When the pandemic started, there was a brief point when it felt like we were all in it together. We weren’t, of course – even from the beginning privilege (or lack thereof) was shaping our experiences. But all those shots of empty city streets made it feel like we were presenting a unified front against the virus.
Very quickly it became obvious that we were living through different pandemics, our experiences shaped by our geographical location, employment responsibilities, and, perhaps most of all, the composition of our households and the stage of life in which we found ourselves. I was reminded of that this week when I briefly popped into a virtual research seminar for my department (while also cleaning up after lunch and supervising P’s online school – camera off and bluetooth headphones ftw!). One of the more senior professors was presenting and it was clear that they’d spent much of the pandemic sitting and thinking and reading and writing – all the things that academics are meant to be doing when we’re not teaching. They’d had all the time in the world to do this, while most days I barely feel like I have time to string two thoughts together. It was hard to sit there and listen to them debate the finer points of one of their ideas (and then I couldn’t even listen any longer as P’s class ended and she needed me).
I know everyone’s pandemic is different, and that all the things I most long for – empty space, hours of quiet, no one who needs me – are exactly the things that other people have far too much of. In the fall, back when such things were allowed, we had my mum over to visit in our yard. She was struggling with the monotony of her days, their emptiness, their lack of purpose. We both keep the same five-year journal and she said that often she didn’t even bother to fill it in because every day was the same and nothing happened. “I’ll write in it today!” she said. “You’ll make the journal!” She looked like she might cry, and I couldn’t hug her.
I am SO VERY TIRED of people who don’t seem to be having a pandemic at all, or, at least, not one that requires any changes to their behaviour. loribeth* had a great post about this recently, about what we’re willing to do (or not) and how that compares with the actions of others. There is so little my family does. We go for walks. We pick up groceries that we’ve ordered online, so we don’t have to go into the grocery store. We go skating (reserving a time slot on a rink with restricted capacity, wearing masks). We pick up takeaway maybe once every two months. We go to our butcher’s to pick up the order we placed online once a month. We pick up holds from the library occasionally. Anything we do which requires us to step inside a building we organize online beforehand so that we only have to step inside for a minute or two each month.
We don’t go shopping in person.
We don’t go to coffee shops. When they were open, we didn’t go to restaurants.
We don’t go to playgrounds.
We don’t see friends.
We don’t see family.
We are doing everything we possibly can to stop the spread and we are following all the rules, as much as it hurts (since right now it probably would be safe to see my Mum and as soon as the kids are allowed back into school it won’t be).
And then, on our walks around the neighbourhood, we see the rink that isn’t controlled by the city, the one that community-minded neighbours worked together to build, overcrowded with games of shinny where no one’s wearing a mask.
Or we see kids we recognize from school playing touch football together in the park, wearing masks at least, but very much not in compliance with the rules of this lockdown because there’s far more than 10 of them.
Or we go skating and the kids on the rink are all wearing masks but their parents are having what looks to be a tailgate party in the parking lot, complete with shared snacks and hot chocolate and lots of laughing and not enough social distancing.
And it becomes SO HARD to remind myself that I don’t know what pandemic anyone else is having, that I don’t know their circumstances or their struggles, because all I see is selfish behaviour that means we’re further away from bringing our numbers down.
The Guardian had an article with the headline “Everyday Covid mistakes we are all still making” and I raced to read it, because I wanted to know what we could do better.
There was nothing.
Their examples were people who let their kids play with friends and then keep the kids away from the grandparents, but the parents go see the grandparents, or standing around chatting with someone outside, because you assume outside = safe.
It was an important article and I’m sure many people would have read it and made some changes, but all it showed me was that there’s nothing else my family can do.
We can’t beat Covid on our own.
We’re dependent on everyone else doing the right thing.
But too many of them aren’t.
*loribeth – if you read this, I have tried to comment on at least four of your posts in the last couple of weeks, but they never go through, and I’m at a loss to explain why.