Planet Janet

I just stopped in to my local grocery store for my weekly shop; it was not my goal to score and hoard toilet paper, hand sanitizer or any of the COVID-19 survival-kit items—I just needed a few things, such as salad olives, laundry detergent, and a Scrub Daddy. I hope you have enjoyed this forced intimacy with my shopping list.

I was shocked and alarmed at my store’s naked shelves—from the unexpected vacantness of the produce section to the obvious, decimated paper-products aisle. I even took a photo and texted it to my husband, because it was like walking through a disaster movie set. People wore grim expressions as they wiped down their shopping carts with sanitizer sheets. Though the pollen count down here is in the red zone, no one dared to sneeze. It seemed to me folks queued up a little less tightly at the deli counter, but maybe I imagined that. It’s a strange and frightening time.

Here’s what I’m doing to protect myself from COVID-19: as a proud alumnus, I’ve bookmarked the Johns Hopkins University COVID-19 real-time world map ( so that I can terrify myself with updates throughout the day. I dutifully posted the notice provided to me at work, emblazoned with the headline “WARNING” in bright red—it states I will escort you from our office if you exhibit flu-like symptoms, but I’m sure as heck not going to be escorting hacking, sneezing John Q. Public anywhere! No, I’ll be ducking my face behind my turtleneck and gesticulating wildly toward the door like a frantic mime while keeping a safe distance from your feverish self. That is, if there is such a thing as a safe distance. If necessary, I will calmly and professionally shout, “Hey you—get out! NOW!”

In my calming yoga class this morning—which may become an online class in the near future—the instructor emphasized that doing head stands, shoulder stands, downward-facing dog and other inverted poses bolsters the immune system. May I strongly suggest that all staff meetings, emergency update conference calls, and why not—national televised press conferences--start with a five-minute downward dog pose? It certainly would be entertaining! And laughter is a potent preventive medicine. Better yet, we all might want to adopt these poses publicly and randomly so we appear erratic and unhinged, thus providing an effective crowd-deterrent.

I guess what I should be doing to prevent COVID-19 is what I’m attempting to do right now—to remain positive; to try and put this difficult situation in perspective. In a way, this is a huge, pandemic-level experiment in letting go. We have no control over the relentless march of COVID-19 toward our community. To quote a famous 12-step program: we did not cause it, we can’t control it, and we can’t cure it.

Oddly, this is quite a liberating attitude to take. If we can do nothing, sometimes that frees us up to do almost anything.

So, let us bake cakes in our kitchens, watch movies that are uplifting, or read books that take our minds on a mini-vacation. Let us call up old friends or relatives. Let us knit, or learn to knit, or maybe just watch somebody else knit. My mother once tried to teach me to knit and, in her words, it was worse than taking me shoe-shopping. But that is a story for another column, wherein I reveal that I always had a close connection with the folk song, “Clementine,” since my feet are disproportionately large for my person.

Before you email me to tell me to take off my rose-colored glasses and get real, may I gently remind you that a positive outlook has documented health benefits?

In the face of fear, let us strive to remain happy, grateful and kind. This is my prayer for all, for all time. And now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to do a headstand.

Janet Combs is a freelance writer living in Georgetown County. Contact her at