The Pandemic You’re Having

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.


Filed under COVID-19

5 responses to “The Pandemic You’re Having

  1. Dear Turia, I did get FOUR of the same comment you made on my pandemic-related post you flagged here…! I deleted the three extras, but the fourth is up. 😉 I’m at a loss to explain why you can’t comment on my posts?? (or what you did differently that time?)

    Anyway, suffice to say, I completely agree with you! I read the Guardian article Mel flagged & I didn’t see too much there that we weren’t already doing either.

    Meanwhile, I’m getting ads popping up in my Instagram feed for Super Bowl takeout/delivery/catering offerings from local restaurants…they don’t SAY “Super Bowl party” but the portions they are offering are all party-sized for multiple people: pasta trays that serve 18 people, chicken wings in quantities of 20, 30 & 50, orders of 10, 20 & 30 sliders… What kind of a message is that sending?

  2. Turia

    I’m so glad at least those posts went through, loribeth, even if I kept getting error messages. And those ads are infuriating. Ford’s talking about opening up again, so that should coincide perfectly with the spike in infections from illegal parties. Sigh.

  3. Got your latest comment and posted it too. Yay! 🙂

  4. Mali NZ

    This – “We can’t beat COVID on our own” – broke my heart. Because you’re so right. It completely baffles me when I see people who are so openly not doing the right thing. Or photos on social media of people pretending to do the right thing, but who clearly have problems with figuring out that two metres and 30 cms/1 foot are not in fact the same.

    I want to hug your mum too. It must all be so dispiriting for those of you who are trying so hard.

  5. Sneakers

    In sympahty.

    I had to Fedex a document and went to the Fedex mid day – the bigger one which is never crowded. Across the way is a series of big box home stores – and I had this urge to go shopping. Mind you – in ‘normal’ times – I go once every few years because home decor is not something that I focus on. I realized that we were still a high numbers – and I didn’t ‘need’ anything. And yet – the parking lots were full as normal times. And it really bothered me that they were all there.

    Our policy is that we don’t share indoor air with anyone – we can see some friends etc. outside with masks (and we’re still in winter here). We can’t go visit my parents in South Asia (we used do that at least once a year) – or even my in-laws 200 miles away. That part hurts – because there are no guarantees of how long we’ll have them with us. And again, people we know are flying all over – gathering together and celebrating . . . We have an only child – who is an extrovert and misses her friends from all parts of life.

    Sneakers (in the US in a state w/ a mask mandate and with a kid in in-person private school (fingers crossed). both parents working from home)

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