So…What Did You Do During Quarantine?

It’s a simple question that everyone is asking, so it should be simple to answer, right?

So why is it that my family and I find it so hard to answer this question honestly? Most people reply with something like, “We organized the garage, cleaned closets, repainted rooms, sorted toys, caught up on reading, binge-watched Netflix, started a garden, and even finally got around to the hobbies that we’ve been wanting to try for years but never had the time.”  

Well, this was true for us during the first three weeks of quarantine. The kids started with their online classes. I began cleaning out closets and drawers, and sorted through unused items. We managed to gather 10 to 12 very large boxes to donate, and brought it all to Goodwill on the very last day they were open before the shutdown. We were on a roll!  

Before long, however, this was getting old, tiring, and boring. We had really big plans to sort and purge even more unused items when the day came that one of my teenagers said to me, “I’m bored, the neighborhood is too quiet, and it’s depressing, so I want to order some kind of an inflatable costume and walk around our neighborhood in it and make people laugh.”  

Left: Photo courtesy of Kim Ramsey, Right: Photo courtesy of Geneé West

“Yes,” I replied. “If you have the money and that is what you want to use it for, then go ahead.” And since that Amazon box arrived on our doorstep, life has never been quite the same. Not one of us in this house will ever be able to honestly answer the simple question, “What did you do during quarantine?” At least not to our Bethel neighbors, that is, for it would ruin the magic that ensued from that simple Amazon purchase.

A few days after opening that box, we became known as “The Mysterious Shark People.” We began living like sharks; surfacing wherever and whenever, coming and going at all hours of the day and night. We hardly ever used the front door anymore. Our driveway became a scene of musical cars. You see, to maintain anonymity, the sharks needed to be dropped off by one car and picked up by another. One car would leave, only to return a few minutes later; the driver would jump into a different car and speed off again. This happened sometimes two or three times a day. What must our neighbors have thought?

Our sorting, purging, and house cleaning mission suddenly shifted to  sifting through Facebook requests for shark visits to see which ones were possible to fulfill, and then planning our attacks. We occupied time shopping for little trinkets to leave behind at our attacks until Bethel donors generously created a toy fund through Bethel’s very own toy shop, The Toy Room. Now we no longer had to shop for trinkets, just for gift bags.  

Our dining room table became a toy depository and gift wrapping center, and our family room turned into a prop workshop in which we created signs, as well as hot glued, sewed, and velcroed props onto the inflatable costumes late into the night. 

We executed drive-bys a day or two before an attack to make sure we knew which house to go to and to locate good drop-off and pick-up locations. Were there at least two ways out? If followed, which streets should we turn down to make a clean getaway and not get caught in a dead end? Early on, we did encounter a few unfortunate high-speed chases that were worrisome and potentially dangerous, but luckily, those ended and most of our attacks were without incident.  

There were also dance rehearsals so that the sharks could get the dance routines down for Jorge Rodriguez Brown’s fabulous videos. Many hours were spent searching for addresses and mapping out driving routes for the amazing Amanda Riley, who graciously volunteered to drive the sharks around for hours without even knowing their real identities!  

To maintain our anonymity, we created a fake email address to communicate with the curious news media and the wonderful Kim Ramsey and Hannah Lipman, who had no idea who we were, yet believed in our mission to make people smile and laugh during the pandemic. 

For the most part, we swam smoothly along as sharks do, but along the way we did have some “Shark Bloopers” as we like to call them. One day, just when the sharks were getting out of the car at their drop-off location, Skipper’s zipper broke and Skip became stuck inside the shark suit.  Deflated, sweltering hot with little air to breathe, we sped home, rescued Skipper, repaired the costume, and went back to the attack as if nothing had ever happened. We have also had battery-operated fans inside the shark costumes short out right in the middle of a few shark attacks. “Just keep dancing, even if it’s getting hotter, you’re deflating, keep dancing … the show must go on, get through it and get out fast!” 

Then came the day we enlisted my husband to help with an escape plan. The shark attack was too far from home for our “musical cars” driveway solution to work, and it was on a cul-de-sac, so there was no way to get in and out unseen. With no time to go all the way home to switch cars, we would have to make the switch nearby and hope that the onlookers would be expecting the first car to reappear and pick up the sharks. 

Photo courtesy of Lori Paulin

My husband waited in a nearby parking lot while I dropped off the sharks at their attack location. Success! We only encountered one eye witness. I sped off and pulled up tightly close to my husband’s car with a big smile on my face, proud of myself for pulling off such a remarkable drop-off. Then I look over at my husband only to see this other guy looking back at me very strangely—it was not my husband!  He was in the same color car, but it was a Mercedes and not at all the make/model of the car my husband was driving. How could I mistake a Mercedes for our car? I quickly sped away and located the right car, so frazzled that I didn’t even react when he asked, “Did you find another husband?” I jumped into the car and drove away to go retrieve the sharks. Can you imagine if I had attempted to get into that guy’s car without looking first? 

Then there were the nights when we had to go pickup drop-off items at Kim’s front porch. What if she had a Ring doorbell or camera security system? What if she heard our car approaching? We realized this was going to take some creative effort to pull off without being discovered, so one of the sharks decided to dress all in black with a burglar-type face covering. We parked on another street with our car lights off, meaning the shark would have to make a run for the porch in total darkness. What if a car came and saw a dark figure running up the street in a burglar mask and a get-away car waiting nearby? With luck and without incident, we made many successful trips to Kim’s porch, but each one was a nail-biting experience.

So, how do we explain to our neighbors what we’ve been up to these past four months during lockdown? How should we explain our time spent together as a family preying upon people like sharks? How do we explain that we actually shared many laughs and had quite a bit of fun with our town during quarantine? 

I guess we'll just have to come up with a whopper of a fish-tale in order to answer that simple but inevitable question! 

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