The home page for author Eric J. Juneau

I Am Tired of “Protecting” the Unvaccinated

rorschach watchmen whisper no

I am tired of “protecting” the unvaccinated.

Look, there are no undecided people anymore.

The actions of state governments (or inactions, e.g. Texas, Florida) aren’t an excuse. Your leader doesn’t determine what you do. Only you do.

And if they’ve decided not to put a mask on, not to get the vaccine, they’re not going to. Nothing short of devastating personal loss is going to motivate them to do anything. The constant pleas to “wear your mask”, “get vaccinated”, “beware the delta variant” are falling on deaf ears. And I’m sick of hearing it. People are going to do what they want to do. They view it as legislating morality, which can’t be done.

It’s not like the abortion debate, where there are multiple solutions to a single problem and we can’t decide on which solution is morally the rightest. You can say contraceptives. You can say extend it to X weeks but not Y weeks. You can say under A conditions but not B conditions. You can say no abortions period. You can say abortions for some, miniature American flags for others. And all these are legitimate.

Covid is a gun. It’s a cold dead thing that doesn’t do anything but kill you. You can’t argue it might grow into the next Einstein. It’s a bunch of tiny invisible guns shooting everywhere. The vaccine gives you a bulletproof vest. You might still get a bruise, but it will prevent death. If you don’t get the vaccine, you are carrying a gun that’s constantly firing in all directions. Most of all at yourself.

No, either you have gotten the vaccine or you’ve chosen to be a vector for the disease. You can’t be a centrist fence-sitter on this one. There are three options: you can decide to do something, you can decide not to do something, or you can decide not to decide. And the last is always taken by fools and the ignorant. And in this case, option two and three are the same. And those options are putting me and my family at risk. No bones about it.

At this point, it’s the unvaccinated who are suffering most. They put themselves in the hospital. They spit and cough on people going to the grocery store and on airplanes. And you’re telling me to put on a mask to protect them? Funny, I don’t feel much like doing so.

All their beliefs are rooted in conspiracy theories and who’s yelling the loudest, not science. Facts don’t matter to them. They say “You have facts. I have alternative facts. Who’s to say who’s right?” Well, that’s not how discourse works.

Batman Begins - "I won't kill you...But I don't have to save you." (480p) -  YouTube
“I won’t kill you… but I don’t have to save you.”

I shouldn’t have to set myself on fire to keep others warm. I did my time. I put on my mask. I went without local businesses. I stayed away from public places. And now I have to go back to that? For people barely contributing to humanity in the first place?

In American Gods, the protagonist, an ex-convict, says that everyone does their own time.

“One thing he had learned early, you do your own time in prison. You don’t do anyone else’s time for them. Keep your head down. Do your own time.”

-Shadow, “American Gods”

In the context of the book, that means you don’t become involved in anyone else’s situation, or you end up serving their punishment for them.

Doing your own time, in this case, means letting the anti-vaxxers catch the disease and die. Because in this case, that’s the only way they’re going to learn. Cory Doctorow’s Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom is a novel that takes place in a world where everyone is immortal because people can make back-ups of themselves. After a while, the only population left are those who follow this culture, because those who didn’t… well, they chose to be left behind.

But unfortunately, as we’ve seen in Florida and Texas and Ohio and other “red states”, letting them die means fewer resources for us. We’re seeing full ICU wards, hospital beds full of covid sufferers wishing they’d just gotten the vaccine. Those beds should be ours. And if I get a broken bone or my daughter gets encephalitis, we might not be able to get in. Is that the price we have to pay to wait for natural selection to weed out these refugees from reality?

Maybe. Could be worth the risk. Your freedoms are not worth as much as anyone’s life.

You think your freedoms are worth dying for? You first.

When Do the Masks Come Off?

glasses mask

Just in time for my second shot, the CDC revised their policies that fully vaccinated people can do anything without masks. They can go outside, go to parties, ride buses, get a haircut, and work out. People who haven’t gotten vaccinated are still relegated to the beach of the Sneetches with no stars upon thars.

