Murmurs from inside
Let's lay out the basics of the situation first. For reasons that I don't feel obligated to disclose, my family and I have been in lockdown since the pandemic began. Well, not exactly when it began. That information was withheld by the idiot in charge of the country. But when they called for a lockdown, we started and we haven't stopped.
For a while there everybody else participated. We all shared stories of what it was like spending all this time at home with the family instead of going out into the world. Running to the grocery store for a gallon of milk became a thing of the past. Orders had to be placed. Arrangements had to be made. Things had to be quarantined for a period of time before they could be opened. Everybody seemed to be on board. Then it got warmer.
I hate the summer, so the idea that I had to stay inside wasn't a bother for me, but for some, it was a torment that they couldn't endure, even in the face of possible death of themselves or their loved ones. No, they just HAD to go to the beach. It's tradition!
So this pandemic is lasting longer than it should, and now that all of the idiots have it out of their system they're mostly back home. Only now they want to send their plague children to school, and so on, and so on. You don't need me to lay it out for you. That's not what this is about.
Being a family that has stayed home this whole time, we have been confronted with new and interesting things to deal with. It seems everybody is getting together, telling themselves they are safely enclosed in "bubbles" they create but willingly ignorant of how transmission works. We, meanwhile, are saying no to things and staying in. For my extroverted wife and daughter it has been a torment. My wife wants to see people, to interact, to stand next to each other and hug. My daughter wants to see her friends, to kick a ball around or dance. Me? I'm okay staying in. It's them I'm worried about.
People are pretending like everything is normal when it isn't. It's infuriating. I've been lucky in that I have been allowed to work from home, so my perspective is a bit skewed. I see people out in the world and it makes me angry, then I have to remind myself that they still have to go to work and make money to feed their families and I calm down. Then I see they're not wearing masks and my rage boils up again. How hard is it to follow simple instructions?
I'm not really sure where I'm going with this. Another side effect of being locked in during a pandemic and an election is that with all the stresses in the world my creativity has taken a nosedive. I have occasional spurts of creative frenzy, then it all dries up. My mind is so clouded I couldn't tell you right now what I said at the beginning of this post. I may be repeating myself. If so, I apologize, but that's just the way it is. My mind is atrophying and this is the result.
So, take care of yourselves, people. And take care of other people. And be safe, and kind, and smart, and considerate, and just try to be damn good people because that's the only way we're going to get through this.
Okay, so here's the scene: I'm washing the dishes, by hand, which I do every night since our dish washer decided to have an electronic breakdown and stop responding to any stimulus. I'm listening to The Archers, because it's what I do every night when I'm washing dishes, and as usual I'm enjoying it. Then it happens.
It's not the first time it has happened, and I'm sure it won't be the last. They're doing the recordings in quarantine right now, so it's all down to the individual actors working within their improvised home recording studios, so you can make some allowances, but ultimately it goes back to the people who lay on the finishing touches and they, THEY, could have done something, but they didn't. They left it in. I'm sure it makes it more real to them. But to those of us grappling with misophonia, it makes it problematic.
This isn't about Misophonia, though. If you want to know what that is you can ask WebMD or any other reputable source. No, this is about what I did next.
When I heard the sound it triggered a reaction, which in this case almost led to a broken plate. I set the plate down, and in full fury dried my hands, pulled out my phone, and tweeted the following:
Satisfied, I went back to washing and moved on with my life. The rage had bubbled down, I had shouted my fury, all was well with the world.
And THAT is what I want to talk about.
Cranky Old Man jokes aside, what I did was the equivalent of a man (back in the day) getting fed up with something he was seeing in the world and writing an open letter to the newspaper, or sending a letter to the editor, or some such. He would sit at the table with a pen and paper (or a typewriter) and carefully and deliberately choose the best words he could conjure to express perfectly just how angry he was that some people leave their bins out all week, or that kids were riding their bikes across his lawn and showed no respect for property, or that Matlock had been canceled. When he was done, he would carefully read over what he had written and make corrections, sometimes rewriting the letter several times to make sure it had the right punch. He might even have a few other members of the household or neighbors down the street read the missive to see if they had anything to add.
Then he would send it and wait for it to show up in the paper or be read on the air.
