For a moment, consider the coronavirus as a type of singularity. Leading up to it, conditions on the far side of the event horizon are so different as to be unimaginable. Once we emerge on the other side of this thing it will be increasingly difficult to relate to pre-pandemic society and culture because the world will have changed so much as to have un-moored us from our previous points of reference.
While writing this post it occurred to me that if I had written it in 2019 “I don’t get it” would probably be the most generous response and “somebody Baker Act that guy” would perhaps have been the most common. But reading this in the context of the pandemic, changes things dramatically. As of Spring 2020 “that guy is a comedic genius” is probably the most generous response to this post, while “somebody Baker Act that guy” probably will be the most common.
We spent most of last year watching a house being built across the street. In December I met my new neighbor for the first time as we rolled our bins to the curb. He eyed the bottles overflowing my recycle bin with obvious skepticism.
“Don’t worry,” I assured him. I’m not a raging alcoholic, we just had a big party.”
Last week we happened to cross paths once again while rolling our bins to the curb. My neighbor eyed the bottles overflowing my recycle bin with obvious skepticism.
“Don’t worry,” I assured him. “I didn’t have a big party. I’m just a raging alcoholic.”
In both instances my explanation seemed to greatly reassure him as to the quality of the people he’d moved his family next door to.
My employer switched to a 100% work from home policy early on and since then has come up with many different ways to maintain team cohesion and build morale. Last week we had “pajama day” in which team members were invited to attend all video meetings in their pajamas or a costume of their choosing. (Presumably the “costume” provision made it possible for some people to avoid not-safe-for-work explanations of why they don’t own pajamas.)
On Spirit Day my Zoom screen looked like Hollywood Squares on acid. One square was occupied by Santa, complete with flowing white beard and a fur-trimmed hat and red suit. Someone in another square was decked out in a Hugh Hefner-style smoking jacket and silk pajamas. My boss showed up wearing her daughter’s Eeyore onsie, complete with a hood sporting Eeyore’s floppy ears, and had set her Zoom background to be the Hundred Acre Wood. Other attendees included Pikachu and Dora The Explorer. I showed up in a Mr. Robot Evil Corp mask.
The meeting proceeded as if nothing unusual were happening.
The kids next door
My new neighbor has two kids about Middle School age. They do the social distancing thing now, but a month or so back when we were already self-isolating they were still playing in the yard with other neighborhood kids. I seriously considered calling Family Services to get an anti-social worker out here to talk with them.
Yesterday my wife and I got both kids on a Zoom conference for a family meeting.
“We just got off the phone with the lawyer and updated our will,” I told them. “Your grandfather passed last year and our finances have changed since the last update. With the pandemic this seemed like a good time to update it. We just need to fill you in on the details”
“Anything wrong?” asked Meg.
“No,” I assured her. “Everything is basically the same as it was except that we added a new bequest. If we both die, your grandma gets her house in trust and you two split most of the rest of the assets. Life insurance will make sure there’s no debt.”
“Most?” asked Robert.
“About that,” I began. “Due to some account confusion with Instacart, they double-shopped an order on a day that BJ’s had toilet paper in stock. You know those club packs that have the equivalent of 150 rolls? Yeah, we now have a lifetime supply. Quite possibly well more than a lifetime supply if our lives are, uh, abbreviated.”
“So which of us gets the toilet paper?” asked both kids in near unison.
“Neither,” I replied triumphantly. “Because I’ve thought this through. In the event both of us die our executor – who is the law firm, by the way, not you – is directed to donate all remaining toilet paper anonymously to a random elder care facility out of state. Nobody we know personally can inherit it so don’t get any ideas.”
“Wait, what?” Megan asked incredulously. “You don’t think the life insurance and the houses are motive but you think the toilet paper is?”
“Exactly. We raised you both with true moral compasses. You understand that happiness comes from within and that no amount of money is worth killing over. I could make a million dollars this year and be confident it wouldn’t tempt either one of you.”
“But you think toilet paper would?” Robert asked, echoing his sister’s tone of disbelief.
“We’ve been binge watching,” I explained. “You know how they say fight the dead, fear the living? That goes double when you have a stockpile of toilet paper.”
“So how much will you make this year anyway?” Megan asked casually.
“Anything close to a million?” Robert chimed in, trying way too hard to sound innocent.
“I wish,” I replied, making a mental note to change the locks. Damned pandemic.