When will I be able to eat my coworkers' candy again? 

  • Photo by Prostock-Studio/GETTY IMAGES

Before self-isolation sent us sadly toting our laptops to makeshift home offices, we had a little tradition in the Pique newsroom.

In fact, it was more like an unofficial commandment: If thou buyest a bag of mixed candies from Delish next door, thou must shareth with thy fellow journalists.

Most often, that meant the person who procured the candy (usually a mix of Dinosours, Swedish Berries, Coke Bottles, and Sour Keys), would reach their hand into the little plastic bag, select whatever flavour they like least, and toss it across the room to a reporter whose mouth was opened wide, like a baby bird waiting to receive a pre-chewed worm from Mother.

A successful catch happened about one in 10 tries. (I believe sports editor Dan Falloon's stats are slightly higher with features editor/news reporter Brandon Barrett trailing slightly behind.)

Usually, the compact sugar treat would thwack sadly on the hardwood floor and the unsuccessful recipient would pick it up, examine it, lightly dust it off, and eat it.

Why do I share this insight into just how juvenile our office can be? (Besides the fact that I miss them already.) To illustrate one simple thing: CAN YOU IMAGINE EATING ANYTHING ANOTHER HUMAN HAS TOUCHED RIGHT NOW, LET ALONE OFF THE FLOOR?

Those good old days that I already long so desperately for were a mere two weeks ago and my relationship to hygiene has done an absolute 180 in that time.

I mean I'm a grown woman who has always washed her hands frequently, used a very specific face cleanser every night without exception, and occasionally even double scrubbed office cutlery.

But I have eaten Dinosours off the newsroom floor (even the yellow ones, which are hardly worth it) without a second thought. I've also snacked in the car without thinking twice about the germs on my steering wheel, eaten with absolutely filthy hands while hiking, and I've gone, like, years without washing my computer keyboard.

On Tuesday night, this whiplash led to a bit of a breakdown. I returned home from the drug store where I picked up some essentials, along with a couple boxes of crackers for our pandemic stash. I immediately washed my hands, Lysol'd the dog leash, and then looked at my cloth grocery bag.

Should I wipe down the purchases? Put my bag in the wash? Scrub my keys?

Contemplating all of this—and the fact that there is no end in sight to this new paranoid normal—I started to cry.

I don't know how much effort is enough to protect myself, my fiancé (the future of our wedding is a whole other tear-filled column), and the community. What if I'm responsible for passing this on to my elderly neighbour because I didn't wash my box of crackers?

It's too much. It's all too much. And I worry about the lasting impact this new over-the-top obsession with hygiene will have on all of us.

Will we ever again be able to go back to carefree candy tossing? Or will this experience forever impact the way we interact with the world around us?

How long will we have to stand far away from our neighbours to have a little chat? How long will we have to grimace at every doorknob we have to touch? How long are my hands going to feel like breeding grounds for a virus?

No one seems to know.

I haven't quite crawled out of this paranoid spiral yet, but my conclusion is this: do the best you can. Follow the rules set out for us by experts for the time being and hope that it's enough.

And, for now, I'll be eating my candy alone in my living room.

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