As an introvert with near crippling social anxiety, I’ve always kind of romanticized the stories of isolation during the Black Death or the Spanish flu. How lovely to be relieved of the pressure to interact with other human beings? To finally record that album, write that novel, create that art – there’s many in my head, but time enough to complete any one single idea would be a great start.
But there are three things I never considered:
- The moment the option is gone, I would suddenly and inexplicably crave social interaction of any kind.
- I wouldn’t actually have time to finally produce my great masterpiece while in isolation.
- Toilet paper would become extinct.
Here in West Bend, Wisconsin, the great sphincter of the country, we always seem to be the furthest from any world crisis – both mentally and physically. So last week Thursday, when I went to the grocery store and discovered most of the shelves were suddenly empty, it became immediately evident that the apocalypse was upon us.
Rest assured, though, that while they’re hoarding the toilet paper, most West Bend residents still believe the coronavirus pandemic is a hoax. Clearly all medical experts, they’re all eager to lecture the unlucky souls still stuck behind cash registers…while they’re coughing, sneezing, and paying with bacteria-soaked cash. And they’re definitely not taking any vaccines. You know, because of the government computer chips in them.
This is a feature, not a bug, folks. One of the candidates currently running for a position on the school board is a boisterous anti-vaxxer.
Prayer, of course, is the only medicine we need.
Or is it panic buying crystal meth for self-isolation?
Anyway, last week Friday, my son’s school had their annual talent show. Participants performed alone in the gym, while students watched on screens in their classrooms.
Within a few hours after school let out that day, the automated call system used to send messages about snow day cancellations was notifying parents that all schools would be closed for the next four weeks. This week’s CDC recommendations have now turned that timeframe into “indefinitely.”
“Distance learning” begins for all students mid next week, but the school district hasn’t even announced how that will work yet.
On Sunday, my kids and I went to the store to pick up enough meals and snacks to get us through being home for a couple weeks. Cleaning supplies were gone. Hand sanitizer and soap, gone. Shoppers were snapping photos with their phones of the empty toilet paper aisle. In the freezer section, a distraught man stood in the middle of the aisle with an empty cart, gaping at the barren shelves.
“They took all the pizzas, those fuckers,” he said.
As we passed him, though, he assured us he would make it through this crisis as long as Kwik Trip still has coffee and cigarettes.
I haven’t left the house in a week, with the exception of daily expeditions to the mailbox. I’m fortunate enough to work for the greatest little company known to humanity, which has enabled me to work from my kitchen table between sessions of staring blankly out the window as the squirrels frolic and mock me from the yard. I’m excited to report that I am not chasing anyone around with an axe yet, so things are going well.
The first two Wisconsin deaths caused by COVID-19 were announced yesterday, in counties directly adjacent to Cult of Weird HQ.
Remember the good ol’ days when it was just a hoax?
My son and I just finished reading The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman, and I’m hoping the end of the world holds off long enough to get through American Gods.
Another thing helping stave off the psychotic break is a new podcast by horror actor Bill Oberst Jr. called Gothic Goodnight. On screen, even in his most subtle moments, Bill’s performance is deeply unsettling. Usually he’s a complete madman. But I had the opportunity to do some design work for him some years back, and he’s probably the kindest psycho you’ll ever meet.
Listening to Bill read classic Gothic literature, it turns out, is a relaxing escape and an unexpected salve for the anxieties of these strange times.
How’s your quarantine going? What are you doing to stay sane?