The Corona Hours


Here in the Czech Republic, we’ve been under self-isolation rules for about 20 days. For some that’s not a big deal, for some it’s a nightmare. For me, well, I spend a pretty good amount of time trying to figure out how I feel and washing my hands.

I try to structure my days more or less in line with my normal life. I get up early, make coffee, and fend off the advances of my cat who has spent the night locked out of the bedroom and is thus recovering from the trauma of not being able to get her rectum as close to my face as possible. Pretty normal.

Things can be normal still when I sit at Mission Control (my desk), check my MITs list (most important tasks), and get started with my morning of work. When I am working on coursebook materials, an article, or fiction, I can mostly escape into those places and leave the stresses of the world behind, whether it’s a Corona World or not. I also find that when I am in the kitchen cooking and watching a show or listening to a podcast then I am also able to block out current stresses.

In order to keep things relatively calm and normal, I avoid apocalyptic media (which I used to love) like The Walking Dead or Shaun of the Dead. I made the mistake of watching World War Z and spent an hour shifting uncomfortably in my seat at the eerie familiarity of the recommendations and reaction (don’t panic, stay home). I spoke with a couple of friends last night who said they had to stop watching Kingdom, a South Korean show which is about a mysterious plague sweeping the land. I am guessing shows like this will either disappear or become 90% of TV content after this all ends.  

I climb the walls a bit. I’ll catch myself writing charts about how quickly fingernails grow and checking my normalcy (stay tuned!). I have had to put limitations on my frequency of checking Gmail or Facebook. I check the news once in the morning and once in the evening. For one, everything is about Corona, which I get, but there’s only so much I can take in before I’m overwhelmed.

We spend an inordinate amount of time discussing and creating masks. I have said the word ‘mask’ more times in the last three weeks than in the 45 years before them. We are connoisseurs of the various types of masks, over the ear straps vs. over the head straps, folded vs. beaked. My dress shirts have been commandeered. We boil the masks after using them. I can’t remember the last time I boiled clothing.

I also spend a lot of time mind boggled by the train wreck of a human that Donald Trump is, to the callous absurd things he says. More mind boggling is the fact that there are people who consider this reasonable rhetoric by not only a president, but a human being. To him, this whole thing, like everything else he gets involved in, is the Donald Trump show. He puts himself front and center to everything. And one would have thought that even an awful drama queen would be able to understand that this is life or death, it’s not his political wave runner. But no. People are dying and he’s boasting about his ratings. He’s accusing doctors and nurses of stealing supplies. These people who have spent the last month desperately working against their enemy to keep people alive. He doesn’t deserve to dispose of their used masks, which, by the way, are not stolen. There’s some part of me that thinks Trump might not understand what is happening, that he genuinely believes this is some sort of reality show. He’s now gauging what states get aid based on their relationship to him. It’s surreal.

 If you think this is unbelievable and appalling, then congratulations! You are a normal human being of moderately sound mind. If you think this is what a president should sound like, then you are most probably a Republican. Also, you need your fucking head examined. Over Skype, please.

Instead of focus on the bag of soggy Doritos occupying the Oval, I hope that the people who are remembered are the ones who stepped up. The little things they do. People all over Prague are making masks and giving them away for free. Neighbors are taking care of older people and companies are making their catalogues free to encourage people to stay home and to make their stay there a bit more comfortable. Overall, I am impressed with humanity.

The Corona Hours provide an opportunity to learn things about yourself and the world around you. I have learned that the sleeve of a dress shirt makes 2 masks. I have learned that the back of my hands are evidently very sensitive. I have learned that the best way to start a conversation about something serious is by pushing play on a show I want to watch (or opening a book). I have learned that I laugh far more often at British dramas than I do at British comedies. I have also learned that I need subtitles to understand British shows. I have learned how quickly my perceptions change and that, after three weeks of Corona Madness, seeing someone on TV kissing, standing near each other and talking, or eating an apple without washing it and their hands for 30 seconds now makes me gasp.

I suppose what I have learned most of all is all the things I took for granted. Going outside, having a beer in a pub, walking in a park, seeing friends, being annoyed by students. Maybe once in a while it’s good to get the things we take for granted taken temporarily away to appreciate them a bit more. I know that when I get a chance, I’m going to sit in the park in the sun, really draw in deep breaths and beer in counterpoint, mask around my neck, and I will massage the sanitizer slowly into my hands.   

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