Hi. Happy Spring. Happy Terrifying Spring 2020.
I am writing this from my living room, which is mostly in the woods, with very few neighbors and it’s about as good a scenario I could hope for at the moment. I’ve hooked up my laptop to my television so I can write from my couch. My dog is asleep, and just woke up slightly from his nap, scooched closer to me so he could put his nose on my leg, and fell back asleep. What a good boy. Amanda is in her office on a work call, she works for a company that does live yoga via an app, and they’ve been very busy. It’s a good app, you should check it out. They’re mostly doing free classes at the moment, in light of the…thing.
A quick book update, as there is nothing else more important going on:
I spoke with the editor and publisher of the book a few weeks ago. I should have the first round of edits in-hand any day now, I hope. They’re late on the edits. I’m big on deadlines and don’t like it when people miss deadlines and am trying to not be a pain in the ass about it. Not sure how good of a job I’m doing, plus there’s a pandemic, so people might have more important things going on. But, things are moving along, slowly but surely. There’s a contract on its way, someone is working on book covers, I’m supposed to be planning a book launch party if there are such things when this is all over with.
I guess it’s hard to talk about anything without talking about the pandemic. I like the word pandemic. It has the correct gravity but is still pleasant to say. It’s somehow soothing in its broad characterization, like we know enough about the situation to have a word for it. We have a bucket for this madness, it is called ‘pandemic’. It is not so unknown that we do not have a word, and having, knowing and using that word is somehow calming to me.
There’s a lot going on, things that I feel like I could scream about forever. But I’m exhausted and there’s enough of that already. I woke up at 3:30am last night for no reason, panicked, and was up until about 5am reading articles until my phone died. I didn’t learn anything. I started another draft of this post on the 14th, and held off because I figured the world would be dramatically different by the time the first day of spring hit, and I was right about that, but I still don’t feel like anyone has any idea what’s going on.
So far I’m having the same experience as most people, and that’s good, we’re not leaving the house except to run or walk the dog. Ordering all our groceries in, trying different apps to stay connected, etc. and I’m in a lucky position that I have a happy home life and genuinely like being here. It feels good to be here. Like life.
I watched a video today of a drive-through testing site. A woman pulls up to a tent and rolls down her window. A very pleasant man in an outbreak suit gives her instructions, he’s speaking loudly so she can hear him through the plastic helmet, she complies, then he sticks a qtip about six inches into her nose, both sides, she allows this to happen, is pleasant about the discomfort, he hands her a packet of information, is pleasant, and then she rubs her eyes to clear the tears generated from the nasal probe, and she pulls off.
I’m glad this is happening, and the lack of available tests is one of the most profound failures I’ve ever witnessed in my life, and I’m happy testing centers are starting to open, but I watched that video and couldn’t help but notice how nice they were, how calm it was, and normal. It felt normal, and that’s worrying me as much as anything else.
The last few years have been marked by a continual normalization of insane and objectively evil behavior, and a lot of that always feels foreign and our little internet silos can make it seem like we’re the only rational ones, but something about watching that woman get that thing shoved up her nose, and nobody taking a moment to say “this is fucking insane, isn’t this fucking insane, can we say very quickly, how fucking crazy this is, what a dystopian nightmare, here in the parking lot of the shuttered sports complex?”
It’s good to be calm in times like these, and that woman was not having a normal moment, and she is freaked out to high heaven, and had the clarity of mind to film it so other people wouldn’t be afraid, my focus isn’t on her, it’s on me, on my watching it and thinking “oh, good, seems like there’s a routine to it.”
I was given a hard time working from home last week, I did it anyway because it was the right thing to do, but the management at my company didn’t like that people were taking things into their own hands, because it wasn’t normal. Taking our own health into account wasn’t normal behavior. I sit in a block of cubes, most of the people around me are older or immunocompromised. I like these people. I don’t want to get the disease and bring it home to my wife, but I also didn’t want to make everyone sick and accidentally kill my coworkers. But I didn’t run it by HR, so my behavior was outside of the normal processes, and it might get me fired if we open the office again.
Our ability to just instantly accept behavior that has process as normal is good, it’s how our brains developed, it’s how we identified which plants were poisonous and let us navigate by the stars, and all the amazing things that we do is, on some level, an identification and attention to order and patterns, but it’s not what being a human is, and that’s maybe what’s making me worried. That our reliance on superficial order is coming to light over the last few years, and now, with this mess, that we’ll forget some of the broader sense of humanity in the comforting order of process and procedure. Last week there were jokes about it just taking the older people – these jokes were made by older people, tongue in cheek, but again, as long as there’s an order to it, there’s some metric by which it can be understood, is somehow calming and reductive.
I don’t know what I’m saying at this point, I’m just typing.
I got an email this morning from the president of our company, assuring everyone that we will still serve our customers. Concern for our general health was in there also, but it was after a few sections of discussing the process by which we were cleaning the office, the steps we were taking to keep things clean. I work for an engineering company, so some of that is expected, but it was almost entirely devoid of “Hey, in the not too distant future a man in a space suit is going to shove a qtip further up your nose than you would think possible, so if you some time throughout the day to just to scream at the top of your lungs or stare unblinking into your computer screen but not actually do any work- it’s cool, we get it.”
Our desire for this to be normal is frightening. I don’t like the Keep Calm and Carry On bullshit. Carry on, sure, because it’s all you can really do. Time moves forward, and do your best to keep calm because it’s unhealthy to be stressed. But if you need to scream into a pillow for an hour every afternoon, by all means. Pretending this is normal is unhealthy, this is bad and it should be – and could have been – better, if we hadn’t tried to maintain the order of what is normal, to keep the markets just so, or to keep x business open for whatever stupid and counter productive reason, or so used to everything in this country being such a half-assed scam, because we’ve just come to expect that rich people will do shitty evil things for money, and who could blame them, that’s what they’re supposed to do. The natural order of things.
Again, I’m tired. I’m not sure how cohesive this is. I’m just yelling. But in the deluge of “here are some fun things to do at home” articles, I feel like there’s not a lot of space to just be a human being who is freaked out about the whole thing. So this is that, if you need it. After freakouts, feel free to go get caught up on Better Call Saul or whatever the fuck.
This is an insane time. It’s good to feel that it’s an insane time. Distract yourself as much as possible, stay safe, stay healthy, and don’t add to your stress levels by fighting off how insane this has been. I think that’s the message I’m going for. I don’t know. Do your best. Wash your hands. Good luck with the qtip thing. It seems like something out of a movie, but it’s not, it’s a real guy in a real outbreak suit and your real nose. What the fuck. What the fuck. What the fuck.