In the Before Times, I remember thinking the Trump administration was the closest thing I’d experienced to a zombie apocalypse in the sense that all the rules of society changed overnight. If any other president had slept with a porn star while he was married and paid her off to stay quiet, their administration would be over, but this was just a minor blip in Trump’s tenure. At least once a week he does something that would have tanked another president’s career, but now we just look at him and shrug. I’d never seen the accepted behaviors in society change so suddenly overnight.
Then the coronavirus was like, “Hold my beer.”
Life has gotten weird y’all. As a self-employed homebody, my routine doesn’t seem too different from the outside, but things have gotten bizarre in ways I never predicted.
1) My favorite show is…a daily press conference?
Two months ago, I don’t think I could have named the governor of New York, but in our strange new world, Andrew Cuomo’s daily press conferences are one of the highlights of my day. From what I can tell, there are lots of valid reasons people didn’t like him before this (and will probably go back to disliking him after this), but his competent, blunt yet optimistic, approach to this crisis is exactly what I need and cannot get at the federal level. I don’t live in New York nor do I know all that many people who do, but I watch these pressers every day.
Cuomo starts with the grim facts. People are dying. More people are going to die. The data is displayed in charts and graphs in his slide deck. He tells you the truth even though it’s dark. Then he tells you what they’re doing and what they still need to do. They got some ventilators from China, but now they need PPE. They built a hospital in the Javits Center, but now they need people to staff it. If you keep playing less than six feet apart on the damn playground, they are going to shut down the parks! He will do it, don’t test him!
Then he shares a reassuring quote or anecdote that lets you know we’re all going to get through this, even though it will change us. Usually, he shares a personal story, which is my favorite part. He had meaningful, heartfelt conversations with his daughter while she was in quarantine! He was scared when he learned his younger brother had caught the coronavirus! His brother’s his best friend! They said they love each other on live television after mercilessly teasing each other!
(If you have not watched Andrew Cuomo and his journalist brother, Chris, arguing over who is Mom’s favorite and debating who is better at basketball on his CNN show, it is a treat and just the lighthearted content I need even if it’s kinda ethically questionable from a journalism perspective. I don’t care! Don’t take this away from me!)
It’s all very humanizing and balances out the tougher aspect of the governor’s personality. He’s a strong advocate for his people (some might say “bully”) and I truly believe if he had to wrestle a bear to get 1000 more ventilators, he would do it and then come back to brief us on the fight with a carefully selected PowerPoint slide.
2) My second favorite show is about…blood cells?
I haven’t been able to concentrate on books lately, so I was flipping through Netflix when I came across an anime, Cells at Work, that depicts white blood cells as men wearing white camo and red blood cells as women wearing dapper hats and bacteria as monsters-of-the week. Watching the neutrophils slaughter a virus in episode three was highly satisfying. It pulls off the hard trick of being entertaining while also educational. I know what a macrophage is now! Two freshly washed thumbs up.
3) Every normal problem is now twice as worse
The phrase, “during a pandemic,” is the Scrabble double-word score of life because adding it to a sentence makes every normal problem twice as worse. For instance:
I walked into the bathroom and discovered water on the floor…during a pandemic!
It turns out the floater had gotten stuck, which caused the tank to overflow. Thankfully, it hasn’t happened since, but for a terrified ninety seconds I imagined a long chain of events starting with a maintenance person coughing coronavirus all over the handle and ending with me dying alone in a hospital hallway—all because of a broken toilet.
A water main break put me under a boil water advisory…during a pandemic!
This problem raised the questions of:
1) Should I risk infection with an airborne disease to get bottled water that might save me from a waterborne disease?
2) Was there even any bottled water left at the store after all the panic buying?
3) What is this white silt that appears when I boil a pot full of hard water and let it cool?
The answer to number three is “limescale” or “calcium carbonate” and not proof of contamination, not that I ever thought that.
Chipmunks built a nest in my aunt’s car engine and chewed through some wires…during a pandemic!
Yeah, my Aunt Donna really had a day this week.
