COVID Chronicles: Week 1
A look at daily life in a casual place during Coronavirus 2020.
This week we summarize, go to Whole Foods, and see some dude buying grapes while wearing a gas mask.
We’re living through one of those times. The ones that are mentioned in history books.
In the future, the only way to really know and remember what happened will largely be by first hand accounts and, as a documentary nerd, providing one of those diaries seems like an amazing idea. At key points in history, what was happening in the every day lives of normal people? What were they doing? Thinking? How did they go about their routines?
Well, here we are. Right now.
I am under no delusions that I live a very boring life in a very boring place, but we’re going to record our thoughts anyway. Here’s what you’ve missed so far:
Trump declared a national state of emergency a few days ago, which shocked no one. My family held our breath, thinking that state borders might be sent into lockdown as well. They weren't. But several major colleges moved the remainder of their terms online, Harvard and Amherst being the trailblazers. Massachusetts, as the state of higher education, was setting a new standard. At this point, everyone was still talking about a quarantine of two weeks. As if we could all just go into our houses for fourteen days and the virus would magically be no more.
Now schools of all levels are either online for the remainder of the year or on a three week break. Tomorrow, restaurants in Massachusetts are required to move all their business to take out and delivery.
At home, we’ve started referring to everything as being “in quarantine.”
I got up early and went to the grocery store so that I could be there as soon as they opened. Things have been selling out by closing, but if there was ever a time they’d be fully stocked, it was in the wee hours.
Technically speaking, I was there for pearled barley and dates – I may be on a No Sugar diet but, in two weeks, I have my scheduled dessert allowance. And like hell am I waiting until we’re all living off rice and beans to try to find some medjools. I was, however, also on the hunt for lettuce. I will ride this Whole Foods lettuce train until I can’t no more.
Upon arrival, they were completely sold out of oranges and it was strange. Amongst the giant, stacked fruit pyramids popular in the WF was this bare, square void. Not a navel orange in sight. There was a man, I shit you not, in a gas mask. Not the apocalyptic, Chernobyl kind but the ones that look like a medical mask with two square filters on the side. It felt like seeing a rat on the subway in New York: concerning to witness but an accepted part of the wildlife. In the bulk bin aisle it was a weirder story; they weren’t just 90% empty, 90% of them had been completely removed.
But I got my lettuce and barley and even a spaghetti squash. I could’ve stocked up on more produce and some frozen food, but right now, the reason we’re having food shortages is because people are over-buying. So I elected to not be an asshole by mostly purchasing what I actually needed.
The major news in New England today is that Tom Brady posted a vague note on his instagram saying that he’s 'grateful for his time as a Patriot but is ready to open up a new chapter in his football career.' Tom, you’re 42, this isn’t a new chapter, it’s the last one. But it’s good to know that even in a viral apocalypse, Massachusetts is still maintaining what makes us, us: fanatical sports reporting.
Personally, I think Tom’s leaving because we won’t stop referring to him as “the goat.” I would go too.
Still waiting to hear about lockdowns or sheltering in place. I know that my parents want to go to Maine but, honestly, I will gladly quarantine alone with the cat in Massachusetts. I’ll get so much done I can’t even describe it. Emily and I are starting our podcast this week and that will easily get me through isolation madness (first test was today, working out some recording snafus before the official runthrough).
In other news, I just confirmed with my hairdresser that she’s still taking appointments. So at least I won’t have to start quarantine shaggy, I will be clean shaven as we fall head first into the end of times.
Yesterday I decided that what I need is a daily routine. I don’t know why it took me so long to realize this. Everyone’s trying to figure out how to remain productive and sane while working and living completely at home under self-quarantine and social distancing rules. I guess 'normal' people 'leave their houses' and 'socialize' and staying home alone on your computer for months on end is 'unnatural.'
I’ve been in self-quarantine since moving back in with my parents after grad school. I’ve been job hunting with no income for months. These people have been doing this for two days and they’re already going stir crazy? You extroverts need to get it together.
Anyway, I fucked up my daily routine immediately by sleeping in for an extra hour and a half…that’s typical.
Somehow I still managed to have a meeting, connect with my masters cohort, chat back and forth with my business partner about exciting business things, get stuck in on a new book, print a calendar I designed, and work on my blog.
So overall: good. But I didn’t do any design work on the podcast so was I really productive? Questionable.
I video-chatted with my MA professor today. In London, the college has shut down for five weeks and all of the tutorials are now virtual. I told him I don't envy his job right now, to which he replied with a dry and highly sarcastic, "thanks."
