By Jacob Isom | May 26, 2020
During a time when local business owners are anxious to reopen for their customers, local businessman John Avery Whittaker is hesitantly optimistic.
Having closed down Whit’s End when restaurant shutdowns were ordered due to the COVID-19 pandemic in March of this year, John Whittaker is excited to see his loyal customers again—albeit in a carefully planned way. In order to adhere to social distancing guidelines set forth by state and local governments, Whit’s End will be reopening in a phased approach.
“Whit has strict orders that all tables and booths are to be sanitized before and after each patron’s visit,” local college student and long-term employee Connie Kendall states. “Not only that, every other stool at the soda counter is to be used to honor the six feet rule. I’ll tell you this much,” she added, “I can barely breathe through this mask.”
“We want to do this right,” stated Whittaker from behind his surgical mask at the soda counter in Whit’s End. “We’re taking measures very seriously, from setting up the soda shop to conform to distancing requirements to wearing masks to sanitizing surfaces more often than we did in the past. Our long-time friend Bernard Walton of Walton’s Janitorial Services has assured us that he will be monitoring the situation closely. He is a little less concerned about the pandemic but has agreed to work alongside us to make this a success.”
“I just want all this nonsense to be over,” Walton shared with the Odyssey Times. “I think people are over-reacting more than they did during the Y2K crisis in… what year was that again? My mind these days is about as sharp as a bunch of marbles. I’m tellin’ you… this place is filled with a bunch of loonies.” He added, “I’ve gone through so much duct tape putting lines on the floor six feet apart that stocks in duct tape are going to be booming. Maybe it’s time for me to invest?”
Walton also took a moment to share his disappointment with all the panic buying around town as news of the pandemic spread.
“Whit’s End alone has nearly tripled their spending on toilet paper. It seems like I’m always restocking the bathrooms and demand is up. I’ve been reprimanding kids at Whit’s End trying to sneak toilet paper rolls home to their parents. Perhaps I should get Eugene and Connie to wear camouflage grease paint and hide behind the potted plants again to catch our culprits.”
Whit’s End is now implementing several distinct changes to adhere to regulations, and the shop’s patrons are being educated on this “new normal” during their initial visit.
“Eugene has agreed to host educational classes on viruses, social distancing, and proper hygiene efforts such as thorough hand-washing,” Whittaker stated. “It’s good to have different perspectives coming together to make these changes. Without Eugene, I would never have thought to place directional arrows on the floor throughout the building. And since we only have one public staircase in Whit’s End, Eugene has designated the central stairs next to the soda shop as the ‘up’ staircase and the servant’s staircase in the kitchen temporarily as the ‘down’ one.”
Several of the shop’s rooms and displays are undergoing a new approach as well. The Bible Room, filled with activities for children to bring the Bible to life, has fewer displays. Whit’s famous Talking Mirror has been temporarily moved to the basement as it was located too close to the David and Goliath display and the ever-popular Imagination Station. The Imagination Station and Room of Consequence visits are limited to one person per adventure, with a thorough sanitation process to follow as overseen by Eugene Meltsner.
In addition, the Little Theatre remains closed for public performances until a later date. The Inventor’s Corner is off-limits for the time being. The Library in Whit’s End will reopen as well, with a limit of five people in the room at the same time. To encourage children to read, John Whittaker is working with the Odyssey Library on obtaining rights to e-books for the kids to borrow books from the comfort of their own homes.
With shortages around town on hand sanitizers, Clorox wipes, Lysol, and anti-bacterials, Whittaker and his staff are confident in their preparation efforts.
“We have a moderate amount of cleaning supplies made available to us by the Hand-Up organization,” local genius and Whit’s End employee Eugene Meltsner stated. “No virus too strong can prevail against us if we band together to eradicate this crisis. I am concerned, however, that many of us wearing masks will be inhaling an increased percentage of carbon dioxide daily, which may lead to significantly greater long-term health problems in the days ahead.”
Local mailman Wooton Bassett has taken a more nonchalant approach to the crisis.
“I’ve made multiple visits on my mail route through town and people are just tired of being locked up in their homes. The good news is I have seen neighbors talking to neighbors more often and the sidewalks haven’t been getting rolled up at dinner time anymore. More of the kids in town are hanging outside. I’m excited to see what happens with the reopening of Whit’s End, and I’ve agreed to hold up signs at the shop encouraging everyone to ‘do their part and stay six feet apart’. The more careful we are in the beginning, the sooner things can go back to normal and we can put this behind us.”
Many of Odyssey’s residents are eager to get back to work as well. Essential employees around town have been shown appreciation by their employers. Fast food, grocery store, bank, and many other workers have been instrumental in keeping the town running during the past two months.
“I’m optimistic about the reopening of Whit’s End and the town,” Whittaker stated. “I’ve hosted several virtual meetings with business owners around town to ensure we’re all on the same page.”
When asked about how he felt about a “second wave” of COVID-19 in the fall, Whittaker assured that he will continue to monitor the situation throughout the summer months and into the fall.
“We will be closely watching local and state information as it becomes available later this year. COVID-19 isn’t the first virus that swept through this great country and town. The best is yet to come,” Whittaker assured from behind the counter of the shop he has managed in Odyssey for decades.
This article is merely a work of fan fiction. The Odyssey Scoop is an unofficial Adventures in Odyssey website and is in no way affiliated with Focus on the Family and the Adventures in Odyssey brand.
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