4) The apocalypse comes with its own vocabulary words
As this pandemic spreads, it’s also infected the popular lexicon with these new words and phrases:
- Flatten the curve
- Social distancing
When I used the word “hotspot” in the Before Times, it referred to the way I connected to the internet when Starbucks’ wi-fi was down, and the only thing PPE was to me was a incorrect Naughty by Nature lyric.
The way I write emails has also changed. I used to start messages with, I hope you had a good weekend!, but now my emails start off with, I hope you are feeling healthy! or I hope you are doing well during this strange times!, because it’s essential to acknowledge our unfolding global catastrophe before asking for the FTP password. Even the meaning of the exclamation point has changed; instead of a punctuation mark that I begrudgingly use so I don’t sound like a raging bitch over email, now it’s an actual signal of distress! See, I’m distressed!
My sign-offs have gotten really weird too. Instead of, Best wishes!, I’m saying things like, Stay safe and wash your hands! If this actually were a zombie apocalypse, the tone would remain the same but I’d be saying, Remember, aim for the head!
If someone takes a while to respond to a message, I don’t even question why. I assume they’re rocking back and forth in the fetal position and can’t bear to look at a screen.
5) While everyone is staying home, I’m actually getting out more
Don’t worry! I am still maintaining social distancing. The last time I got less than six feet away from someone is when I passed that guy in the toothbrush aisle. I’ve been getting out more because I’ve started walking almost every day. Partly, this is because cabin fever has made me look forward to taking the trash out, but mostly it’s due to the FEAR OF IMMINENT DEATH. The reliable fear of eventual death from comorbidities years from now just wasn’t getting things done.
In the Before Times, my approach to exercise had become rather lackadaisical. There were some days I didn’t bother leaving the house because I didn’t want to go up and down the stairs. But now that Covid-19 is killing people with underlying health issues—like, oh, OBESITY—my enthusiasm for exercise has increased by 2000 steps per day! I’m trying to strengthen my heart and lose weight to increase my triage chances.
The oddest thing is that any time I encounter someone else, one of us shifts our path to maintain the distancing without saying a word. A month ago, if I’d crossed to the other side of the street when someone was coming, it would have been rude, particularly because a lot of Chin refugees from southeast Asia live around here, so it would have been pretty racist too. But now it’s polite!
A nice treat on my walk has been the little paper hearts hanging in the trees with uplifting statements.
Which is lovely because…
6) Crafters will save us all
Ever since the medical mask shortage was announced weeks ago, anyone who’s ever opened an Etsy store is sewing masks out of t-shirts and pillowcases. There are zillions of different mask patterns and zillions of YouTube tutorials, which I find rather overwhelming now that the CDC is telling people to wear masks in public. But someone made a YouTube video comparing masks too! So, I’m covered. And I could also be covered by a face shield made out of a soda bottle, or a face mask made out of leggings, or a bandana and some rubber bands, or a reusable grocery bag and pipe cleaners, which I’ll do after making my own hand sanitizer!
7) Allergies are now terrifying
Whenever I feel the tickle of a cough in the back of my throat from tree pollen, I try as hard as possible not to cough because coughing is a symptom of the coronavirus, and I don’t want to die, so not coughing will save my life, right? I have also gotten very good at taking my temperature to reassure myself that I don’t have a fever. Did you know there are heat pockets in your mouth? And you’re supposed to place the end of the thermometer in them? Did you know thermometers come with directions that explain these things which you read when you’re bored waiting for your temperature reading?
10) I appreciate the dentist a lot more now that I can’t see him
I was due to have my six-month cleaning in January, but I kept putting it off because I needed to find a dentist closer to my home, and now I have no idea when it will be safe to share air space with a dental hygienist again. I’m brushing and flossing every day to fight back cavities, but I have dry mouth which makes me teeth more vulnerable to plaque. I also grind my teeth when I’m anxious, so the thought of a potential dental emergency is rather worrisome…during a pandemic! I’m not at a stage where I need to remove a rotten tooth with an ice skate like Tom Hanks in Castaway, but that scene did play in my mind when I bit into a really hard nut in some bread yesterday.
9) The library is closed and due dates have been cancelled…so I own this book now!
Poor little Slay is a refugee who was caught outside her homeland when the borders closed, but I will keep her safe from coffee stains and dog-eared pages until she can return to the YA bookshelf with her friends.