On Monday, I’ll be giving a tutorial. Obviously, it would’ve been digital regardless, but now I get to be the digital lecturer test run. Technical difficulties, I can handle, I'm just hoping I'm not shit at imparting wisdom (if I have any). It was great to hear from Johannes. I miss my MA professors more than any teachers I’ve had in the past and Johannes’ brand of showing affection by insulting me was the saltiness I needed today. Inspiring me to work harder even when he’s not trying to.
I’m just hoping that Johannes brings me in for some crit lecturers, I think that would be fun.
I finally got rid of all my Audible credits. I am free.
I did this last night but I think the reality and joy of being able to cancel my membership is only just beginning to settle into my bones. Who has the money for audiobooks at a time like this?
(I am fully enjoying Daisy Jones & The Six, the acting in this audiobook -chef’s kiss-)
Martha Stewart was on the Today Show, live-streaming from her home (mansion?). She was recommending everyday recipes to keep people healthy or soothe that plague-induced sore throat. Among other things, her ingredient list consisted of:
a giant chunk of ginger
fresh citrus (from her lemon tree in the back yard, but store bought is fine)
a professional grade juicer
Emily and I recorded our first podcast!! Whoop, whoop. I’m into the editing now and I gotta say, I’m excited. But also horrified because now I have so much to do before our first launch. Yikes, I’m behind.
In the grand coronavirus scheme, I'm mostly worried about what this whole situation bodes for employment. On the one hand, new opportunities have to arise and the people discovering those opportunities are the ones who will prosper. But on the other hand, are we falling into another Great Depression? Will there be jobs available? And if the job market is about to be flooded with more unemployed people than before, how am I supposed to rise up over the noise that I’m already drowning in?
I just need GQ to give me a fucking chance. You need me to run around New York gathering suits? I can do that. Gucci? You got it. Thom Browne? I’ll find you four stripes on a sleeve.
In more immediate news: My neighbor is out back, shining flood lights through the dark. It's misting, it's 9pm, he's playing heavy metal, and chopping wood. Except, the rhythmic sound of wood chopping is far too interspersed to be wood chopping. You know what I'm saying?
It's slightly surreal. Now is the moment when a murderer would be introduced to a thriller plot line.
I have a slight concern.
Surprise! I'm not murdered.
I went out today. I had a rational concern and an irrational one.
Rational concern: lettuce.
Irrational concern: I have been diet planning for weeks. WEEKS. So that I can eat easter-themed Reese’s when the time comes. If we go into lockdown or the grocery stores sell out of food and I don’t have at least one Reese’s cup egg...will the world even be worth living in?
So I went out. There was a thirty minute checkout line at my local store. This was before 8am.
At the fancy store, there was a line to get in; it stretched from one end of the strip mall to the other. Everyone was standing six or more feet apart.
When I picked up a print order from Staples, the cashier said, “have a great day in the pandemic.”
I see you sassy boy, I see your customer service face dropping. Maybe he just thinks that custom printing a tabloid-sized calendar so I can organize my life doesn’t count as an essential excursion. That’s fair. Don’t cough on me.
My parents came home from Maine and immediately decided that they were going back. I guess there’s been talk about the state borders closing in the not too distant future, so now’s the time to move. It’s surprising that they didn’t go sooner to be honest, we all knew they would be in Maine with my brother during the end of times. But they were also trying to keep my grandma in her house as long as humanly possible. Which is understandable, the cottage is only so big.
They also immediately decided that I would be going to Maine with them. And my dad approached this topic as if it was a cut and dry decision. Which, no.
We each made our arguments over takeout. I understand their perspective, but not enough to trap myself in a tiny house with four other people. I’m trying to be more productive, more regimented, and eat less baked goods. None of those things will happen in Maine. Mostly because my sanity will go out the window.
This is it. I'm a grossly extreme introvert. Finally I can embrace my dream to become a cantankerous hermit. Now is my time to shine.
Watching my parents pack is weird. Everything about this situation is strange. I can’t really describe the feeling.
On the one hand, this is something that has happened before. I mean, I'm 29, I've lived on my own, in distant lands, for long periods of time. I've watched my parents' house more than once while they were away and even while they've been in Maine. It's all happened before.
But never with this looming weight of the unknown. We don’t know when we’ll see each other again, we don’t know when they’ll move back to Massachusetts. Or if they will at all.
It’s like being trapped in limbo. A limbo where I have to walk one and a half hours to the grocery store each way.
I don't like that I’ve been sedentary long enough for that distance to seem like a lot. Christ, I need a job.