The last time I had a meal out — man, if I’d have known that at the time — was on the afternoon of March 7. It was a $3 double cheeseburger deal (double cheeseburger, small fries, bottomless Coke Zero) at Burger King, wolfed down on the way to the hardware store a few miles from my house.

That was 47 days ago. That was the last time I plopped myself down in a restaurant and ate something.

Since then, I’ve had two meals made outside the house; a drive-through Taco Bell run (dollar menu stuff; don’t judge), and a burrito bowl from Chipotle that I had delivered to the house a couple weeks ago. That’s it.

This is life in today’s social-distancing world. Home-cooked meals (pasta, beef, soups, stews, chicken, whatever) interspersed with sandwiches slapped together, chips and salsa gobbled down as lunch, cereal (and bananas, when we can get them), ice cream in front of the TV, and leftovers. There’s always leftovers in the fridge.

Which is all fine. We can’t go out to eat because of the coronavirus. Understood. We have things to eat. That’s good. No complaining. Seriously, if we don’t look back on this whole socially mandated isolation and belly-laugh in a few years, we’ll at least look back and say it was a little scary, sure, an economic punch in the gonads, certainly, a more-than-trifling annoyance, but … come on. We have enough good food to eat and a place to eat it.

It’s not like we’re sheltering-in-place at Burger King.

Food, really, is beside the point. (Though, granted, it’s in the same neighborhood.) I miss eating out, yeah, but not nearly as much as I miss going out. Just leaving the house — for a quick lunch with the working class or a dinner with those too frazzled to cook at home, or to run to Kroger, or even Target — provides something that is in short, short supply in this very real public health crisis; a break from monotony.

We all face a ton of challenges in this virus-spawned mess we’re in. Getting past the fear and depression and the uncertainty is certainly the biggest. But you know what would help? A little pause from all this monotony. A little something … different. A change of pace in a world that has all but stopped on its axis.

Get up. Eat. Work out. Shower. Work. Nibble. Watch TV. Work more. Read. Go to bed.
Get up. Eat. Work out. Shower. Work. Nibble. Watch TV. Work more. Read. Go to bed.
Get up. Eat. Work out. Shower. Work. Nibble. Watch TV. Work more. Read. Go to bed.
Get up. Eat. Work out. Shower. Work. Nibble. Watch TV. Work more. Read. Go to bed.
(times about 40 at this point)

When you’re looking forward to mowing the lawn, or walking in the neighborhood, or vacuuming the house, or changing the channel, for God’s sake, you’re in a rut. And the entire world is in nothing but one honking Grand Canyon of a rut right now.

In the old days — say early last month — I’d break up my week by heading out to lunch every Wednesday. I’d change up places; Mexican one week, a gyro the next, a Mediterranean joint I like the next, a burger place once in a while.  On a nice summer day, I prefer a restaurant with a patio, where I sit in the sun, flip through my phone, and refill my drink a few times.

But now … Rinse. Repeat. Monotony.

(Sounds like a board game, eh? And, of course, the internet …)

This upcoming Monday, April 27, earlier than most people think prudent or particularly sane, restaurants all over Georgia will open again. Our boot-licking Republican governor, who clearly cares more about the state’s wealth than its health (livelihood over lives is another way I’ve heard it), has cleared the way for the bored and leftover-filled among us to again sit in the Petri dish environment of a local restaurant. (This, after the righteous guv gave the go-ahead for bowling alleys, tattoo joints, hair parlors, and nail salons to open their doors on Friday. I’m not sure what he’s thinking. No one is.)

That’s great news, if you want a break for all the sameness, and if you’re willing to risk infection or don’t care about the risk you pose to others. That’s probably true of some. But many Georgians are petrified that this is all way premature. It’s like an engraved invitation for the coronavirus. Many people are preparing to hunker down even more.

Nobody wants to sit down in a nice eating establishment and have a good meal worse than I do at this point. I’m starting to dream about greasy french fries and rude counter workers.

Instead, I’ll wait, for months if I have to, so I can make sure that I won’t catch anything or carry out any nasty viruses. And I’ll hope that the Peach State’s too-early opening doesn’t cause a flareup in the state and make me wait even longer to go out.

I know that means more spirit-smacking, senses-dulling, energy-sapping monotony. More leftovers. More routine. For months.

And that may be the biggest problem with this coronavirus monotony: I’m learning to live with it.


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