Interim Public Health Recommendations for Fully Vaccinated People | CDC
Look at those happy people on the right

Of course, it’s still at the discretion of the businesses and corporations and owners to determine who gets in and who doesn’t. But from their perspective, there’s no way to know who’s vaxxed and who’s not. There’s no vaccine registry. We got vaccine cards that aren’t wallet-friendly, but I haven’t seen any business, from Mom and Pop bar to corporately-owned airline, request to see them. And I don’t think blood tests are in our future (like in Deep Space Nine).

Now they’re going to get flack from both sides. “Hey, I don’t need to wear a mask. I’m fully vaccinated!” “Okay, how do I know that. Do you have your card?” “Lost it.” “Medical records.” “Don’t have ’em.” “Call from your doctor?” “He’s on vacation.” “Then I how can I prove you’re not lying.”

And of course, the anti-maskers have proven themselves to be no better. “Hey, you let that guy be maskless.” “He’s fully vaccinated, sir. He proved it with his card.” “You’re violating my rights. This is cancel culture!”

For those people who can get vaxxed and don’t, they can go die for all I care. It’s not a debate anymore. You do you. Hospitals aren’t over capacity anymore. You want to catch it and have damaged lungs for the rest of your life (if you make it that long), go ahead. Be like Ted Nugent and Donald Trump and Boris Johnson and Herman Cain who thought there was no problem. It’s called natural selection. The more of you that drink a bucket of virus and keel off, the quicker the rest of the living can move forward.

But I’ve seen plenty of people on Twitter who say they’re going to keep wearing masks. And I’m fine with that. Masks are useful for not spreading disease. And there are people who can’t get the shot due to compromised immune systems or whatever. No one ever died from wearing a mask, but plenty have died from not wearing one.

The average person doesn’t know who’s vaccinated and who’s not. You could walk by someone coughing a big batch of Covid in your face as you pass them on the street. Even the fully vaccinated can still spread Covid. Remember–vaccinations don’t prevent you from catching and spreading the disease, it just prevents you from going to the hospital. Fortunately, it seems like transmissibility is much lower in the vaccinated, but it’s not zero. It’s the pissed jeans theory of communicability.

Bob Wachter on Twitter: "9/ Best analogy I've seen for understanding how  masks actually work to prevent Covid came from @mlipsitch. It's called “The  Urine Test,” and, while it's a bit crude,

But that begs a question… when will you stop wearing a mask?

You’re not going to wear it forever, right? I assume not. And I know you’re not going to stop wearing it tomorrow, that’s fine. So now we’re just in negotiations.

It’ll probably be determined by the businesses. That does seem to be what runs the country, after all. But each business will have to determine for themselves when to relax certain restrictions. A lot of people use Disneyland as a litmus test because they’re practically their own government. When they closed, we knew Coronavirus was serious business. But after an unprecedented thirteen months of closure, they reopened. Does that mean healing has begun?

Maybe, except they opened to California residents only, at 25% capacity, and face masks are mandatory. No fast passes. No single rider queues. And the following rides are closed: Jungle Cruise, Matterhorn Bobsleds, Submarine Voyage, Buzz Lightyear, Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, Grizzly River Run, and Little Mermaid. No monorail. No trams. No kids play area. No indoor dining. No turkey legs. No parades. No stage shows. No character meet-and-greets. And no nighttime fireworks shows.

I’d hardly call that Disneyland with so many missing elements. You must be a diehard nutso to spend your saved-up vacation money on such a diluted experience. But it’s a start. The real test is when and how Disney lifts these restrictions over time. And I think, at least I like to hope, that everything I mentioned above will return. As I do with everything else. I think I will be able to go to a Twins game at 100% capacity with no face mask. Maybe as soon as the end of this season.

Except there’s that 300% increased Minneapolis crime rate.

When the Offices Closed…

abandoned city

So on January 31st, my office will be officially closed and I’ll be in a permanent working-from-home situation. I’ve been working from home since March 2020, but now it’s permanent. Covid was the boost my company needed to go digital-only.

Which makes some sense–it’s a big company but with little offices all over the world. A large percentage of my co-workers are in different places and had to be communicated with over e-mail or phone anyway.

I only had a month in my new job before I was relocated. But I’m surprisingly sad that I won’t be going back to it. All the signs say I shouldn’t miss it. There are two sides to every coin in this slot machine.

