Personal Dispatch in the Time of COVID-19 II


I have left my apartment exactly once in the past week, just long enough to drop some recycling in the bin outside of my apartment complex. Our apartment doors open straight to the outside, so we don’t have any closed shared spaces here, and apart from the one student who was coming down some stairs as I dropped my recycling off, I haven’t seen another human being this past week. This wouldn’t be so ordinary for what became a Spring Break week for me when the university canceled an extra week of classes to help us prepare for the shift to online learning (I just started the originally-scheduled week of Spring Break today), but nothing is ordinary right now, and it won’t be ordinary for a long, long time to come.

My plans for transitioning to online classes starting on Monday are currently on pace, but I wish I could move more quickly here and get the rest of my planning done ahead of time. My efforts there are being stymied by a couple of things, one of which is a pronounced lack of sleep. It’s not that I’m worried so much about the pandemic itself, but people’s reactions to the pandemic (and you know what kind of people I’m referring to here) are causing me no end of distress, and my brain is refusing to shut off here as I try to put my own house in order while in the midst of all this clatter. I’m reading an awful lot of my friends writing about similar experiences on social media, so I know that I’m far from alone on this front, but that still doesn’t make me feel any better.

The other thing that’s been pulling on me lately is playing classic non-video games on my Playstation 4. I picked up Uno and Trivial Pursuit when they were put on sale last week, and I very quickly added Scrabble, Monopoly, and Boggle to my purchases. It didn’t take me long to realize that I was yearning for games from (the happier party of) my childhood, since Mom would have played those games with me if she’d had to take care of me during a pandemic. They’re a huge source of comfort for me right now, and more than that, they’re one of the few things that my brain is able to latch onto right now, providing a small amount of temporary relief from dealing with everything else.

I turned 44 this past Wednesday, and even though I’ve gotten used to not doing anything special for my birthday any longer (Mom always made sure I had a special dinner and at least a few presents), it was still impossible to avoid feeling the societal effects of the pandemic that day. Even though Ohio restaurants are still allowed to do takeout and delivery, I have to wonder if my favourite pizza places in Toledo will still be there the next time I get to visit. It’s been over two years since I left my hometown, and that was getting easier to deal with over time, but now I can’t help worrying that so many of the important places I used to frequent when I was living there will soon be forced to close.

My hope had been to spend a couple of days in Toledo this May, before I went to Kent for the fiftieth anniversary commemoration of the Kent State Massacre, but that commemoration was officially canceled today. I’d been expecting that, but it still hurts, and not just because my opportunity to visit Toledo has gone up in smoke as well. I grew up reading my parents’ Doonesbury anthologies, so the Kent State Massacre was a deeply meaningful event for me before I even began to really understand politics, and I’d been hoping to grab some interviews with people in Kent to help shape my next book. We’re all making alternate plans now, but having this event canceled is a real punch in the gut for me.

I’d been hoping to avoid bringing politics into the pandemic for a while longer, but today’s events make it clear that none of us can afford to do that any longer. I’ve gotten maybe ten hours of sleep in the last two nights, though, and I’ve felt like a zombie for most of the day today, so I will save my first thoughts there for next week’s blog. In the meantime, I’m going to stay holed up in my apartment here (if it isn’t already clear that we have some freaking awesome people in this part of Wisconsin, university employees are making free runs to the local store to pick up grocery orders for students and those of us who live in the apartment building next to the dorms), and I can only hope that you all are doing what you can to stay safe, and sane, in these challenging times.

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