Quarantine So Far

Sometime in mid March, coronavirus finally came to Colorado. We’d been hearing about it for weeks, and it had already been declared a global pandemic, but those words are terrifying when combined and no one knew exactly what that meant.

I rode the train to work, and in the last few days that I went in, if someone were to cough then everyone around them would perk up, on high alert as they held their breath or moved a few inches farther away. That was before masks – actually, back when the CDC was inexplicably telling Americans not to wear masks.

A co-worker was super anxious about the developments and I told him we were going to be fine. “This isn’t the end of the world,” I told him. That feels a little silly now; as I reflect on the beginnings of this virus actually affecting my life in Colorado, it feels dystopian. Like the first pages of a wasteland novel recounting “the before world.”

We left our office on a Friday and were told to bring home our computers in case we worked from home for a few days. Maybe a few weeks, we’ll see. By Monday, that became a certainty. Here I am, in mid June, and I’m still working from home.

What a bizarre time we’re living in. The word “weird” has seemingly lost all meaning despite being both the most fitting description and appallingly understated. Public health has been politicized like never before, where somehow wearing a mask in public is making a statement. As of yesterday, coronavirus has killed more Americans than World War I.

Like most people, I approached the beginning of quarantine with a kind of nervous energy. If I wasn’t commuting anywhere, that gave me so much time to do other things. Many of those things haven’t happened, though, because it turns out that it’s hard to stay productive when the world’s burning down around you.

Millennials are kind of used to the world burning down, at least in a literal sense, because of the pervasiveness of climate change. Many have called covid a generation-defining event, but we’ve already had a few of those. I was 11 when 9/11 happened, and graduated college right into the Great Recession. We’ve had enough definition, thanks.

Looking on the bright side of things, I’m glad this didn’t happen in the ‘80s, when all work would have had to cease. At least with reliable internet I can still basically do my job the same as I could when I went into an office, I just do it while sharing the room with a grumbly dog or a very vocal cat. I’m thankful I can at least do that, with so many beloved businesses closing for good.

Many companies have already realized that working from home is just fine as a long-term solution. The futurist in me is thrilled at the concept of people being less tied to major cities, more free to move wherever they want to because their job is entirely remote. That has implications for real estate that may take years to fully come into focus.

Speaking of real estate, my wife and I had planned to move in 2020. In one of those big picture conversations last year, we figured spring 2020 would be a great time to list our house and buy a new one. While all of our other plans for this odd year fell into mush, selling our house remained. The whole market was shifted back about two months from its usual highs, and once Denver decided it was ready to buy houses it really went hard.

We got an offer on our house in about three hours. Another came the next day, and in the first three days we had about 15 showings scheduled before I cut it off. It was a relief that our house went quickly, but then we had to find a new one to move into.

One of the houses we liked ended up with 19 offers on it. Another went more than $20k over asking before we were outbid. It was hard to believe that as the news talked breathlessly about a lack of covid tests and record unemployment, people around Colorado were tripping all over themselves to outbid one another for a new place to live.

And I guess that’s really the weirdest part about all of this. America has become so splintered in where it gets its news that there have become different realities. Right now, certain states are seeing what looks like a second wave of infections. Unless you read a different source, and then it looks like everything’s fine because bars and restaurants are reopening, so go have a drink and calm down.

On the one hand you have people actually observing the rules as set forth by the CDC, putting out hand sanitizer and making masks mandatory while declaring that no one get closer than six feet apart. On the other hand, you see groups of maskless people hugging in the park, or pictures of hundreds packed into a Nashville bar like nothing has happened in the last year that should make them apprehensive.

Darwinism is something that modern society has more or less eliminated. The idea that only the strong survive goes right out the window when various systems are put into place specifically to support the weak, and in most situations this is a great thing. When the weak are the aggressively anti-science people, though, then the barbaric logic of Darwinism starts to look pretty attractive. The pervasive stupidity of some people – particularly the indignant ignorance of claiming the virus is a hoax even while it kills hundreds of thousands – is almost too much to fathom. It boggles the mind.

America has seemingly given up on the virus, off to the next big thing now that everyone has finally decided to look racism in the eye. It’s Trump’s favorite tactic of distracting from one uncomfortable truth by shining the light on another, only the first isn’t gone and both uncomfortable truths make him look positively horrible. If we’d done as some other countries did and actually quarantined, actually worn masks and actually socially distanced, then we may have eradicated the virus already. But we couldn’t do that, because America is all about individualism and you can’t tell me what to do if I don’t want to hear it.

So here we are. July 4 isn’t too far off, and making any kind of plans right now feels like tempting fate. I re-energize by taking trips, and after a few months of sitting around twiddling my thumbs in my free time I bought tickets to Charleston for August. I ended up cancelling that flight, uncertain what August will even look like.

Last weekend, I went to a brewery and a restaurant for the first time in months. Both were fairly busy, but clearly following all health guidelines. It felt good to be out in the world again, even if it meant wearing a mask and bathing in sanitizer before and after. “The new normal” is a phrase that’s gotten a lot of play lately, but sitting there looking around at the other people who were thrilled just to get out of their house for a few minutes, it became clear that this was it.

And maybe that’s not so bad. I’d still like to round up those who don’t observe the rules and shoot them into the sun, but if we can adapt and keep our sense of community then just maybe we’ll be okay in the end.

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