck will cost, and if we can agree on a price, I will give you a check and you give me the keys.”  

As the words left my mouth, I did not recognize the growl in my voice. Something was making me a bit crazy– ah yes, COVID Crazy.

Marty looked like I had hurt his feelings. There must be a code of used car sales that I had breached. He asked if I would like to drive the truck and I said, “I will drive the vehicle only if I purchase it.”

The salespeople and support staff at this lot outside Colorado were conducting business as usual. No social distancing, no gloves, no masks to protect their clients or themselves — as if unaware there was a spot of trouble in the world.

I agreed to pay full price and watched this hardened used car guy swoon. Still a bit dubious about my sanity, he said he would get his maintenance department to wash and vacuum the truck while he completed paperwork. I yelped, “No!  Nobody touches the truck!”

I spent the next 15 minutes in gloves and a blue paper face mask wiping every surface, including fuzzy material seats, with my potent mixture of Clorox and hydrogen peroxide, a combination that probably would cause brain damage to lab rats but hopefully killed the coronavirus. 

I finished up just about the time Marty’s manager, Ricky, came out to meet the lunatic buyer of the prized RAM truck. Ricky approached, believing he was immune to my hysteria and I shouted, “Stop right there, please!”  He said I would have to come inside to sign the final documents, and I politely refused.

I held out the check. It was his decision– take the check and bring the paperwork to me, or decide I was a hoax and walk away. I reminded him that I had just completed wiping down the interior of his vehicle with my proprietary mixture of solvents that had most likely turned the seat fabric to a polka dot pattern.  He handed me the necessary papers, I signed, and Ricky took the check.

I thanked the sales team, got into the truck and drove away.      

Although I’ve watched my transformation into a hypervigilant and fear-driven individual, my hope is that when this firestorm of disease has passed by our doors, I will return to my caring and humanity-loving self.

Until then, call before you drop by!

Meanwhile, in my next COVID Crazy Edition, I will give details about how I orchestrate my home deliveries and explain my system of retrieving mail from the mailbox.  

Rita Payne is a second-year student in the Nature Writing/MFA program at Western Colorado University.