(Editor’s note: We asked some of our sports department colleagues to share this week what their lives have been like without the usual routines of news, practice and games to guide them. This is a six-part series.)
The shelves at Target were bare of disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer, so I decided to try a CVS Pharmacy that was near the SAP Center in San Jose, Calif.
But after steering my rental car into the parking lot and browsing the aisles, I again left empty-handed.
Oh well, I thought, and drove to the game.
Earlier that day, on March 5, was the first time I felt the threat of the coronavirus.
Hours before the Wild was scheduled to start a three-game road trip in California, Santa Clara County — the county where the Sharks play — recommended postponing or canceling mass gatherings and large community events amid more confirmed cases of coronavirus.
The news blindsided me.
When the outbreak had begun months earlier, the virus wasn’t visible enough in my life to cause me to worry — even though I was frequently traveling and hunkering down in jam-packed rinks for hours at a time, just like I was that night when the Wild still faced off against the Sharks as planned.
But now COVID-19 had my attention. And only a week later, it stopped me in my tracks.
The NHL suspended its season on March 12, dumping Wite-Out on the calendar that told me where to go and what to do for the next month.
I was supposed to be at Xcel Energy Center later in the day, to watch the Wild take on the Vegas Golden Knights, then fly to Philadelphia the next morning. A back-to-back in Chicago and Winnipeg was the following week.
Now, round trips go from the kitchen island to the couch in the living room — sometimes with a layover in front of the refrigerator.
I felt lost and disoriented, like I woke up on a deserted island without cellphone service.
Eventually, the games always run out. The season ends, and months go by before it’s time to start the cycle over again.
Hockey’s return is one of my favorite times of the year, when I get to settle back into the routine that I love. Practices and games and flights to different cities. The stories change, just like the scenery, but the cadence is the same.
It’s the heartbeat I’ve set my life to, and I wasn’t expecting it to stop in mid-March. But it did, so I was forced to find a new rhythm to fill the void.
I cooked every night, testing out recipes for pasta carbonara and strawberry pie. For the first time in years, I resumed cross-stitching — weaving X’s into fabric that should depict three owls when I’m finished — and I devoured puzzles.
I caught up on TV shows I had fallen behind on during the season, getting to where I sat through commercials because I began to watch new episodes live. Sitcoms were for Tuesdays, reality shows on Wednesdays, and during weekends I switched to movies.
This loop went on for weeks until I realized why it suited me.
It gave me structure and restored order when there wasn’t any. I liked having a formula to follow, whether it be steps to making dinner, following embroidery instructions or figuring out how to organize the pieces so they all synced together.
I don’t get the same fulfillment from completing these tasks as I do when I send in a story just after a game ends.
But until it’s safe for hockey to come back, this is my new normal. And I’m OK with that.