It seems that it’s time to look back at a year of COVID-19. Scalzi did it. Ars Technica did it. I’m not usually a huge bandwagon jumper, but I thought, “why not?” This has been a huge, disruptive event. It might be therapeutic to write about it.
It was 11 March (I believe) when the WHO officially declared COVID-19 to be a pandemic. One of the first things I remember hearing about COVID-19 was the cruise ship that was stuck offshore because President Trump was so afraid of the numbers rising that he couldn’t let the folks off the ship. Turns out that was going to be a foreshadowing the likes of which we couldn’t quite understand at the time. My first inkling that maybe this was starting to become an issue in the US was in late February or early March when we went to visit relatives in New York City and they were against eating out because they were scared of getting sick. At the time, we thought they were just being a bit germaphobic. In fact, at the end of March we went to a restaurant for what we didn’t know at the time would be our last time to go out to eat for a year. (To date we still haven’t eaten out, not even for outdoor dining)
After that, of course, was the infamous “masks aren’t necessary” phase of the pandemic. So we just tried to limit our trips to the stores, but didn’t really worry about masks. Then work had us wear masks in public areas, but not at our desks. Eventually, it was all masks all the time. Which is where we remain today.
I got something around 1-2 months off of work during peak pandemic. Also, from not going anywhere on vacation, I ended the year with a ton of vacation days I couldn’t carry over. So I was able to dedicate a few days to programming projects and electronics projects. By being able to work continuously for many hours rather than coming to it at the end of a work day and spending a chunk of time remembering what I was working on, I got a lot further with my projects. I also spent a lot of time playing video games with the kids. I didn’t get as much cooking done as I would have thought at first because in the early pandemic there were constant food panics that made finding exactly what I wanted very hard. During the sour dough bread boom it was hard to find flour, for example. We also tackled some time-consuming house tasks like staining the deck or painting the porch columns.
For me, the biggest negative from the pandemic was not getting to see my family. I usually travel to see my direct family 2-3 times a year and my in-laws another 2-3 times. And they usually each head this way a time or three. That’s basically it. I’m mostly an introvert. I’ll have fun at a work picnic or a family get-together, but I don’t need or crave human interaction. Between work and the wife and kids, I don’t have any needs outside of that. As for restaurants, I go out to eat when the wife desires a different atmosphere, but I don’t really enjoy eating out. Unless we’re spending a ton of money, the food is never better than what either my wife or I could cook. It’s also inevitably going to be less healthy. The only place worth going out to IMHO is Korean because making a ton of ban chan (the little side dishes) is more trouble than it’s worth for just one meal.
I have lots of sympathy for those who have lost their businesses. Marketplace has been featuring interviews with folks who happened to think January 2021 was a great time to open the business they’ve been dying to open their entire lives. I have sympathy for the folks who work in the restaurant and bar industries that have lost their jobs and income. If we put those folks aside, I don’t understand the folks who have been complaining of boredom; of finishing Netflix, etc. Am I the only person in the world who has hobbies? Even with the aforementioned 2 months off of work, I’ve still got TONS I could do if someone were to pay me my current salary and tell me to stay at home.
From various Humble Bundle purchases, I’ve got about 350 video games to play. (If you don’t know – via Humble Bundle you can usually get 10-20 games for about $20) Most of them I’ve never played. Many, like Civilization or Spelunky, are infinitely replayable. I have over 1000 digital books and magazines to read. I have a bunch of programming projects. I have programming languages I’d like to learn. I have a backlog of photos to edit and/or tag. I have electronics projects to work on. There are over 200 new recipes I’d like to try. There are somewhere between 200 and 300 comic book issues I digitally have that I haven’t read yet. I have a bunch of classes to learn how to program video games. Scarlett and I started taking a drawing class. I have TV shows and movies that I wouldn’t mind seeing. Just those things together would probably be a full-time job for a couple years. On top of that, I have kids to raise and play with. A wife to be a husband to. And I know lots of folks are doing the “bubble” thing with their parents – if I were doing that, too then I’d have parents and 5 younger siblings to grow my relationship with. I don’t get it. Are most Americans that caught up in our Puritan heritage that they can’t have fun without work? I see especially see major fulfillment when I program because I’m creating things that others find useful. It’s very interesting.
They always say that folks die soon after retirement because they don’t have anything to do and they almost literally die of boredom. I don’t see that being a problem with me.
Well, a year out it looks like we may be turning the corner on the pandemic phase of COVID-19. Some scientists are saying it may be here to stay with us. COVID-19 may become like the common cold or the flu. Every winter we get some shots to keep us from either getting it or getting a mild case if we do get it. And that might be the best we can do. I’m fine with that if it means I can feel safe traveling to see my parents and my in-laws. It was kinda crappy to see the country fall apart in a time where we should have banded together. I’m hoping (perhaps stupidly) that this was merely a failure of leadership and not a true semi-permanent state of being here in the US. The scientists say these pandemics may become more frequent as climate change pushes different animals into contact with us and zoonotic transfers become more common. I’d like to hope that it doesn’t matter if we have a Republican or Democratic president – next time we’ll do a better job.
We’ll just have to see.