There's No Way Around the Commute, But Here Are 5 Ways to Make It Better |  Inc.com

On one hand, I’m not missing that commute. From the far suburbs to downtown took three-quarters of an hour (that’s when driving. Using the bus increases it to a full hour for the ecological peace of mind). True, I enjoyed my solitude and my podcast time. But that was a huge time sink.

In my line of work, as a software engineer, I don’t really interact with many people daily. The reason offices exist is so you can easily and immediately approach the others on your team. But that’s not needed with today’s technology. You’ve got chat and e-mail and video calls. This means co-workers can be anywhere. Most of my jobs have involved some outsourced team in India.

Heck, half the time I feel awkward talking to anyone because I’m afraid I’m interrupting. (Because usually the person I need to talk to is a manager who has a billion things on their plate.) Chat means you can leave them a message, and they can respond at their convenience.

Live Chat Should Create Customer Convenience Not Dissatisfaction

The biggest problem with that online meetings is that everyone has a tendency to talk over each other. There are no visual cues to let you know when someone’s about to speak. So your choices are to stop talking and no one hears you or keep talking and no one hears you. But this was a problem before, just not as severe. Everyone always has a different idea on how to solve an issue, and they always want to say their piece. America.

On the other hand, it also means never getting to leave home. That takes a mental toll. It’s like being stuck in a cave or living in Groundhog Day. There is nowhere nice to eat around here. Just a McDonald’s and a Subway. In downtown, there’s a salad place, a gourmet burger place, a NY style deli, Chinese food, gyros, and in the summer, oh, the food trucks would come out into the mall and there would be meat pies and tacos and Korean street BBQ and all sorts of wonderful things.

Grampa Simpson Friends - Comic Vine
Ooh, they had designers back then…

Working at home is an exercise in avoiding temptation. I work in my home office in the basement (which is more like “the room where we store files and also my computer”), so it would be very easy to jump on and start playing video games. No one comes down here. My webcam’s turned off. No one would know. As it is, I feel guilty about catching up on my Netflix, but I suppose that’s okay. It’s my bandwidth now.

Speaking of bandwidth, I’m eating up more now. I keep reaching the limits of what my ISP will provide. Fortunately, because of Covid, they’ve extended those limits, but that ended last month. And my company said (in corporate-ese) that they’re not going to compensate us for the fact that we’re no longer using their lights, their building, their electricity, their bandwidth, their coffee, their printer.

Only people who make a $30,000 salary or lower will get a monthly stipend of $20-$50. They say that covers 40% of the company but who is making that little? This is a company providing technology solutions for patent and trademark docketing. There must be so few people without a post-high school degree. And those that do wouldn’t be using computers to do their job.

And I’m not the only one unhappy about it. Us employees have gone through a year asking “What does a digital-only company look like? What does that mean?” Well, now I know what it looks like. It means we furnish our own offices while they pocket the change they save. I’m not surprised, just disappointed.

Disappointed, but not surprised! | Reactions meme, Stupid memes, Relatable

Plus this is part of a trend. What happens if all the businesses downtown do this? I know a lot of them can. Every business I’ve worked for since college, all I’ve needed was a computer and a network connection. There’s no reason any company couldn’t go digital. They’re all just waiting for the technology to get cheap enough.

Except… what happens when my laptop breaks? I can’t log in to email the helpdesk. I haven’t had a work phone since 2013. And what are the consequences if nobody goes downtown anymore? What happens to all those businesses? Food, parking, infrastructure. Will it become a ghost town? Will it be like Mad Max with kids and homeless people tearing through Hennepin Avenue and Nicollet Mall on electric scooters and abandoned push-pedal cabs?

Distopías en las series de animación
Fry looks longingly at the Minneapolis skyline

Conclusion? On the whole, I think I gained more than I lost. But I did lose something. In any decision, you will have to give up something in order to get something. You just have to figure out if it’s worth it.

Bill & Bob: Where Are They Now?

bill and bob's roast beef

So I’m sure you’re all dying to know what’s happened to Bill and Bob since my first article in 2016 and my second in 2019. They ain’t gone away, that’s for sure. I thought they did, but like the cat, they came back. And I still gotta stare at this shit every time I work out.

