Stay home, stay safe, and ‘have a good night’

Life As I Know It — Meredith Williams column sig

"Life as I know it" has changed dramatically the past couple weeks.

I’ve been working from home since last Wednesday afternoon, when I had to leave the busy newsroom in the middle of a COVID-19-induced panic attack. I left in tears, hit the highway, and tried to quiet my mind through the chaos and confusion.

I’m not just staying home for my mental health (I winced when I wrote "just" because I don’t want to minimize it), I’m staying home because, like so many others, I’m in the "higher risk" category for serious illness because of my underlying conditions. I’m also doing it to protect others, and because it seems like the only thing I have any control over right now.

I hope that anyone else who can work from home is working from home. At this point, extreme "social distancing" seems to be our only hope of "flattening the curve" and giving our health care system a fighting chance. I want everyone to stay safe in whatever way they can, and if they do get the virus, I want them to recover from it.

Unfortunately, not everyone will — the worldwide death toll is climbing exponentially, and we recently had our first COVID-19 death in Minnesota.


So, to say I was afraid to leave my "safety zone" for something as silly as ice cream is an understatement.

When I first moved here, I laughed at the "Flapdoodles" name and the big pink ice cream cone. But when, out of curiosity, I tried it, I loved it (Salty Caramel is my favorite).

Anyway, after Gov. Walz’s shutdown of bars and restaurants, I heard that Flapdoodles, like many other local establishments, is staying open for takeout, drive-thru and delivery. With the encouragement of a friend, I decided I needed to be brave, if only for ice cream (do it for the ice cream!).

I threw my coat on over my mismatched pajamas (my official work-from-home dress code), pulled on some gloves, grabbed my keys, and drove the five minutes to my new favorite ice cream shop. It was eerie — with quieter-than-usual streets, more lights on in windows, and short lines forming at every drive-thru I passed.

When I cautiously approached the Flapdoodles drive-thru window, I quickly and nervously placed my order, grabbed my white paper bag, and drove home, where I immediately washed my hands for 20 seconds for the millionth time that week. Then, when I opened the bag, I saw a cheery handwritten note on top of a pint: "Have a good night!"

The note stopped me in my pajama-clad tracks. How do you "have a good night" during a pandemic?

It’s hard to grasp the enormity of what’s happening. When I think about it too much (I have to think about it — I work in news), I start to feel overwhelmed by sadness, despair and panic. My chest starts to tighten, my breath catches, and I have to remind myself that that’s anxiety, not the virus, at work.

So that night, I tried to give myself a break from it. I took all the necessary precautions for my little outing, and I got my ice cream. That night, I tried to focus on the salty-sweet taste of the smooth caramel, the feel of my cat’s soft fur as he snored in my lap, and I hoped that we all, indeed, "have a good night."


A hopeful message

A Flapdoodles employee wrote a hopeful message on a pint of to-go ice cream. (Meredith Williams /

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