By: Matt Gordon
We humans are a funny, fickle sort. Take my weekend, for instance. We. Didn’t. Do. Anything. On Sunday night I bellyached about life, the virus, about the real sickness being this Social Distancing. I shook my fist in the air.
And then my wife and I started laughing, for we both knew that if this virus hadn’t sneaked into our community this is exactly the weekend we would long for. I LOVE not doing anything. Not doing anything is probably my favorite thing to do and for sure my favorite thing to not do. But once it is forced on me, I weep, I preach, I pontificate about the need for connection, for human touch (another thing I normally dislike), for proximity to my neighbors (who, technically, I’ve been treating like they are plagued for years).
Yes, yes, yes, we need connection. I have the word Community in my title—I’m all about it. But I also know there are some pretty wonderful perks about Social Distancing.
1. Fail-Safe Excuse
Kids were about the best thing I had in this regard before Covid-19.
Want to go grab dinner? Kid’s got diarrhea.
Want to get the families together? Kid’s got a runny nose.
Want to attend your dental appointment? Sorry, my kid fell.
I mean, there is next to nothing one can’t get out of with a kid. All the better when you have another one. The jackpot is when your kids are little monsters—like ours—the first few months. Yes, you don’t get to sleep and generally hate your life, but boy, oh boy, you are obligation-free, baby (and other baby).
But here’s the thing—other people have kids too. So they can’t call you out on it, but they know: they use the same technique! It was like if you cheated in school. You couldn’t rat on the kid next to you for cheating just because he was better at it than you. No, between parents there is just a silent disdain borne from sinister mutuality.
The virus, though: this is different! This is next level. It can get you out of everything! The wedding you didn’t want to go to: virus. The family gathering: virus. The laundry: virus. (The last one seems not to play, but this virus takes an emotional toll, a thing I remind my wife about with every suggestion of a new chore.)
2. Healthy Reminders from Social Media
Without connection in-person with others, I’ve turned more to social media to be around people. And on social media I’ve been reminded about the purity, goodness, and general wonder of the human spirit and how none of that actually exists.
Like I’m friends with this one fella who was bragging about being high risk and still eating at IHOP. There in the restaurant, he claims, were five other people, all high risk. See! he gloated. No need to overreact.
Okay, so his logic in this plays out that if he is right about this all being a farce, he gets a cheap pancake in a dirty restaurant. If he is wrong someone could get sick and die. That is like the worst gamble I’ve ever heard of. That’s worse than betting on the Browns.
And while that guy won’t just do humanity a favor and stay home, through the power of Social Distancing, I can. For a few weeks or months or years, certain people become no more real than television characters; they live their perplexing lives and air their bombastic opinions on the screen illuminated before me. Similarly illuminated, I can close the screen, pretend it isn’t real, and putter around my house looking for the next thing to avoid. I think it is the wonderful world Louis Armstrong had in mind all along.
3. Social Distancing is Humbling
In the corner of the room I presently occupy is my guitar. To my two-year-old it might as well be one of the plotted plants that resides in other corners of our home because both make the same amount of music. Seriously, my guitar has become merely a decorative piece, a bygone suggestion of a melodic past. But the music has died. My excuse? Obvious if you read above: My kids. I don’t have time for the hobbies of yesteryear.
But then sports got canceled. Because of the absence of televised sports, I figured out that on an average week, I used to spend approximately 112 hours watching sports. Mostly I’m working from home now—that’s another thirty or so minutes of my day back that was formerly spent driving, fueling, or walking to and from my vehicle. Since I don’t leave my house, I don’t have to change clothes, groom, or bathe—BAM, two-and-a-half minutes back.
Add it all up and it is enough time to become Eric Clapton.
But have I touched my guitar?
Have I cracked open King Lear?
Have I done a push-up? (Honestly, I did do half of one—the lying down half.)
Yesterday I did air up my bike tires, but it took too much wind out of me to actually ride. Maybe later?
Point is, I’m a sluggard. I probably already knew it, but it is nice to have an occasional pandemic swoop in to socially isolate and remind me. Comforting in a way. Humbling.
This is a season. A weird one. From it, it is apparent we all really need each other. So when this thing is over, let’s get the families together. We’ll grab some pancakes and a blanket, and head to the park. I’ll bring my guitar. It’ll be great and we’ll definitely do it. Unless the kids are, well, you know . . .