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Dispatch #039

My Pandemic Life

Dan Linley

Frankly, I thought a global pandemic would be a lot more fun. This is the most boring worldwide health crisis ever. I always thought something that completely disrupts the world in every considerable way would kind of be like The Walking Dead. Going on missions of survival and adventures to save friends and family while always being a little sweaty. But nope. All we do is sit around watching screens and being terrified of going outside. My daily mission of survival is going to Walgreens to buy gum. While not exciting or dangerous at all I still bring my crossbow. It is Walgreens, after all.

It’s frustrating to live in a time that is both boring and weird. I never associate boredom and weirdness. Those two adjectives exclusively cancel one another out. This is like having a talking dog but the only thing the dog wants to talk about is terry cloth. All of this potential for interesting things to happen because this is such an unbelievable time but there’s nothing to do. Everyone is drinking too much, posting way too much on social media, and watching too much news. All of those activities are fine in moderation but now it’s all we have. Also, masturbation.

We want to see our friends. I want to see my friends. When I do see my friends, I immediately regret seeing my friends. What am I seeing my friends for? There’s nothing to do and nothing to talk about. We just talk about how dull and frustrating this life is. These conversations are dull and frustrating. It’s like “Groundhog Day” but with a significant lack of Bill Murray. In normal times my friends and I had stories and experiences to exchange because we all lived lives. That’s a good foundation for conversation, an exchange of stories and anecdotes about our daily lives. Days don’t really exist anymore so who cares. We live in a time when Thursdays feel like Mondays and there’s no difference between 8am and 3pm. There are no stories to exchange because none of us are doing anything. My reflections on how great the second season of “Dead to Me” isn’t really a story that can sustain a conversation. My most interesting story from the past two weeks is a brief altercation I got into with a woman at a burrito shop about our wildly different definitions of “extra cilantro”.

Like an old man I go for a lot of walks these days. I’m neither old nor much of a man but this is my primary outside activity these days. And my neighborhood is really boring. There’s nothing to look at or take in, even before the quarantine. There’re no crazy people to watch and wonder about. There’re no fun neighbors to commiserate with. There’re just sidewalks and people avoiding each other. I don’t really mind that, actually. Usually if someone crosses the street when they see me approaching, I take it personally. Now I just take it socially. Everyone is avoiding each other in a zigzag formation. It’s like a terrible game of dodgeball that no one ever wins and every person is a ball to be dodged. That’s most of what my walks consist of. Everyone is so terrified of being outside; in this era, taking a walk is tantamount to losing your tether while on a spacewalk. I’ve named every tree on my walk to Walgreens.

Much like all of us, in this time of confusion and uncertainty, I look to our authorities for advice and information. I do so foolishly and without any positive feelings afterwards. The president is a moron of almost impossible proportions. He speaks and behaves in a manner that suggests he can’t possibly exist outside of MAD Magazine. He’s like a general that gives long, rambling, poorly articulated soliloquies about strength and superiority during a war while his soldiers are being picked off by snipers on live TV. He’s like a decrepit garbage can who sort of learned to speak. His hand movements during his speeches is almost hypnotic, if the hypnotist was an exquisitely stupid robot. He constantly moves his hands back and forth over the podium like an accordion player who doesn’t know how to play the accordion or pronounce Minneapolis. Maybe the worst thing about this pandemic is the fact that he’s here for it.

Our media isn’t really doing anything to help us. The media is like a 24-hour televised haunted house with attractive women and distinguished men leading us down the hallways. The media exists solely to keep us afraid and fully aware of how bad things are. Yes, things are bad, but gee willikers, hasn’t someone adopted a puppy lately? Can we see that on the news? There has to be some positivity coming from all of this tragedy. The air is cleaner, people are slightly nicer, traffic is almost non-existent. The reduction in traffic makes this pandemic a jay walker’s dreamland. Can’t the media take pandemic lemons and report some pandemic lemonade?

The face mask situation is controversial. I don’t know why. Just put on a Goddamn mask. It’s not a big enough deal to fight about. Be angry with someone who doesn’t like pickles or people who still wear cargo pants; those are arguments that make sense. Eat your pickles, buy some Chinos and wear a mask. No one loves wearing these masks. I have a substantial beard, if outside I’m wearing sunglasses, and I use old school wired earbuds. None of these make wearing a mask fun. Putting on and taking off my mask is like trying to remove spider webs from my face while underwater. Everything’s getting tangled, my glasses fall off my face, my phone catches on fire. I hate wearing a mask but I don’t want to accidentally kill anyone’s nanna. I was on a city bus last week and I realized that I had forgotten my mask. The looks of hatred and disdain from the other passengers felt like a sunburn. I was reviled. I covered my mouth and nose with the top of my jacket, like some kind of public transportation vampire.

This is a terrible time and everyone is sad. People have died and we’re all stuck indoors or on walks with friends where there’s nothing to talk about aside from how terrible things are. No one is happy and no one is doing anything. I’m more miserable than usual and so are all of my friends. Time has frozen yet we’re all still getting older. This seems unfair but that’s where we’re at. I feel like I’m in suspended animation but I’m still losing my hair.

Everyday, just to prevent my brain from turning to mush, I think of games to play. I’ve assigned personality types to all my toes. Left ring toe is the one that calls when he’s drunk just to argue, when really, he’s just projecting his own feelings of inadequacy. I’ve taken to despising my roommate just to feel something. Mainly because he performs Zoom karaoke shows at our dining room table, a designated common space in our lease. The fact that my signed lease was printed on a Dollar Store brand paper towel seems irrelevant. Still, don’t do karaoke in a common space. Or don’t do karaoke. My pending eviction aside, my favorite game is when I think of a color and count everything in my bedroom of that color. It’s therapeutic, kills time, and rests firmly at the bottom of the barrel of fun. From my desk chair I can see 51 blue things. I’m saving red for Wednesday and green for Friday. I want to space out the insane adrenaline rush of this game.

I feel trapped and bored and looking towards a future that is going to be very strange, only rivaled by how strange now is. We live in a threatening time with leaders who have their heads so far up their asses they can check their own lungs for Covid. I’m sad that we can’t all be on the same page about how to handle this era. But our information pages are in a book written, apparently, by a government that doesn’t know how to write. Our citizenry hates people who don’t wear masks, sometimes assaulting those of us who do wear masks. We live in a time history will call “The Newest, Stupidest Civil War.” Brothers torn apart over whether or not to wear a facemask at a gas station simply because it makes sense would make for compelling footage.

I can’t wait for the Ken Burns documentary about this. Emotional footage of a person in a Raiders jersey, not wearing a mask, calling a guy wearing a personalized SF Giants facemask in a Safeway a sellout for wearing his mask will look fantastic. Especially with a sepia filter.  

June 7, 2020

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