Searching for Surgical Gloves

April 5, 2020 Betsy Voreacos

Searching for Surgical Gloves

I’m a counter. I guess that makes me somewhat OCD (I hear you, my sisters, somewhat, you say?). I count laundry that I fold, I count minutes that I write, I count seconds that I clean, I count chores that I complete, and of course, I count calories that I consume. But, admittedly, sometimes I can’t count that high.

In the olden days when I went on my walks, I’d count my steps. Then I got an Apple watch that does it for me. So now, I count steps in my head and compare with those recorded on my watch, which are surprisingly, or maybe not, pretty darn close. When I get bored of doing that, I move on to counting how many dogs I see, how many red front doors I pass, how many people honk and wave, or how many kitchen cabinets I have left to clean out (down to three, gotta ration them).

Yesterday, to preserve a modicum of sanity, I took a break from the Cuomo press briefings and COVID-19 news conferences and call-in radio with idiots asking why, if baseball is played outside, they can’t just open up CitiField if we promise to keep our distance from one another. Instead, I listened on my old-school Sony Walkman with the old-fashioned headset to a classic soul show on public radio. As I internally bopped my way through town with Al Green and Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder, I came across something completely new to count.

In a three-and-a-half mile walk, I counted not one, not ten, but 17 surgical gloves discarded on the side of the road. Some of them were quite attractive. There were blue and purple and green gloves. There were gloves with fingers fully spread. There were gloves that looked brand-new. But, there were also some so rumbled and crumpled and torn and twisted that I had to kick them with my toe to discern whether I could add them to my count. To make sure they weren’t a newspaper bag filled with a Pomeranian’s poop.

I don’t know about you, but 17 surgical gloves in a three-and-a-half mile radius seems like an awful lot to me. Perhaps because surgical gloves are a new household product, we just haven’t figured out their place in the world. Will they choke pigeons and puppies and lie in landfills for eternity? Do we bag them in zip locks to keep them from contaminating innocent trash collectors? Are they recyclable, flushable, reusable?

I get that we’re all trying to figure out the risk vs reward of surgical gloves, but still can’t wrap my brain around why anyone out there thinks it’s OK to litter the streets with anything, let alone, PPE. But, then again, I still haven’t been able to grasp why so many people causally toss Corona bottles out of their car windows, leaving unsuspecting bicyclists with flat tires, twenty miles from home.

While alternately cogitating and counting, I made another disturbing discovery. Not one single glove had a partner. It was as if the wearer had made a Sophie’s Choice – the right one stays, the left one goes. I wonder what the thought process was there. I’ll keep the left one because I wiped my nose with the right. I’ll keep the right because I touched the grocery bag with the left. Or was it the left? Can’t waste two, I’ll do eeny-meeny-miny-moe, out the window one will go.

I’m really trying hard not to judge anyone’s actions during this time. Not the sneezer in the supermarket. Not the social non-distancer on the sidewalk. Not the families who are filling their homes with friends and lovers and sending them out in different directions for tacos.

No one, not even the most normal among us, is being normal.

So, instead, I’ll just keep walking. And counting crazy things.

It’s a whole lot better than counting the days we’ve been quarantined. And, infinitely more comforting than counting the ever-growing list of friends who have fallen victim to, or died from, this unfathomably unaccountable thing called COVID-19.

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