Meredith C. Carroll: Pandemic time: like normal time, just longer

Meredith C. Carroll
Muck Off
Meredith Carroll
Courtesy photo

We are a solid eight months into the pandemic and my 9-year-old daughter has graduated from eating three meals a day to eating all day. What’s most notable about this is neither the dramatic rise in grocery bills nor calories, but rather her insistence that someone other than her prepares every morsel she consumes, and that the entire family is contractually obligated to convene a panel discussion to brainstorm menu options prior to her selection of each assorted snack, refreshment and nibble.

It’s a good thing the pandemic has gifted us with so many hours in the day that we get to spend together, in the house, usually trying to figure out something for my 9-year-old to eat. It’s something I’ve had a lot of time to think about.

Same for the dishwasher, which I’ve taken to rearranging roughly every 90 minutes, or 16 times daily, and not just because my 9-year-old burns through our entire flatware, cup and plate inventory before taking exactly no sips and three bites of her carefully negotiated and painstakingly prepared second breakfast only to leave it sitting on the table “for later” or until it starts growing a five o’clock shadow. No, the pandemic also has allowed for time to illustrate in elaborate detail how my husband is fundamentally incapable of loading the dishwasher like anything resembling an adult human who has voluntarily been married to, living with, dating or known to (specifically) me for over 17 years.

However, lest anyone thinks I’ve done nothing but stare critically at my loved ones for the past 5,840 hours, I’ve also been making lists, because what else is there to do (besides work for actual money when I’m not busy preparing amuse-bouches for a 9-year-old).

For instance, I’ve started taking note of all the things COVID-19 has ruined forever, including:

Bowling: As if, in a pre-coronavirus world, most people weren’t already prone to the dry heaves when lacing up the bowling alley’s unironic circa-”The Big Lebowski” rental shoes and then slipping their naked fingers from inside the community petri dish, I mean bowling ball finger holes, into a basket of fries, also for sharing.

Free samples: A doctor I saw earlier this week was dressed in a face shield, mask, scrub cap, goggles, two pairs of gloves and a protective gown. Under COVID-19 protocols, the only way for the doctor to safely scratch her own itchy nose during the appointment was with the aid of a sterilized tongue depressor. I don’t imagine the people handing out the free samples at Costco are bound by a Hippocratic Oath to maintain the same hygienic standards. RIP, Italian-style beef meatballs cut into eighths and served in tiny plastic cups.

The Melania Trump F*** Christmas recording: Did you know Christmas came early this year? On Oct. 1, to be exact. That’s when a recording was released of Melania Trump declaring war on Christmas in a now-classic Yuletide rant: “(w)ho gives a f*** about the Christmas stuff and decorations?” It was the October surprise we didn’t know we needed, but that, unfortunately, so few people got to enjoy. That’s because Donald Trump was diagnosed with COVID-19 on Oct. 2. Surprise.

Shot skis and bongs: The very antithesis of social distancing. RIP, college-level partying.

When I’m not busy turning down my 9-year-old’s bed at night and placing a mint on her pillow, I’ve also used the pandemic time to reflect on some things I’ve been wrong about. As you may suspect, it’s a short list.

The Castle Creek Bridge: Two-and-a-half years ago I wrote a column complaining about Aspen’s Castle Creek Bridge improvement project (The Hassle Creek Bridge: What is it good for?). Perhaps it was the anticipated headache of a monthslong construction enterprise. Or maybe I mistakenly thought I was personally responsible for either the actual repairs or the $4.65M repair price tag. Whatever it was, though, I take it back. The Castle Creek Bridge pedestrian enhancements have, indeed, elevated my experience escaping to or from home (because over the past eight months, it’s been either-or).

Missing the free samples: Apparently you can still shop at Costco without stopping for 11 snacks between the freezer section and toilet paper aisle. Turns out you save a lot of calories and money that way. Who knew.

Ball pits: I have always been the mean mom who doesn’t let her children play in toilet bowls, I mean foam ball bits. Turns out I was wrong and they’re actually super clean. Just kidding. RIP, ball pits.

Personal space: Space is not all that personal and yet at the same time, it’s all-too personal when your children are still allowed in it because you’re “members of the same household.” (This is not something I was wrong about, just something that’s wrong.)

More at and on Twitter @MCCarroll.