The thing of it is, there would be care and calculation in the effort. And it took time. Time that could be a cool-down so that maybe the offense seemed less horrible, or even more so, if it still seemed as bad then it even more-so justified the process.
But now, with Facebook and Twitter and various other social media outlets, people can immediately voice their opinion in the comment section of pretty much everything.
Don't like a Facebook post? Blast the person in the comments.
Don't like a tweet? Retweet with your own take, or even better, do a screenshot of the tweet and take it over to Facebook so you can make fun of the person there without them even knowing.
The world is at your fingertips. You can do or say anything in the moment, with no thought or care given to it at all. Fire away! It's your right, after all, to tell people what you think.
It's the lack of thought, of care with the response that is the problem I'm trying to point out here. I fired off that tweet in a moment of pure, unbridled irritation because I could, and when I was done I felt relieved. And what I said wasn't even that bad, all things considered. It was a total Cranky Old Man moment, and will likely be laughed off. I don't really see the BBC changing anything they're doing because some guy over across the pond in Maryland yelled at them. They've been making this show for longer than I've been alive. I don't even see them responding, nor should they be expected to. They have bigger fish to fry.
I just think if all of us gave a little more thought to what we put out there the internet would be a better place. There's a reason I chant "Don't read the comments, don't read the comments, don't read the comments" every time I look at anything on the web.
If you took the participants in a comment section and put them in a room the conversation would be vastly different, especially since half of them would likely be poorly constructed robots slowly leaking oil in the corner or bored, desperate people ranting about whatever topic is at hand, not out of true interest, but just to rile up everyone else in the room for some sick thrills.
Most people wouldn't be able to be as rude face-to-face, nor should they be.
Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to write a letter or ten. Those stupid bins don't stay by the road, people!
A Ramble Devolves Into a Rant
The problem with having a blog (if that's what this even is) is that I not only feel an obligation to add to it constantly (and guilt at not doing so) but I also feel like any post I add has to be stellar and Pulitzer Prize worthy to count. So, I have a passing thought, think I should write about it, and then pass on doing so because I put too much pressure on myself to get it right.
But what is right? I'm not on here to convince anyone of anything. I'm not leading a charge or rallying troops. I'm not waving a banner or shouting a battle cry from the mountaintops. I'm just this guy who occasionally writes things and wants people to read them.
On that subject, can I just say that I think it's unfair that publications consider someone posting a story on their personal page tantamount to that story being "previously published"? There's no scrutiny here. No one is judging my words (as is clearly evident in the ones I'm choosing). I think I should be able to put a story up on here so that the few friends who actually come to this page can see and read and comment without it bearing the taint of previous publication. Maybe the version I put up here is just a rough draft while the one I submit is a polished masterpiece.
As a result I have stories sitting in storage collecting dust that only a few people have seen because they have to remain pristine for whatever publication finally sees sense and publishes them.
Ah, but this rant falls on deaf ears, since no one is really reading this. I suppose I could put a story up here then pull it down if it got picked up, but that feels dishonest and wrong. So, cross your fingers, imaginary people, that one day all of my stories will be nabbed by someone out there and you'll be able to see them out there in the wild, hiding between the pages of some obscure journal.
Happy Towel Day
30-Day Song Challenge
As these things are usually phishing tools that trick people into giving up personal information, I usually avoid them like the plague. But I love music, so I'm going to answer this challenge, although anything that asks personal information I'll probably lie on, just to play it safe.
I'm sure you've seen this floating around out there. Below are my answers. (And yes, there are two Chumbawamba songs on my list, and no, neither of them are Tubthumping, so there's that.)
Day 1 - A song you like with a color in the title.
Paint it Black by the Rolling Stones
Day 2 - A song you like with a number in the title.
I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles) by The Proclaimers
Day 3 - A song that reminds you of summertime.
Mr. Jones by Counting Crows
Day 4 - A song that reminds you of someone you'd rather forget.
Joyride by Roxette
Day 5 - A song that needs to be played loud.
Ugh! Your Ugly Houses by Chumbawamba
Day 6 - A song that makes you want to dance.
Pump It by The Black Eyed Peas
Day 7 - A song to drive to.
Fools by Wild Child
Day 8 - A song about drugs or alcohol.
Alcohol by Barenaked Ladies
Day 9 - A song that makes you happy.