I can’t remember when it went up but the one that said “Dear Congress, ILLEGAL IS ILLEGAL, Sincerely Bill & Bob” returned. I think it originally appeared because of the disagreements over immigration policy (i.e. children in cages), but it became especially appropriate around the impeachment (they don’t change their billboards often). That was up for a long time.

Then someone spraypainted out the second “IL”, making it “ILLEGAL IS LEGAL“. Not the cleverest bit of graffiti. It was probably just some dumb kid, but I want to sing this guy’s praises from Facebook to NextDoor. Thank you for taking a stand against these cowards. Thank you for making some kind of change to the same ugly picture that stands like a blackhead at our tiny intersection.

Then a week later they took the whole thing down and replaced it with some kind of home financing advertisement. And that was even better. I thought “Thank God Bill & Bob ran out of money and I don’t have to see their trite takes anymore.”

But no, they’re back. And now they’ve got both sides of the billboard. I see it on my way to the gym, I see while I’m working out, I see it on my way back home.

The worst one has been “Dear Mayor Walz, IT’S TIME”. This was put up around March, when everything started closing down. You remember all the tension and questions: “what are people going to do about their jobs?” “Or school?” “How will I get my Starbucks?” “How long is this going to last?” “Will any of this work?” “Can the economy afford this?”

“Open Up · Use Common Sense · No Bad Data”? Well, if you are using common sense then you wouldn’t open up. And Minnesota doesn’t have bad data. We’re not like Florida where they fire people who don’t fudge the numbers to make their state look good. Walz isn’t the mayor of Amity Island.

So what do you think, Bill & Bob? Do you think people are lying about the virus? Do you think the 4,000+ dead every day are faking it? Do you think we should just go back to normal and if you get sick, you get sick? Sure’d like to see how long you last with that attitude. I can’t believe I’m wearing a mask to save you.

The irony is that this has been up since March and hasn’t come down. Through the Spring scare, the Summer valley, the back-to-school nail-biting, the steady increase through the holidays, and now this surge where we’re breaking records left and right. And these Bill and Bob assholes still think everything should reopen, if leaving their billboard unchanged is an indication. This is assuming they’re not so old and demented they’ve forgotten they’ve got a billboard up.

Okay, what does the other side say? Is that as full of vitriol and passive-aggressive ignorance as the other?

Well, that’s a lovely fortune cookie. Granted, this is the most positive message Bill and Bob have given us peasants as they sit in their wizard’s tower of anonymity. Too bad it’s so abstract I don’t know what it’s supposed to mean. Is this referring to some event I don’t have knowledge of?

Are they saying Walz should rule from a position of hope instead of fear? Okay, I didn’t know he was doing that. I haven’t felt very afraid. In fact, I’d like him to invoke more fear. Get mad. Start handing out fines.

I’m really curious. What are they’re trying to communicate with this message? Advancing humanity? We’re just trying to stay above water here. Are you talking about “moving on”? I’m twiddling my thumbs every day, hoping that my parents don’t die, hoping that the government doesn’t collapse, hoping that cops start shaking hands with Black people and shooting white supremacists instead of the other way around, hoping that lawmakers can complete some actions instead of being blockaded just because they’re members of a certain party.

It’s always remarkable how out of touch Bill and Bob are. Just when I think they can’t get more ignorant, they prove me wrong. I know there’s only so much that can go on a billboard, but jeez man. Someone had to design this. They thought this was a good idea. And I still have no idea what call to action it’s meant to convey. Except breed contempt in my soul.

Edit: Special thanks to all the readers who sent me leads on the identity of Bill and Bob. Nothing panned out, but I appreciate that we’re all commiserating in misery on this.

Why I Decided to Send My Kids Back to School

child man walking to school

Yeah, it’s a controversial opinion and one you wouldn’t expect me to make. I wouldn’t expect me to make it. I am very firmly on the side of “take this virus seriously” because it’s not a flu. You could get brain damage, lung damage, kidney damage, etc.

But I also know my kids. I know what they need I know what’s best for them and their lives and me & my wife know they are better off going to school and risking the virus. Since I’m sure you’re all fascinated by my decision-making process, I’m going to outline my reasons here.

Distance Learning Sucks Donkey Balls

So last year, school closed down in March by state mandate, and it was never certain when it would reopen. The state took some time to “evaluate” and distribute their “distance learning” strategy, it slowly trickling down to local schools. Some teachers showed enthusiasm, but some stayed silent.

