On our own
by Ruth Neuwald Falcon, Seattle, WA

Last night, while I was putting a new bar of soap into the stall to be ready for the morning, the shower door came off its track. A small thing, but not now. Not now, when there is no one to call to fix a broken shower door. Or a broken anything else.

A friend’s apartment building just sent around a list of things to do to ensure that everything keeps working while we are all sheltering in place. Don’t overfill the freezer and block the fan. That was the instruction she shared with me. My freezer is filled to capacity. I don’t know that I could find the fan and even if I knew where it was, there’s no way I could rearrange things so as not to block it. Is my freezer doomed to breakdown? That is not a good thought. It did motivate me to start cleaning my refrigerator, pulling out all the shelves and drawers to scrub them.

A couple of days ago, while opening a can of sardines, the sharp edge of the lid made a small slice in my pinky. It didn’t bleed, but it was a warning. Like the freezer, my body needs to be paid a different kind of attention now. This is no time to need stitches.

We are on our own in a way that most of us in this country have never been before. The people of New Orleans experienced it during and after Katrina. I imagine it dawned on them incrementally too, that there was no one to call. No one was going to show up and help fix things. Yesterday, a friend in New York, isolated in his Bronx apartment, said, “I don’t know how to make a light bulb. Do you?” No. And I don’t know how to rub two sticks together to make a fire. A friend in Southern California says she’s having to relearn how to really clean her house, not just a superficial wipe-down between visits from the cleaning crew.

Perhaps because the scale of what we’re dealing with is so epic, I didn’t respond to the shower door as I once probably would have, with curses and agitation. Instead, I stood inside the dry shower in my socks and jigged the door in its track. It took a couple of tries, and my remaining calm, but then, pop, there it was back in its groove.

Now, I just have to find the refrigerator manual and learn how to put the big glass shelf and the crisper drawers back together again.


  1. I am more than proud of you, dear Ruth, for getting that shower door back in place! I have done a number of things that I hadn’t realized I could do. We are all more capable than we had known!


  2. Ah. Ingenuity is a wonderful thing. I have also thought about things breaking. Today I got a burner phone in case my actual phone broke and there was no repair people. And I have no land line. Good for you Ruth to get things handled!


  3. A good reminder that we are more resourceful than we think, and to handle things on our own as best we can, especially now. Beautifully written, and something we all can relate to. Thank you for this.


  4. Hi, Ruth,
    I chop a lot of vegetables on a regular basis, and have thought many times in the last few weeks: be careful! Don’t accidentally slice your finger. Doctors and hospitals have other things to deal with right now.


  5. Good job on the door, Ruth! But if it happens again, please wear shoes when you jiggle it! What if it fell out! (I have learned things like this the hard way 😉)
    Really enjoying your blog!


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