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Each Monday, Tommy Tomlinson delivers thoughtful commentary on an important topic in the news. Through these perspectives, he seeks to find common ground that leads to deeper understanding of complex issues and that helps people relate to what others are feeling, even if they don’t agree.

On My Mind: Staying At Home, Reluctantly

Tommy Tomlinson

We’ve been fine not going anywhere for the past few days. But now that Mecklenburg County is on a stay-at-home order, going somewhere is all we want to do.

My mother-in-law and I talked at breakfast about where we would go if we could. We didn’t think about the Pyramids or the Grand Canyon. She thought about getting spring flowers at a nursery. I thought about browsing through the vinyl at Lunchbox Records down the street.

Of course we can go get groceries or medicine if we have to. And there are some loopholes written in. But the basic idea is that we should stay home for at least the next three weeks unless it’s absolutely necessary.

There are two reasons for this. One is that scientists think it’s the best way to keep the coronavirus from spreading. And two is that some people are still not reacting to all this with basic common sense.

You probably saw the spring breakers in Florida who partied on, slinging sweat and swapping spit. You might have been in a crowded store where nobody was keeping their distance. A friend of ours was at Target when the doors opened Saturday morning. It was like the running of the bulls as everybody shoved and sprinted to get to the toilet paper.

Most rules in this society are to save us from ourselves. And so we are told to stay home, knowing that will plant the unscratchable itch to get away.

I’ve mentioned in a couple of these columns that we have acquired a cat. He belonged to Alix’s mom, but the retirement community she moved into doesn’t allow pets. So Jack Reacher moved in with us. And Alix’s mom is with us, too, until the threat of the virus subsides.

The other morning, Alix’s mom was asleep at one end of the house and Alix was on a conference call at the other. So I lured him into the dining room with me and closed the doors.

As soon as I boxed him in, he wanted out. The doors at one end of the room are French doors, and he knows that if he reaches under them and pulls, he can get them open. So he started clawing at the bottom of the doors. I asked him not to. I went over and talked to him. I pointed my finger at him, which he hates. But every time I went back to my cereal, he went right back to scratching his way out.

Finally I’d had enough. “STOP!” I hollered, and took one big step toward him, and he skittered to the other end of the room.

In the moment, I was mad. But a part of me understood. We all hate to be told where we can and can’t go. But a cat doesn’t know any better. We do.


Tommy Tomlinson’s On My Mind column normally runs every Monday on WFAE and WFAE.org. It represents his opinion, not the opinion of WFAE. You can respond to this column in the comments section below. You can also email Tommy at ttomlinson@wfae.org.

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Tommy Tomlinson has hosted the podcast SouthBound for WFAE since 2017. He also does a commentary, On My Mind, which airs every Monday.