For background, my kids were in fourth and sixth grade last year — one was in middle school, one was in elementary. They both had to start at about eight o’clock in the morning because the Schoology application they used to submit schoolwork and get lessons would start suffering service outages around ten to two.

The teaching they got was garbage. It was either worksheets, a paragraph of instructions, or some reading. Everyone kind of threw up their hands and said “there’re only three months left in the year. Let’s just half-ass it until June.” I can’t imagine what it was like if you had a student that didn’t have access to the technology we do.

The elementary art teacher pointed students to a YouTube video and said “do that”, but never checked any work. My eldest had to time-lapse record herself doing forty minutes of physical activity for gym. Besides the fact that we had to figure out how to use time-lapse photography, my wife had to take time out of her day to do this. You think the teacher watched all those videos of kids rollerblading and biking?

No one learned anything. No one interacted with anyone. Attendance was not taken. In fact, we didn’t get notification that my eldest hadn’t turned in assignments for a month. Was this the fault of the student? Was it the fault of the teacher for not notifying her or us until so late? The communication we received from the teachers and principals always left us with more questions than answers.

They are miserable staying at home

The elder had about four hours of schoolwork per day, taking her until noon. The other only had two hours. This makes things difficult when you want to play together or schedule some outing. And it can trigger some deep-seated jealousy when your kid sister gets out of school twice as early as you because they’ve decided not to teach her anything.

Our kids are smart. We make them do give them workbooks during the summer to keep them out of our hair stimulated, and it shows. They’re at the top of their class. For both of them, the teacher can’t technically tell what reading level they’re at because the test scales don’t measure that high. The youngest often tells me she finds math boring because she already knows the lesson. The eldest never has homework because she’s already done it in class. They have a social studies/music teacher for a mom and a writer/software engineer for a dad, so between us, we’ve got all the subjects covered. There’s not much they gain from school, content-wise.

But what they do need to get, we can’t give them. Independence, responsibility, accountability, hard work, honesty, socialness, and so on. All those secondary characteristics.

My kids don’t make friends easily. We have to get them up off their asses to go call or text someone. They’d rather play with each other all day than with anyone else. So getting them to separate from each other and make their own friends and develop their own personalities and likes. They aren’t “into” anything, like I was when I was their age. I was easy to buy Christmas presents for–just give me anything with Ghostbusters, Disney, Ninja Turtles, video games, etc. My wife likes softball, the Twins, the Vikings, skiing, Legos. But what do our kids like? I couldn’t tell you.

The sports that they play, we have to shove them into it, drag them to every practice and game while they whine and complain about doing the thing they supposedly volunteered for so they can go in and give about 40% of themselves to it.

We also considered their desires into the decision, because they acknowledge the misery of it all as well. Both of them wanted to go to private school at first. But when the eldest learned about the middle school’s hybrid learning plan, she wanted to go back there. She wanted to see her friends and didn’t want to risk losing her place in the G&T program. We agreed and that’s what we’re doing.

You Can’t Just Stop School

This coronavirus thing is not just a blip. It’s going to go for about two years–that’s how long pandemics usually last. And life doesn’t stop for anyone, not even viruses. That especially applies when you’re a young child.

The longer you go without education, the dumber you get, especially when you’re young. I have no scientific evidence for this, but I know what I’ve observed and what my teacher-wife has observed. After three months of summer, it takes about one month to get the kids back to the point where they’re learning something new. That’s one-ninth of the school year spent on review because of stupid summer vacation. And remember–they’re teaching to the lowest-performing student.

Exercise is the same way. If you take a few months off, then go back to the gym, do you continue on like nothing happened? No, you’ve regressed. You’ve got to build yourself back up to where you were before you stopped.

We seem to be low risk people in a low risk area

We live in a rural area of the suburbs, on the very edge of the metro area (which means we still pay taxes for that metro area <grumble, grumble>). It’s not densely populated here. No one I know has ever had Coronavirus. That does not mean it doesn’t exist, it just means it’s not prevalent in this area.

