Covid-19 means new precautions when the mail arrives.
Who ever thought that the mail would become my adversary, as if it has taken on a life of its own?
I have always loved the daily mail delivery, a sort of roulette game that could bring random news or opportunities to your door. When I was a young teenager, I would hang around our front door just waiting for the mail to be pushed through the slot. The envelopes, flyers, and advertisement would plop down, then splay themselves across the floor.
“The mail’s here,” I would shout out to anyone who might be in earshot. I loved getting the first crack at it.
Back then, people still wrote letters to each other. I had a pen pal in England and a friend in another state, giving me hope that one of the envelopes was addressed to me.
As an adult, my husband often teased me, suggesting I was unnaturally interested in the mail. I countered that I just wanted to be sure I got all the bills that needed to be paid or any correspondence from an official source. As my older relatives died off, fewer and fewer people I knew would send hand-written cards and letters, but I kept checking just in case something interesting came in.
This month, March 2020, my relationship with the mail dramatically changed.
The mail still comes in the front door mail slot but when it hits the floor, I pace around it at a distance, suspicious of what it may hold. Each envelope, each package could be carrying a piece of the coronavirus and that is not welcome in our home.
The U.S. Postal Service and the Centers for Disease Control say there is a low risk that the mail is transmitting the virus but low risk means some risk and I’m not willing to take that chance. A study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that coronavirus can live up to 24 hours on cardboard, and up to two to three days on plastic and stainless steel.
So the letters, the bills and the unnecessary flyers remain on the floor for at least a day. On the second day, I pick the mail up gingerly in a gloved hand and move it to a table where I can at least see whom the letter comes from. Junk mail goes straight to the trash. Then I remove the glove and leave the remaining letters on the table for a couple of days as well.
My anxiety is high on the third day when I grab a disinfecting wipe and use it to carefully open the remaining envelopes and remove the content, usually a bill. The bill will sit on the table for another day or so until I feel it is safe to pick it up.
By then, more mail has been pushed through the mail slot, a mounting army of potential harm on my doorstep. I feel alternately foolish then confident that my safety protocols will help ensure that the coronavirus is not brought into the house.
In this new Twilight Zone where life goes on but in suspended animation, no piece of mail is urgent enough to risk infection by touching it when it arrives. The same goes for those cardboard boxes brought by delivery men and women that sit for a day or two on our porch.
Some day this virus will stop threatening the lives of millions of people around the world but ,in the meantime, I will pace around the pile of mail at my front door and repeat my action plan to deal with its threat.