Terrible, horrible thoughts while on a social distance walk
Has anyone checked on Tom Hanks? Do we really need coffee creamer? Were those droplets I felt?
Pinellas Trail, the site of many agonizing social distance walks.
Pinellas Trail, the site of many agonizing social distance walks. [ ROMY ELLENBOGEN | Times ]
Published Mar. 24, 2020

Stories about the coronavirus pandemic are free to read as a public service at Sign up for our DayStarter newsletter to receive updates weekday mornings. If this coverage is important to you, consider supporting local journalism by subscribing to the Tampa Bay Times at

• • •

Publix is out of coffee creamer, so let us walk to the small market. This seems like a reasonable thing to do. We need the serotonin release from the sun. We also need coffee creamer. It’s a simple pleasure in these difficult times. A small morning ritual we can honor, safely.

Why do we need coffee creamer? They did not have coffee creamer in 1918. No, I do not know who “they” is, but they did not have Cinnabon International Delight.

Our neighbor is throwing out his empties. Beer cans like angel tears. He seems lonely. We should invite him over.

No! “Gatherings fewer than 10” does not mean “invite nine neighbors for beers.”

This is the best weather we’ve had all year. We will stay 6 feet apart, and all will be well.

The Pinellas Trail is, like, 15 feet wide, but the walking side is small, and nobody stays in their lane. Where is my tape measure?


Why are so many people on this trail? This is like when those hordes gathered to see the cherry blossoms in Washington, D.C. Someone is going to shame us. If a woke celebrity tweets my photo, I will die.

That woman sneezed into her elbow.

Sneezing is not really a symptom. I have seen the meme that explains it. I was sneezing all morning, too, because the houses in this neighborhood are made of pollen and Spanish tile. This is such a sad time. When did we become so wary of each other?

When there was a pandemic.

Related: As your new columnist, I’m sorry everything is bad

Wow, dozens of people are standing over there hugging. Awful. I am going to pull out my phone and really give a piece of my…

That’s a church, and it’s a funeral. What is wrong with me? Wouldn’t I mourn loved ones if given one last opportunity?

Now I really feel terrible. But do I feel worse than when I Instagrammed “stay home” and then felt bad because some people can’t stay home? Or when I bought steaks because I hadn’t been spending money and then felt bad because I was probably buying too much food when there were overtaxed grocery workers and people without basic necessities?

Or did I feel worse when

Ooh, egret.

Or did I feel worse first thing this morning, inside my patented Blanket Grotto™, when I read that some lawmakers unloaded their stocks with suspicious timing while the public remained blind? Or that a St. Petersburg homeless shelter had to move mattresses under an overpass? Or when I realized Bill Gates told us this could happen? Why didn’t we listen to Bill Gates?

Spend your days with Hayes

Spend your days with Hayes

Subscribe to our free Stephinitely newsletter

Columnist Stephanie Hayes will share thoughts, feelings and funny business with you every Monday.

You’re all signed up!

Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.

Explore all your options

I have figured out the real problem on this walk. This is all too much, too fast, too huge for anyone to grasp. All of our emotional extremes are working overtime — our self-preservation, our empathy, our judgment, our guilt. It is like mixing all the colors together, resulting in one horrifying hue called Greibsh.

Mmm, twice-baked potatoes would be great.

My privilege is disgusting! The store has creamer, awesome. It’s organic, and it costs $84.

This clerk has gloves on, ready to face this. I’m going to tell her she had what Publix didn’t. She will be blown away by my passion for supporting local.

She didn’t really say much. Rude. She probably just wants to be home.

Has anyone checked on Tom Hanks?

We’re home. It’s… 2:30 p.m. Just eight short hours until the sweet relief of sleep.

Are we out of coffee?

• • •

Tampa Bay Times coronavirus coverage

EVENT CANCELLATIONS: Get the latest updates on events planned in the Tampa Bay area in the coming weeks.

STORES REACT TO VIRUS: Some businesses adjust hours or announce temporary closings.

BE PREPARED: Guidelines for essentials to keep in your home should you have to stay inside.

STOCK UP YOUR PANTRY: Foods that should always be in your kitchen, for emergencies and everyday life.

JOIN THE FACEBOOK GROUP: See updates and tips posts, and ask questions of our journalists.

FOLLOW OUR COVERAGE ON SOCIAL MEDIA: Facebook. Instagram. Twitter. Reddit.

LISTEN TO THE CORONAVIRUS PODCAST: New episodes every week, including interviews with experts and reporters

HAVE A TIP?: Send us confidential news tips.

We’re working hard to bring you the latest news on the coronavirus in Florida. This effort takes a lot of resources to gather and update. If you haven’t already subscribed, please consider buying a print or digital subscription.


This site no longer supports your current browser. Please use a modern and up-to-date browser version for the best experience.

Chrome Firefox Safari Edge