Our family has general good health. I’ve only been to the hospital once, for meningitis. My kids have no maladies or chronic health conditions besides lactose intolerance. My wife does, but she’s not scared. She intends to go back to work as a substitute teacher. In fact, she’s looking forward to it, because she thinks most other subs won’t be going because (because they’re mostly retired teachers) so she’ll be getting all the juicy jobs they’ve left behind.

I don’t share her sentiment. She is the most vulnerable to coronavirus in our family–she has asthma and heart arrhythmia. I’m very scared for her if she gets it–she might get permanent lung damage or long-term hospitalization or something worse. But I am not her controller.

Conclusion

I think a lot of the factors in making this decision depends on where you are, and my state has a lot of diversity in population-densities. The state can’t make a one-size-fits-all solution. A rural town of three hundred in Northern Minnesota doesn’t have a nearby hospital. It doesn’t have the Internet or technology to enable distance learning. It’s not that they’re not affected, just that the outbreak chance is low.

And that’s what I’m playing on–the chance. I am balancing the chance of my children getting Covid-19 vs. the results of public school distance learning. And how our school district dealt with it last year did not fill me with confidence.

Now please note, here’s what I did not say. I did not say “all schools need to reopen”. Clearly the clusterfuck in Georgia is evidence against that.

I did not say “it’s no big deal”. It most definitely is a big deal–this is a weighty decision and due time was given to its evaluation.

I did not say “it’s going to go away soon”. Like I aforementioned, this won’t get properly blown over until March 2022.

I did not say “teachers should go back to work”. Everyone needs to evaluate where they’re at, what they can do, what they can risk.

I said “My kids need to go back to school. I’ve looked at the situation and it’s the best thing for them right now.”

What Will It Take to Reopen?

dungeon door

My whole problem with the “Do we open? Do we not open?” debate is that there is no clear goal. My governor (Minnesota) is doing this hem and haw, basically stepping outside to see if it’s still raining, then stepping back in.

It would be a lot easier to swallow this lockdown if there was some goal in mind to reach before reopening – do we have to get down to a certain number of infections per day? Deaths per day? Tests per day? A vaccine in our hands? But no one’s willing to set that objective in stone. I’m sick of having my kids’ sports postponed, not canceled, so they can hold onto our money.

Look, folks. There is no scenario where opening up does not lead to an increased infection rate. Not now, not six months from now, not two years. It’ll take until September 2021 when there’ll be a vaccine in commoner hands. That’s eighteen months from March 2020, when the research really started. That’s how long development takes–tests, trials, funding, bills passing, double-checking and triple-signing, evaluating long-term side effects. Eighteen months is the fast-tracked vaccine. And that’s IF the developers get it right the first time.

The world cannot self-isolate for eighteen months. It’s psychologically impossible. We can’t even do it for two months. It’s not just a matter of the mental toll it takes on a person. The economy as a whole can’t take this many businesses shut down for this long. It’s simply too much unemployment.

And I’ll be the first person who’ll say “fuck the economy — I don’t want my mom to die” (spoiler: I’m not). But eighteen months is unreasonable. There is a value you can put on a person’s life. Is it worth spending $1 to save a woman who has leukemia? Yes, of course. Is it worth spending the nation’s GDP? No, that’s silly. So we’ve established that life has a price. Now we’re just negotiating.

Bottom line: We’re not getting through this without scars.

People are going to die. Like Robert Frost said, “The only way out is through.” And that means we’re going to have to compromise. I know, I hate that word too. I hated that word when my mom used it to mediate fights between me and my sister. I hate it now, because everyone gives up something, and no one really wins. But that’s the kind of situation this is. We’re not trying to win, we’re trying to survive. We’re going to have to determine “acceptable losses”, because there’s going to be losses.

I’m not advocating “open everything up again! Let them all get sick! Build up immunity!” Because Coronavirus isn’t like that. It’s not binary results — you either die or make a full recovery. But you could also get liver damage, kidney damage, lung damage, even PTSD from being in the ICU, and all those other diseases that could get through because your immune system is busy fighting Covid-19 (stupid kill-stealers).

But I can’t stand the way every thing is closed down now. Not because it’s inconvenient, but because my friends don’t know where their next paycheck is coming from. And it’s not just the register-monkey at Cinnabon’s. I know nurses who are laid off and furloughed, doctors who are taking pay cuts to keep hospitals open. Substitute teachers and child care specialists. It’s middle and upper-middle class stuff too, not just the janitors and security desk officers.

