My parents tested positive for Covid a couple weeks ago. I'll probably share more about how stressful (I mean, like, living in a nightmare concocted by Satan itself) this has been for my family once the dust settles on this a bit.

Tl;dr: please please please stay vigilant about this disease right now and please please please get your vaccine. My parents have been model citizens in terms of social distancing, mask wearing, and following all recommendations and Commandments. That helped them avoid getting sick for a year, but they still managed to catch it just as they became eligible for the vaccine. No joke—not hyperbole—I legitimately thought I might become an orphan one week ago today. That would have been terrible for a lot of reasons. But mostly, this face was not made for combat with Miss Hannigan.

Anyway, thank God things are looking better right now than they were several days ago. Bob and Cathie are moving in the right direction. Bob is currently in the hospital, but the hospital has been optimistic and enthusiastic with his progress, and we expect, if things continue in the right direction, to bring him home in the next few days.

One challenge we discovered when he got hospitalized is that he really struggled with the hospital food.

I'm not familiar with hospital food. The only time I've ever had to stay in a hospital was in Ukraine in 2004 when I had my appendectomy and a nurse who smelled like a bucket of discarded cigarettes tossed a tray holding a cold fish head onto my bed and then yelled in Ukrainian "turn over!" so she could jam a three-foot long rusty railroad nail into my bony 20-year-old ass to give me my antibiotics.

Well, apparently, according to Bob McCann, the food in American hospitals is similar, because he has really struggled with it. We've been worried about him not eating enough and that this is impeding his recovery. One of his biggest covid symptoms has been a total loss of appetite, so when you add already-undesirable food to the mix, it becomes an even bigger uphill battle.

Fortunately, we discovered a few days ago that while we can't visit him in the hospital because of These Unprecedented Times, we can drop food and supplies off for him at the front desk. So my siblings and I started a meal rotation where we've all basically become a dedicated Uber Eats employee for one customer. We text him and force him to tell us what he wants us to make or pick up for him several times a day.

It's honestly been an incredibly nice way to finally feel like we're doing something to help.

Yesterday was my turn. I drove to their house first to check on mom (who is doing pretty well now, although very tired). She told me we and several neighbors have far overdone it on food drop offs at their house and showed me her kitchen counter, which looked like a breakfast spread of an 80s sitcom. It was covered in full meals for a family of six, loaves of bread, heavy casseroles, etc.

Mom was of course grateful, "but I obviously can't eat all of this," she told me. Will you please take some of it home so it doesn't go to waste?

It felt wrong to take food from my covid mother, but she pointed out some soup my sister had brought by earlier and I decided that sounded good enough.

The next thing I knew I was driving down the road from my parents' house to the hospital, a bag of food and goodies for my dad in the backseat, the windows down, Miley Cyrus belting a tune NO I'M NOT ASHAMED.

I don't know what came over me. I imagine it was fatigue. I haven't slept much in about 10 days. I've been making a lot of questionable choices. On Wednesday I shaved my name into my right calf. Why? I don't know.

But as I was driving down that road, I suddenly decided that the very flimsy and completely full carton of soup sounded delicious and like something I could negotiate and consume without utensils while driving 50 miles per hour down Bangerter Highway.

The moment I popped off the lid, the entire, and I mean 2 pints, at least, carton of chicken noodle soup was fully dumped onto my lap.

The volume at which I screamed. That hot soup. I saw angels. One of them was the McDonald's coffee spill lady from the 90s. She was wearing very expensive jewelry and she handed me a card for a personal injury lawyer.

I was most mad about the fact that not 7 days before this I had spent the better part of the morning stress cleaning my car after five years of being married to someone who has repeatedly asked me "who died in here? Was he nice? Did he have a family or property?" every time he had to ride in it with me.

I eventually arrived at a stoplight. Since I no longer had piles of napkins and towels and clothes strewn about my vehicle, I had nothing to start wiping up the mess. THIS IS WHY YOU SHOULDN'T CLEAN OUT YOUR CAR. I started using a facemask as a hand towel. It was as effective as you are imagining.

Then I thought, "well, this shouldn't go to waste."

I tell you: there have been several personal lows for me during this Pandemic. But none of them seem like lows after I, 36-year-old grown man Eli, was caught by a neighboring vehicle, scooping up soggy noodles and chicken chunks with my bare hands and shoving them into my mouth, as I felt the soup juice not only soak through my lap and into my naughty bits, but fully seep down my seat and saturate my much-less-flat ass.

And when I slopped (the only word to describe my movements) into the hospital, food dripping down my exhausted body, and handed the receptionist a bag full of food that was hopefully better than a cold fish head on a tin tray, that receptionist looked at me in absolute pity.

"Could you please send this up to my dad?" I asked him.

"Sure . . ." he responded, staring at my crotch—not in a flattering way.

I went back out to my car, opened the door, and finished eating the soup.

Please enjoy some Strangerville:

This time in Strangerville, stories of bad customer service, rumors about Mormon celebrities, and what happens these days when you try to make a donation to the DI.


Steve Martin, by Eli McCann (music by Gillicuddy)

Production by Eli McCann & Meg Walter

~It Just Gets Stranger