Weekend humor from Celia Rivenbark: After COVID confinement, chemistry is a bit off

Last night, I was maybe 18 minutes into what could best be described as a speech to a friend who is also fully vaccinated.

Thinking back on it, she honestly didn’t seem that into what I was saying for the last 17 minutes or so. I cared not. When you’re finally able to talk in person to a friend for the first time in 13 months, well, you forget your manners.

Did I detect a pained look when I interrupted her by holding up my hand? Was she so bored she was thinking about chewing her own flesh so she could slowly disappear? Hmmmm.

The subject, since you ask (you were going to, right?), was my new hot tub. But that was just the first minute. The other 17 minutes, now that I’m thinking about it honestly in the cold, caffeinated light of day were spent on the sexy subsection: “Hot tub chemistry.”

Wait. It’s soooo much more interesting than you think. To hear about it. Unendingly. Because after more than a year of not speaking in person to hardly anyone besides the supermarket cashier, I’ve forgotten the basics of polite conversation.

“And then, here’s the tricky part because you want to make sure your pH is perfect because if it’s not, no amount of sanitizer—chlorine, bromine, minerals or what have you—will work properly. Let me give you an example…”

At the end of our visit, I was pretty pleased with how much I had taught my friend about hot tub chemistry even though she lives in an apartment and most likely has no immediate need for this information.

I’m not completely rude. I also shared with her the importance of chair socks, which I discovered in Month 2 of pandemic isolation and have frequently blogged about but, oddly, have had no feedback whatsoever. I guess some people don’t mind if their hardwood floors are scratched by unsocked chair legs. Savages.

Over the past 13 months, I realized the way I greeted my husband (who has worked out in the world in his very same office the entire time!) was exactly how it was when The Princess was a newborn. I plugged into him like a dying cell phone seeking news “from the outside.” Where adults interacted and did adulty things like talk about “action items” and “lunch.”

Back then, it was almost endearing how I hung on his every word. Now, with only two morbidly obese cats as my all-day companions instead of an adorable infant, I just seem, well, pathetic.

“And then what did he say?” I asked.


“I don’t care. ANYBODY!!!!!”

Because I only went to the grocery store for most of my confinement, I may have seemed needy to certain store personnel.

“Huh. Paper or plastic, you ask? I dunno. What do you think? I mean both have their advantages and disadvantages, am I right? Hey! Let me tell you about algaecide because, if you ever get a hot tub, you’re going to need…”

Oh, if only I were making up that conversation.

Fast forward to our first fully vaccinated, masked and socially distanced restaurant visit last weekend. Fun fact: I no longer know how to behave in public, period. I’ll have the scallops. No! The flounder. No, the ribeye….No,no,no,no…how about the halibut? Why? For the halibut—get it? Hahahahahaha!” Did Duh just duck under the table?!? I changed my drink order THREE times.

A word of warning: As we all venture out into the world again, carefully and vaccinatedly, we may stumble when trying to navigate, well, simple conversation. We can’t help it. We’re just so tail-waggin’ happy to be able to talk to someone that doesn’t poo in a box behind the washer.

And another warning: If you DO decide to install a hot tub, you’re going to want to keep a close eye on that Cyanuric Acid. Trust me on that.

Celia Rivenbark is a NYT-bestselling author and columnist. Write her at [email protected].

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