So… there must be a compromise.

How I Spent My Summer Vacation (in Quarantine)

geek with computer in basement

You know, most of my life I kept saying that I was so introverted I could be a brain in a jar and be happy, as long as I was hooked up to TV and the internet and books and such.

Now that’s essentially what I am, and even I’m occasionally having fits of anxiety, panic, dread, and ennui.

I was the last one to come to my office. But that only lasted a week before the governor closed all non-essential businesses, including my own. No one needs software developers to be present and accounted for.

As much as I complain about commutes and the vapidity of being in the office and having nothing to do, I worked better when I had a designated place and time to sit my butt down and work. I wrote better when I had a designated place and time to write. I could listen to podcasts on the way in and get educated. I never got tired of either environment because I didn’t spend too much time in either. And the coffee was free.

But now I spend all my time in my basement. I work in my basement. I play video games in my basement. Not only am I not leaving my house, I’m not leaving the room. Saturdays and Sundays don’t mean anything to me anymore. Tuesdays are now the worst part of the week. Mondays aren’t so bad because it’s a change of pace. But Tuesday comes and it’s “I gotta go down to the basement for the next nine hours… again.”

will smith stuck in basement

I didn’t really go anywhere, but those few places I did go, I treasured. Just like how I don’t talk much, but when I do, I expect to be heard. Now I can’t get food wherever I want. No more deciding “hmm, should I have Chinese today? Or pizza today? Or gyros? Or a sushi burrito? Or any of the other hundred interesting food kiosks and trucks in the downtown area?”

The things that used to keep me sane are now driving me insane. I go right from my work computer to my home computer — no break in-between. I don’t write consistently anymore because, since my gym closed, my only exercise is taking the dog for a thirty-minute walk. And yet I’m still hungry all the time.

Reading at work? What’s the point anymore? I can watch YouTube and be be on my phone all the time and there’s no one to see me and tut-tut.

warcraft guy south park

And even worse is that it seems there’s nothing I want to do at home. I was about to go out and try and join a D&D Adventurer’s League at a game shop that opened up in my town (Shut up! No, I really was. I would have gotten up the guts. I really would have. Shut up, I would.) but that ship sailed. (How can they call game stores non-essential, I ask you.)

No one in the house wants to play games with me. And when they do, it’s not the games I want to play. I just got Concept and Betrayal at the House on the Hill, and everyone’s like “…meh”. They all want to play Animal Crossing. They’re obsessed with that game–all the fun outfits and furniture and wallpaper and toilets you can get. And I’m like “What is the point? This is just Chore Simulator 2000. There’s no central goal to achieve, no way to make your character stronger, nothing to explore. Stardew Valley is the same game, and it had all of that. I put a hundred hours into that beast before I ran out of stuff to do.”

The only thing I can look forward to anymore is food, and even that’s not so great. I have no motivation to make lunches ahead of time anymore to because I have to plan grocery store stuff two weeks ahead of time instead of just one. Can’t just get my tub of ice cream and Nilla wafers any time I want. Plus now I’m so close to my refrigerator I can eat something immediate and quick. Except that’s all food my family needs. That lunchmeat is for the kids. That ground beef is for tacos tonight. Meals are based on what we can get at the grocery store? Will there be rice? Flour? Pickles? I don’t know.

I haven’t even really drank since quarantine started. Just beer — my liquor cabinet is empty. And it’s not like there’s anything stopping me from getting more — the liquor stores are still open. I just don’t have any motivation to drink anymore. I’m not stressed enough to need to blow off steam or just be bad for a while. Because I’m at home all the time. The video games and ice cream are right there.

trapped in room with window

So that’s where I’ve been at these past four weeks. They say “If you’re getting out of bed these days, you’re ahead of the game”. And I should be very thankful that I still have job and it’s one I can do from the safety of home and that I am living in a relatively low-risk area. But that doesn’t change the fact that none of this feels good and that I feel helpless to do anything about it. How can you feel positive about the outcome when the president hints that you should drink bleach or pool cleaner or UV light and that right-wingers with assault rifles are parading around my state’s capitol because they want to get a haircut.