Friday, April 24, 2020

Dispatches from Arm's Length, Part 4

The quarantine was supposed to last a couple of weeks. Two weeks became three, then a month, then seven weeks, and now likely about three months. Each one of my optimistic predictions has come and gone, and my most recent prognostication --my aforementioned loosening of stay in place around May 22nd-- is likely to be for naught. Whatever plans I had for May, including the now postponed Omaha Comedy Festival, have been scuttled.

The rest of the 2019-20 school year in Illinois has been officially left to E-learning, which leaves me out of steady work until the third week in August. I've applied for temp jobs but haven't heard back. I had been depending on Lyft and Postmates, but the hacking of Instacart, an apparent Google Maps glitch, and an ensuing domino effect has thwarted any real source of income for the moment.

Also during week six, I accidentally stumbled into an argument with a conservative college acquaintance and a friend of his on Facebook. (Rest assured, on the rare occasion I get into a Facebook argument, you will hear about it here.) I believed that the extended stay in place order was hardly desired but necessary; we can't ease ourselves into anything remotely normal until COVID-19 is eradicated. My friend of a friend lived in a rural area in central Illinois, and was frustrated that she and her family can't go fishing. Both made a valid point about how this is destroying small businesses, though that has been a problem everywhere.  I kind of wanted to know more about she was getting by in a less densely populated part of the state, but her condescending attitude about Chicago turned me off. I failed to articulate that everyone is struggling right now. At least neither of them spit out any Trump rhetoric.

Besides unexpected petty squabbles on social media, how am I entertaining myself? I'm catching up on magazines and the Sunday papers. I downloaded a Sudoku app on my phone, something I haven't done in maybe four years. I've struck up conversations on OkCupid and participated in an online (Zoom) dating event. My barprov show is doing one hour remote (again, Zoom) shows twice a week. It may seem like a lot, but it's barely enough. I treated the first round of the NFL Draft like appointment television; otherwise, I feel too distracted to binge on any TV shows. Obviously, I'm still writing.

In the meantime, I will continue to update this blog as things progress and regress. We've all seen a lot of crazy together, and like a certain curve that has barely flattened, it's probably going to get worse. I've never had much interaction through my blog --well, not since the days-- but if you're reading this, don't be afraid to comment or drop a line. I want to make sure you're okay, too.


Saturday, April 18, 2020

Dispatches from Arm's Length, Part 3

Warren G. Harding is largely considered one of our worst presidents. His legacy, beyond being corrupt and a philanderer, was the word he unintentionally invented while campaigning in 1920. In the wake of the Great War and popular support for American isolationism, he promised a "return to normalcy."

Normalcy, whether or not you think its a real word, has lingered all over the news and on social media as the quarantine ends week five. Even when businesses and public places re-open, things won't go to normal immediately. There's no timetable yet, and the most educated guesses aren't optimistic. (Incidentally, I told a friend that I was hoping for May 22nd, and she winced. So much for hoping against hope.) As optimistic as some people are, you can't force the machine to run normally in a matter of seconds.

The executive branch knew about a potential pandemic in January, then swept it under the rug. I'm just as furious and frustrated as anyone else, but luckily the late night talk shows are still around to make articulate, witty commentaries about the Trump administration's epic blunder. COVID-19 news may be exhausting for some, but I find satire to be a welcome distraction.

When (and if) everything reopens, everything will have to be eased in. Events of no more than two people will give way to groups of five, then ten, perhaps fifty. Social distancing will be "normalcy" for a while yet. Rushing ourselves out into the open (like what President Trump implied in his "LIBERATE" tweets) will only make things worse.


Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Dispatches from Arm's Length, Part 2

Since Saturday, March 21st Chicago has been under a "shelter in place" order. Not enough Chicagoans were taking this seriously, so on the 26th, Mayor Lightfoot ordered all the beaches and parks closed. The weather was gorgeous on the 25th, but necessity took priority over everything else. There's a pandemic, and this mayor is not here for populist pandering.

The most optimistic projections are getting crushed. President Trump ignored advisers and medical experts alike, and projected everything reopening by April 12th. In spite of the Christian conservatives that Trump pandered to in 2015-16 (and still does) businesses aren't resuming normal operations by Easter. The new projection, if all goes well, is closer to April 30th.

As I mentioned before, I am predominantly a substitute teacher. When the four districts I work for all shuttered their schools on March 13th, I had to accept the reality that I would be mostly out of work until their projected date, April 6th. It was a domino effect, each local district one by one making an announcement, until Governor Pritzker more or less forced an extended shutdown, all in a matter of hours. I added the Postmates app on top of driving for Lyft, my summer job. Alas, ride-sharing and food delivery have both gone bone dry, and I wonder if sitting on my car waiting for nothing is worth risking my health.

I see people on social media lose track of the day of the week, as whatever signifies their routine (school, church, etc.) goes on the wayside. I have no problem distinguishing Tuesday from Wednesday, but time is different matter. I'm having a hard time getting out of bed; I've been up until 2 most nights and walking up between 11 and noon. My normal idea of "sleeping in" is more like 9:45, maybe 10 o'clock. There's always things to do. Now I can't find the motivation...