Interesting Times

A curse, falsely attributed to a Chinese imprecation, goes like this: “May you live in interesting times.” After the last two years, I feel I understand why this is a curse. I don’t recommend living through interesting times.

Just now, I was scanning the online edition of The Irish Times, a paper I had never read before. I was curious about a story they had about the bungalows built all over Ireland in the 1970s, as I’m reading a book that mentioned the phenomenon. A headline grabbed my attention. Apparently, COVID hospitalizations are up in Ireland. I immediately checked the Boston COVID wastewater website to see if we had a spike in MA, and apparently, we don’t. Yet. It’s that “yet.” I’m so tired of the pandemic at this stage. I want it to end. I am tired of wearing masks, but I’m afraid not to. I’m appalled by the people who refused, even at the height of the pandemic. This attitude showed up even in my own family, and I am now permanently estranged from the person who exhibited it.

That’s another issue with this pandemic. What it’s doing to our relationships as people’s true lack of empathy and caring is revealed in all its ugliness. I noticed it in the run-up to the former President’s election. I couldn’t believe he won, and frankly, he didn’t really. We just have this antiquated system known as the Electoral College that has stolen elections from Democratic candidates who won the popular vote. Meanwhile, gerrymandering and voting restrictions have consequences. Across the country, there is a movement to silence and marginalize teachers. We will have a crisis in education as we cannot fill empty teaching positions. I have never been this worried about public education in this country. Who knows how things might have turned out if not for the continued existence of the Electoral College? Would as many people have died? I always thought voting mattered, but the last seven years have taught me exactly how much.

My first reaction to thinking of another COVID surge was despair. Realistically, I understand that pandemics must have a shelf-life. It’s not in a virus’s interest to kill the hosts. It’s much better for a virus’s longevity to create a mild illness that is easy to pass along. I know that the worst pandemics and epidemics in history eventually reached some sort of endemic equilibrium. I just want this whole thing to be over. I wanted to travel. I still want to travel. I am trying to hold out hope that things will improve, but it is harder and harder to stay optimistic.

Plague Journal: Day One

Photo by Andrew Small on Unsplash
Photo by Andrew Small on Unsplash

It’s been suggested that our journals will be primary sources for those studying this time period later on. I should probably be writing down my thoughts, then, because who knows what happens to websites like this one—in 100 years no one will be maintaining it. Where will it go? I don’t know, but I decided to try to document some of what is happening in the world, and perhaps I can figure out a way to preserve it some time down the road.

The last day of classes before spring break was March 6. Our head of school said to tell students to take anything they might need in order to study home with them in the event that they couldn’t return. Last weekend, the school decided to send our international students home, knowing they likely cannot return to the U. S., even if Covid-19 tapers off more quickly than experts think it will, and we are somehow able to return to school. The school also decided to conduct classes online. I don’t think we will be returning to school.

I have been trying to limit going anywhere. The last place I went besides the store was the dentist. That was only this Monday, but it feels like it was a lot longer ago. That morning, the dentist made the decision to close his office for the time being. I was lucky, I guess, to be able to get in and get my crown done before all of this because who knows how long I would need to wait otherwise. I had my annual physical last Friday. The doctor’s office seemed relatively calm. Not many people were in the waiting room, and I sat far away from everyone else.

Some things have been hard to get at the store: toilet paper, hand sanitizer, bleach. So far, soap seems to be available. I went to the store this morning to buy meals for a few days, and there was no chicken, ground beef, or eggs at the first place I went, so I went to another, and I found what I needed. I think it might be like that for a couple of weeks until people calm down. I am hoping our toilet paper will last until then, but I am not sure it’s an emergency. I felt lucky to be able to find paper towels today, and they were even my preferred brand. I am trying to look for cooking ideas that don’t involve using meat since it is apparently going to be harder to find in the short-term. I made French onion soup and served it with a crusty loaf of sourdough bread I made yesterday. Tonight is Detroit-style homemade pizza. I will need to look for some other ideas for things my family will not turn up their nose at.

It’s surreal. Two weeks ago, everything felt more or less normal, even though there was a sense of unease as we left for break. One week ago, I feel like my life changed. I can even trace the exact moment. I went to the drop-in center for an organization where I volunteer, and I halfway wondered if I should go, but I decided it was okay. At the end of the evening, the director said she had a text that indicated someone in another organization housed in the same building might have been exposed to Covid-19, and therefore, we might have been exposed. While I think the chances are very, very small that any of us were exposed, especially because the individual was not present, there was a palpable sense of fear. Even from the moment I came in that evening, the kids were walking up to me and saying they felt scared and had heard there would be no school the next day. So, quite literally, by about 10:00 P.M. Thursday, March 12, everything had turned upside-down.

Next week, we are going to be figuring out how to teach our classes online. I feel okay about this change for my own classes, but I am worried about the steep learning curve ahead for some of my colleagues. I would love to be able to be in the same space with my students, but I feel confident in my ability to engage with my students and do some quality work online. We are living in interesting times, and I can’t help but feel like this is the stillness before the storm.