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What's wrong with this picture?

Chuck's World | Chuck Sigars


Last updated 1/15/2021 at 10:34pm

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The crazy is so strong right now – I don't really want to add to it. I become frustrated, annoyed, irritated, and angry just like any other person, but I'd like to avoid tossing more conflict into the pot. I have a tiered system for personal outrage, which is how you're supposed to handle emotional life during a pandemic.

Just kidding! I doubt any of us know anything about how to handle emotional life in a pandemic. I was talking about moods, anyway; what used to be temporary can linger now, with no spontaneous moment to spark a change in week after week of sameness. It's good to be aware.

So I know when I'm letting my anger out to play, and my wife almost always knows because she has to listen to me. And it's almost always meaningless, superficial and unimportant. Someone said something wrong on the internet, etc. My anxiety about our current crisis gets bundled with the annoying way you share those memes.

Not you.

I'm mostly talking about online behavior, the more I think about it. I'm not outside enough to observe anything else. I hear the occasional leaf blower, but even that's not enough to push my buttons anymore. Live and let blow.

I have to be careful here, too. People take things personally. If I think you're misbehaving in the public sphere in some way, spouting off on social media about something you appear to care about way too much, and we're friends, I'm just shutting you down.

Blocking, muting, whatever tools I have, because I don't trust myself to stay quiet anymore. These are serious times. I'm also pretty bored.

And what I really want is to understand, not vent or gripe or attack or accuse. I want to understand, and to be understood, although I suppose in the end I just want you to stop annoying me.

Again, not you.

I want you to understand that I haven't been inside another person's home in ten months. I haven't touched someone who doesn't live in this house. I haven't been to visit either my mother or my grandson, both of whom have celebrated two birthdays since the last time we were breathing the same air.

I certainly haven't been to a restaurant or bar or gym or library or you know. Anywhere.

Obviously I'm not alone. Most of the people I know have been like this, more or less, although the "less" part is sometimes concerning. And if this doesn't look like your life for the past ten months, then we don't share the same reality, for some reason (or you live in New Zealand, in which case carry on).

It's the reason that mostly interests me. I get the occasional email from a reader who wants to explain why I've got this pandemic all wrong. They are always referring to something I didn't actually write, although that's nothing new.

They usually make valid points. These are people who are upset that stuff is closed. They usually talk about numbers, about deaths from traffic accidents and the average age of people who have died from COVID-19, those kinds of numbers.

They mention national debt and economic downturns. I can't argue with any of this except to note that it's reprehensible, of course. I don't argue anyway.

But I'm talking about people I care about. I'm talking about lives that used to intertwine with mine on a regular basis, now reduced to incomplete fragments posted on Facebook. I know I don't get many details and can't see the whole picture.

The pictures I do see, though, are disturbing.

My life wasn't devastated by the pandemic. It's a lot lonelier, and there are problems waiting down the line, but we've all worked through it in a boring and lonely and basically acceptable way, given everything.

And I was already in the slow lane. I can see younger people, limping along, following the rules, lives interrupted by the necessity of staying safe, and I just can't imagine. I observe parents and children, and I'm horrified by the setbacks and the loss of normality. I keep an eye on friends older and more isolated than I am, wondering about their lives.

I also worry about the businesses, the cherished places I frequented, the familiar faces whose lives now must be disrupted in devastating ways. One of my oldest friends has worked in the restaurant business for his entire adult life, and I've heard the stories.

Not only has he been scrambling to stay employed, but he's been forced into arguments with customers who don't want to wear a mask and want to scream at him about it.

A week ago he was intubated, by the way, in the ICU with COVID-19. I watch and wait.

So the photos bother me. The smiling, unmasked, cheek-to-cheek photos. The ones with people who don't live in the same household. It's none of my business, I think, and of course it really is, but you know. I don't have all the details.

I just wonder why the people who post them don't get it. I understand that some people don't think rules apply to them; I see them in parking lots all the time. I just don't understand the photos.

Because I can imagine the machine that's been breathing for my friend, all because some idiots in Arizona wanted their tacos. I don't know why you appear comfortable showing us your disdain. I don't understand why you're not ashamed of yourself.

Again, not you.


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