Shiny Happy People by R.E.M.
Day 10 - A song that makes you sad.
Dear God by XTC
Day 11 - A song you never get tired of.
Step Right Up by Tom Waits
Day 12 - A song from your preteen years.
Every Breath You Take by The Police
Day 13 - A song you like from the 70s.
Life on Mars? by David Bowie
Day 14 - A song you'd love to be played at your wedding.
If I Could Write a Book by Harry Connick, Jr.
Day 15 - A song you like that's a cover by another artist.
Swanee River by Hugh Laurie
Day 16 - A song that's a classic favorite.
Where the Streets Have No Name by U2
Day 17 - A song that you'd sing a duet with someone on karaoke.
Tonight You Belong to Me by Steve Martin and Bernadette Peters
Day 18 - A song from the year you were born. (Nice try, phishers!)
Using You by Mars Argo
Day 19 - A song that makes you think about life.
Believe by K's Choice
Day 20 - A song that has many meanings to you.
Well Well (Home Is Where the Heartbreak Is) by Mary's Danish
Day 21 - A song you like with a person's name in the title.
Honeybee by Steam Powered Giraffe
Day 22 - A song that moves you forward.
Holes by Passenger
Day 23 - A song you think everybody should listen to.
Knights of Shame by Awolnation
Day 24 - A song by a band you wish were still together.
The Stairs by INXS
Day 25 - A song you like by an artist no longer living.
Housequake by Prince
Day 26 - A song that makes you want to fall in love.
You and I by Ingrid Michaelson
Day 27 - A song that breaks your heart.
How by Regina Spektor
Day 28 - A song by an artist whose voice you love.
I Can See Clearly Now by Hothouse Flowers
Day 29 - A song you remember from your childhood.
Dare to Be Stupid by Weird Al Yankovic
Day 30 - A song that reminds you of yourself.
We Don't Go To God's House Anymore by Chumbawamba
There you have it. I'm sure this list would change if I did it all over again, but honestly I've already devoted enough time to it, so I'm posting and moving on.
Those Who Not That
I was flitting through Facebook recently and came upon a friend request from someone I don't know, and in determining that I didn't know them I saw a picture of a tattoo they have that said, "Not all that wander are lost."
I personally love this line. Not enough to get it permanently inked on my body but enough to take issue with it being misquoted. It's not a harsh misquote, mind you, but I think if you're going to quote someone it's wrong to paraphrase.
The original, from Tolkien's The Fellowship of the Ring:
All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king
So this person simply replaced the words "those who" with "that" which, though it turns the person into an object in my mind, it does still work with modern incorrect grammar vernacular.
I just can't help but slip this person into the same group as the "No ragrets" guy or the "Never don't give up" fella.
I don't think I'll be accepting that friend request. It would be too hard for me not to ask if they "ragret" their misquoted quote.
On Going Against My Nature
So there's a pandemic on. Government officials, at least the ones without their heads up their asses, are telling everyone to stay home and socially distance. Fine.
I have no issue with that whatsoever. I've read all the articles. I've studied the actual facts. I know that taking those steps will help, even if it's only a little bit, toward "flattening the curve."
My employer is taking all necessary steps to protect its workers and its residents, and I am very proud to be working for an organization that is not only taking this thing seriously, but is actually ahead of everyone else in how they are doing so. My impulse - my very nature - is to ask, "How can I help?" and throw myself into doing whatever is necessary. Need me to work longer hours? No problem. Need me to do tasks that are normally out of my wheelhouse. Right away. Whatever I can do I'm willing to do.
Trouble is, it's not just me I have to think of in this scenario. My wife and daughter are both immuno-compromised. If I go out to a location and bring this thing home, it's even worse for them than it is for most. That's not to say if I got sick with this thing it wouldn't be horrible, possibly even fatal, but for them it's even more of a risk, and because of that I have to limit what I do.
I've talked to my boss and he's been very understanding of this. I think he's bending over backwards to make it so that I can stay home and keep them safe. I just wish I could shake the guilt I feel that my colleagues are on location pitching in and I'm sitting in my home office doing what I can.
Don't get me wrong. I'm working my ass off. I just wish I could do more.
We'll all get through this. And I'll do what I can. I just wish I could do more.