10) I plan my grocery trips more carefully than I planned my crosstown move
Before I went to the grocery store last week, I used the Meijer app to determine where every item was in the store and organized my shopping list by aisles like I was planning to be a contestant on Supermarket Sweep. Yes, I know this makes me sound looney, but we’ve all got a lot of free time now and I wanted to get in and out of there as quickly as possible. I never thought I’d be waking up at 7:30am to go grocery shopping, which truly is a sign of the apocalypse.
11) I know absolutely nothing about food rationing
Now that the grocery store is frightening, I’ve been trying to determine how many days of food I have left. Unfortunately, I have no idea how to determine how many days of food I have left.
Am I supposed to split everything into potential meals and count those? Should I just eyeball it? Also, in what order should I be eating things? Obviously, I need to eat the fresh fruits and veggies first, but after that should I intersperse my meals with spaghetti, rice, soup, and other shelf-stable items? Or am I supposed to save those for last in case things turn dire and I can’t get more food? And if so, isn’t it going to be rather awful to eat rice and pasta for five days in a row? It’s bad enough that I have to eat the heel of the bread now! I’ve started freezing milk, people! I didn’t even know I could freeze milk!
12) But at least it’s been great for my diet
I know a lot of people are binging their way through the apocalypse, but I’ve already lost six pounds. My apartment is an island and I can only eat what I have within these walls. There have been no ice cream runs when my headache is bad and I have resisted the temptation to buy junk food on my biweekly resupplies so I won’t be able to eat it. There have been several nights when I craved chocolate, but you can’t eat what you don’t have!
It’s made me realize that if I’d been born 100 years ago, I probably wouldn’t have had that much of a problem with obesity. I wouldn’t have had access to all the junk foods I love, and there weren’t many cars, so I probably would have had to walk a lot. But I wouldn’t have had many rights, so I suppose being fat in the future is better than being thin in the past.
13) The View has gotten really weird
I don’t watch The View on a regular basis, but I do subscribe to their YouTube channel and watch clips that look interesting, and man, this show has gotten bizarre. It started with them getting rid of the live studio audience.
Then Whoopi started hosting from home because she almost died of pneumonia last year.
And they made the table absurdly large so four people could socially distance from each other.
Then Joy and Meghan started working from home because Joy is in the at-risk age group and Meghan’s pregnant. Which left Sunny and Sara alone in the studio staring at each other from opposite ends of a table like two people in a dying marriage.
Until everyone was working from home and Meghan started inexplicably wearing a baseball cap, probably because her roots are growing out.
So The View is just a televised Zoom meeting now. I’m still waiting for the next step where the internet crashes and the show is acted out entirely by puppets.
14) Eventually we will see the inside of every celebrity’s home
Everyone is working from home now, which means talk shows are filming from home, as are their famous guests who are using Zoom or Skype or Facetime like the rest of us. I’ve learned that Jimmy Fallon has a slide in his house and Patti LuPone has a jukebox in her basement and I’m still not sure if those globes in Trever Noah’s apartment are lamps or not. I find myself being rather judgmental of what people’s homes look like.
15) The apocalypse will be marketed
Like everyone, I have gotten dozens of emails in the past month from every store I have ever bought assuring me that they’ve noticed there is a global pandemic. If anyone who wrote a novel about the apocalypse anticipated this phenomenon, kudos to you! It’s one of those strange details that would have made your worldbuilding particularly on point.
I’ve also started to see TV ads addressing the pandemic, which is kind of unsettling because it means this thing has been going on long enough for advertising firms to pitch, write, and shoot ads. Some of them are sort of comforting and others aren’t, but I definitely never thought I’d see a toilet paper ad asking you to please not hoard toilet paper.
16) The apocalypse will be parodied
There is a surprisingly large number of parody songs about the coronavirus pandemic. I guess when you lock up artists in their homes without anything to do…they do this.
Which raises the question…
17) Have I been unproductive for the past decade?
Now that people are spending more time at home, they’re creating inventive art and buying stuff at Lowe’s to fix up their houses and I’m like, oh shit, was I supposed to be achieving things when I was staying home in the evening?
18) The apocalypse will be blogged
But at least I’m blogging again, right?