Work-from-home practice comes with Snoball effect

Guest Columnist

While I’m homebound here during the Great Global Pause, my cats, at first, seemed excited about my permanent presence, then perpetually perplexed, until finally, they began giving me that ever-present stink-eye look reserved for houseguests who have worn out their welcome. “Enough already,” they’re thinking. “We have social distancing needs too.”

Photo provided

I haven’t been to the office in weeks. I work from home. Other than grocery runs and taking walks, I haven’t left the house. I’m doing my part to help flatten the curve.

In exile, I eat away my anxieties. I bring home Oreos, and I buy bags of chips advertised as “family size” even though I’m alone, making me feel like a chip hoarder. Before COVID-19, I never bought snacks.

I recently rediscovered Hostess Snoballs, a childhood comfort snack. Those yummy, chocolate sponge cake, half domes filled with marshmallow and coated with pink-dyed coconut flakes look like edible Chia Pets. Two to a pack. Guiltily, I gobble a whole dome due to low will-power and worriment. I assume it is human nature to scoff down food during scary times.

A hidden danger about working from home is we stop wearing belts, the truest teller of weight gain. Belts don’t lie.

The “19” in COVID-19 alludes to the average poundage one will gain while working from home during The Great Global Pause (Journal of Medical Mumbo Jumbo, 2020). Future usage of term:

A POST-PANDEMIC COWORKER AT THE OFFICE: “It’s good to see you again, Scott. I see you’re still packing that COVID-19 on you.” ME: “I can’t kick the Snoballs, man!”

The newest additions to my wardrobe now are bandanas, part of the Pandemic Collection. Mom mailed two to me, taken from her cancer collection, in case I want to wrap one around my face and “go out on the town” (aka, visit the grocery for something family-sized). The bandanas were gifts to her when she started her first round of chemo. She was diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer 43 months ago.

When the bandanas arrived, I was excited to open the envelope; however, I was taken aback when I saw their surprising design patterns, especially the one with anchors stitched on it. I guess I was expecting the red, amoeba-patterned bandana of traditional Western wear. You know, more of a Jesse James look.


When mom said she was mailing bandanas to me, one of the first places I planned to visit with my face half covered was the bank, just to see the teller’s reaction. Maybe playfully shoot a scrap of paper with “this is a stickup…I want a thousand dollars…but only in wheat pennies” thru the space-age drive-thru vacuum chute, a brief gift of levity for serious-faced bank tellers during this grim time. But that plan has been foiled. There’s no way I can pull it off sporting anchors on my face! The teller will likely reply with a note of her own: “I took you seriously, but then I saw the anchors. PS, the marshal is on his way, Long John Silver.”

Maybe if Jesse James’ mom loved him enough to mail him anchor-patterned bandanas, he would’ve become a pillar of, instead of a scourge upon, society.

Anchors aside, I was moved by the motherly care put into the bandanas. Mom starched, ironed and carefully folded each one before mailing. She even ironed the envelope seal to make it stick. “I didn’t even lick it,” she said, proud of her unique contribution to our growing list of pandemic precautions. “You’ll be safe opening it.” Still, I couldn’t help but wonder, “Yea, but did you lick the stamps, mom?”

Since the pandemic, I’ve called mom daily, usually during walks. Like the comfort food being consumed in this unbelted time of ours, her voice comes as a comfort. It’s like she is walking with me, only I don’t have to slow my pace.

At first, my contribution to our conversation was in the guise of PSAs to convince her and dad to take social distancing seriously, that we need to harken to the wise advice of actual medical experts. In other words: DON’T. GO. TO. THE. CASINO.

Weirdly, with Stage 4 colon cancer, mom first acted as if she were invincible in the face of COVID-19. “I survived having a portion of my colon removed, 60% of my liver removed and countless rounds of chemo and radiation. This virus is nothing. All people really need to do is eat Campbell’s chicken noodle soup if they feel bad.”

Campbell’s chicken noodle soup has always been her go-to solution for family ailments. I think she’s convinced that it also played a role in the polio vaccine. If dad ever, God forbid, accidentally cut off his hand in his metal shop, she would likely hang up on his 911 call and heat up a can of soup. The empty can itself could then double as an artificial hand. During my early walks with mom, I envisioned a great wall made of stacked Campbell’s soup cans positioned around the perimeter of their property. Their anti-COVID wall.

Only when the casinos closed did my parents realize the seriousness of COVID-19. Now, mom is holed up at home while Dad visits the grocery store. To buy chicken noodle soup, I guess.

Me, I’m slipping on my anchor bandana and heading to the store. I need a Snoball fix; and the cats, well, they need a break.

Contact Scott Saalman at

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