A Few Words from Self-Isolation
Today is Day 12 of Self-Isolation for me and my family (although for them it's Day 15). I haven't been to work in those twelve days, and I've only been out twice, both times to go to Aldi for food. My employer has been amazing in understanding that since I live with two immuno-compromised people, I need to take extra precautions to avoid possibly infecting them and since my usual duties involve me traveling between three facilities in two different states, everything had to change for me.
So for the time being, I work from home, and spend my entire day either on video conferences where we discuss what is going on and what steps we are taking to make sure the experience is as pleasant as possible for all of our residents, or on calls with colleagues who need IT help. Luckily to date I have been able to sort out everything over the phone.
But now I'm in a bit of a pickle. Work has invaded home. When I say "invaded" I don't mean it to make work seem like an awful thing. I help people. On top of that, I help people who help people, so I have no complaints.
But there is another computer on my desk connected to another monitor, and work lives there right butt up against my personal computer on which I create. As a result, the creativity has dried up completely. Hell, it took me twelve days of sitting here to manage to write this post.
Friends have voiced their suggestions. It seems I have to draw a line between the two worlds not just in concept but also in practice. During the work day, the personal computer should be off, and when the day is done, the work one can go down and the personal one can come to life. That's assuming, of course, I'm not sick of being at the computer. In a normal day I don't sit at the desk all day. I walk around. I talk to people. I sit with residents and help them sort out their technical issues. Here I still help people but it's not quite the same. My ass is still in this chair.
So it will have to be walks. On top of that, there's these people I live with who seem to want to have conversations with me. That will have to take priority over everything else, obviously. I will have to force the two worlds to be separate, even if they live at the same desk. My house is too small to have them physically separate.
I'll figure this out. No worries.
The two grocery runs I've made have been insane. First there's me being super careful, sanitizing everything and trying to stay away from people, then there's everyone else, who seems to want to act like nothing is different even though most of them are wearing masks and gloves. The six-feet-rule goes out the window when you are standing in front of the canned tomatoes and someone is in a hurry, it seems.
And when I get home the real fun begins, as I bring the groceries in and, while my wife wipes them all down and washes all of the fruit before sorting things into waiting piles, I strip off, chuck everything in the wash, then get straight in the shower. We're just a few inches shy of me being shaved and deloused on re-entry. Still, I would do even worse if it meant they were safe.
The things people are doing online - free concerts, free classes, video hangouts - they're all lovely. Unfortunately all I really want to do is curl up in bed and sleep until this thing is over. Just Rip van Winkle this shit and be done with it. But that's not an option, so I persevere and try to catch things when I can.
The good thing is, most people are used to me missing things, so they're not really all that bothered when I don't show, though it's great they keep inviting me.
I will power through this and start writing again. I have to. Right now I'm on the verge of screaming at all times, and all it takes is one stupid Hallmark-like video to turn me into a blubbering mess. I need to sort out my outlet.
This is a start. Thanks for listening.
Stay safe, stay home, and wash your damn hands.
A Few Updates
1. My family has thus far been able to keep healthy and strong in the wake of this COVID-19 pandemic. Even though there are numerous cases in our state, people are being sensible and canceling public events. (My work, I should say, is also taking stellar precautions to keep everyone safe). We're all doing what we should - keeping away from crowds, washing our hands, not licking strangers, etc. We just need this thing to blow over and then hopefully things can return to that odd state that we like to call normal.
2. The speech that I was meant to give was postponed until May. I spent two and a half weeks gearing myself up to do this whole thing and then the night before the event I got the call that it was being postponed because the area where the venue was had two confirmed cases of Coronavirus. They have since locked down that area so I'm glad they made the call, but I have to admit I was oddly disappointed. I was ready. Ah well, I'm sure I'll be ready again when it comes around in May.
3. The Thor Bozman books haven't exactly been selling like hotcakes, but then again I didn't expect them to. Amount of sales per book as decreased with every release, so the idea that if you release more it will improve things is a bit bollocks. I've been mildly noisy about them on Twitter but outside of that I've done very little in the way of marketing aside from telling family and friends which more than likely accounts for the entirety of the sales. To be honest I'm not entirely sure where else to push them. Probably merits a bit of research.
Photo by Shirley Tittermary on Unsplash