One Year of Pandemic

A Pandemic Mona Lisa after a year of staying safer at home
Mona Lisa One Year After The Pandemic

As of March 13, I’ve been staying safer-at-home for one year of hiding out from the Coronavirus. For the past couple of weeks I’ve been trying to put my feelings into words, and put those words on paper (pixels). But I’m still having difficulties. I think part of my problem is that nothing has happened while simultaneously so much has happened.

I know this is a massive contradiction. Please bear with me as I do some stream of consciousness writing about the year of pandemic we’ve all just experienced.

Nothing Happened

So on one side, nothing much has happened to the Virginia edition of the Charest family. I’ve been working from home since last March 13. In the past year I’ve been back to my office about seven times, for all or part of a normal work day. Winnie was laid off last March 6, when her company simply closed up and sent everybody home. Which means Winnie and I have been home together for the past year in hibernation.

I readily acknowledge Winnie and I have been luckier than many people. My job pays enough that we can survive on just my income. We’ve been able to mostly avoid people and minimize our risks of catching the virus. Most importantly, our health has remained solid so we haven’t needed any medical services. We’ve been able to stay-safer-at-home, venturing out every few weeks for grocery shopping and chores that we absolutely cannot do via phone or internet.

My daily schedule has been wake up (later than before the pandemic) and have breakfast. Then wander downstairs to my home office/man cave/den and commence work by logging on my office computer. Spend the day work computing, with breaks for personal computing. Late lunch prepared by Winnie. Later dinner prepared by Winnie. Then bed, and do it all over again.

In many ways, this has felt a lot like my former Navy life when my ship was deployed at sea. Then, my daily at-sea routine consisted of moving between my berthing (sleeping), mess hall (meals), and work location. The biggest different is that the longest Navy deployment I ever experienced was only four months. Not twelve months and counting.

A Lot has Happened

A lot of stuff happened during the time nothing was happening. My big event is finishing my graduate degree program. In a twist of irony, being forced into working from home gave me a boost towards finishing my degree. The three to fours hours I was not spending commuting to work each day gave me the extra time and energy to focus on college. All classes were already almost completely online so no change in our studies, unlike a lot of students who had to jump into online learning mid-semester.

I lose two aunts and an uncle over the past year, and was unable to attend their memorial services. My family members all grew a year older but I wasn’t able to visit.

Out in the world beyond our front door, 540,000 Americans have died from this pandemic. We had a national election where the good guy, for once, actually won. Then the bad guy threw a temper tantrum and tried using an armed insurrection to keep his government-paid job that included a rent-free mansion. Our government changed political parties anyway and hundreds of FBI agents, judges, and lawyers, got long-term work tracking down the insurrectionists.

Meanwhile, riots sweep across our country after more cops killed more unarmed Black Americans. Americans of Asian descent have been harassed and attacked on account of where this virus allegedly originated.

Businesses have failed by the tens of thousands, while a few rich people got richer. So many people have struggled with loosing their jobs and incomes. Food lines in American communities stretch for miles in too many communities. Too many people have been evicted from their homes with no where else to go.

Besides All That

The country still seems divided between “mask wearers” and “never-maskers.” Not to be confused with “Coronavirus Believers” and “Coronavirus Denialists.” It seems amazing to me that after 540,000 virus-related deaths (at least), there’s still fools running around screaming that this is all a government hoax to take away our freedoms. Or something.

My take is that this could be a fine example of evolution in action – the stupid people will die off and increase the average national IQ a few points. Regrettably, that really isn’t the case, and too many good people have died, or been left with crippling lifetime disabilities, from this modern plague.

The nature of work has changed, probably forever. Those of us with office jobs have proven we can work without a boss walking around looking over our shoulders. We’ve proven that we can waste just as much time in pointless meetings over video chat as we could sitting huddled in a physical conference room. The people who are considered “essential workers,” risking their lives to get food to market and keeping our lights on, are wondering why they must risk their lives for minimum-wage incomes. And they’re asking those questions. Loudly.

Our world has changed in ways subtle and unsubtle, and life will never go back to the way it was in the before times. This, I think, will be the legacy of the past year of the pandemic.

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