{ in·deed·a·bly }

adverb: to competently express interest, surprise, disbelief, or contempt

Misadventure

“Unprecedented events create new experiences. What fun, misadventure, or positive discoveries have you encountered while locked down?”

This is a thought experiment proposed by SavingNinja. The one thing asked of participants is for a stream of consciousness outpouring of thoughts rather than a carefully polished article. Here goes…

Malaise

I’m sitting at the dining table staring at a blank page. Feeling uninspired. Flat. Restless.

Background noise drifts out of an abandoned iPad on the couch. The Muppets singing some catchy anti-bullying anthem. Why have I never noticed before that Miss Piggy and Beaker sound the same?

In the foreground, a pitched battle is underway.

Transformers holed up inside an old Imaginext castle, rescued from its long-forgotten hidey-hole in the back of a cupboard. Some bizarrely improvised Lego vehicles attack. Creations that would make the set designers on the next Mad Max movie proud.

The ensuing carnage creates a minefield of Lego pieces scattered across hardwood floors.

The power of imagination transmogrifying into real-life injuries.

That thought struck a chord with me. An elegant summary of the whole lockdown experience.

The power of imagination

Sitting inside my comfortable home, passively observing as unprecedented events unfold elsewhere.

I find myself feeling increasingly detached from the whole thing. Like watching two neutral teams playing an unfamiliar sport at the Olympics. A spectacle, but not one I feel particularly invested in.

If the news and social media are to be believed then the sky is falling. The end of the world is nigh. A Great Depression. Dystopian fantasy writ large. Ultimate doom!

Except that it isn’t.

Not really.

A large number, yet a small proportion, of people will die from the virus itself.

A whole bunch more will die indirectly as a result of overloaded health care systems.

Tragedies all. Yet for those who remain, like it or not, life will go on. It has ever been thus.

Not everything will remain the same. A generational transfer of wealth. The “boomer remover”, as my elderly mother’s quarantined travel companions have taken to calling it, may address a demographic bulge that has long given wrinklies with short time horizons a disproportionate say at the ballot box.

Some of my disinterest stems from my inability to verify what I read or am told.

Propaganda and ill-informed rumours feeding upon themselves.

Disconcertingly inconsistent with the hope and optimism heralded by the arrival of Spring. Busy bees. Broody birds. Backyard barbecues.

What we believed just a fortnight ago is vastly different from “conventional” wisdom of today.

Wash your hands. Herd immunity. Open for business by Easter. Locked down until the end of June. Herd immunity again.

Masks don’t work. Masks magically work for medical staff only. Don’t buy masks. Masks do work. Everyone should wear a mask. Masks are mandatory.

Singapore has things under control. “Flatten the curve”. “Track and trace”. Be like Singapore… oh shit! Where did this second wave of infections that track and trace can’t explain come from? How is it spreading? What do you mean poor people don’t carry smartphones everywhere they go?

Shut the schools.

Close the businesses.

Social distance like everyone else.

This is a learning experience for everyone, something few of us have been through before.

Our leaders are being forced to improvise. Make up their responses as they go.

Applying the best information they have available. Tempered by their own political instincts of what their electorates will bear.

An impromptu leadership test, broadcast live in real-time. The ultimate high stakes reality television.

New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo both seem to be “having a good war”. How long before the latter becomes the unbackable favourite to succeed Trump in 2024?

Others have been found wanting.

Narendra Modi locking down 1.3 billion people in India, with only 4 hours notice.

Scott Morrison beating his “foreigners go home” drum, telling the half-million fee-paying overseas university students in the country on study visas to bugger off back to wherever they came from.

Donald Trump and his crew of Keystone Cops living down to expectation.

When will it end? Nobody knows. Anyone pretending certainty is an idiot or a liar. Possibly both.

China was locked down for a couple of months, now people are starting to resume their daily lives.

Denmark appears to be approaching a similar point.

There are no guarantees of course, as the recent Singapore setback painfully highlighted.

How will it end?

That is a trickier question.

The Hollywood ending sees a mild-mannered lab technician swiftly stumble across a long-lasting vaccine, free from major side effects. They win a Nobel prize for their efforts, then retire to a lucrative life on celebrity public speaking circuit.

The reality is likely somewhat bleaker.

To my simple mind, it appears that the pandemic can only end once the population has reached sufficient levels of immunity that the virus is starved of potential hosts. That immunity can only be gained via some combination of infection and vaccination.

The former is morally bruising.

Waiting for the latter economically so.

However, concluding this is a simple binary choice would be a false dichotomy.

Global travel, legal or otherwise, will inevitably reintroduce the virus to those populations who are applying social distancing style delaying tactics.

Therefore the moral choices of others will directly impact the success of efforts made by local leaders.

A tricky puzzle.

A systemic problem.

Yet at the macro level, it is one with a relatively certain outcome. The big unknown is timing.

Something intuitively understood, yet seldom talked about. An inconvenient truth.

Immunity from the virus becomes a competitive advantage.

At some point, the equation inverts.

Self-isolation becomes the problem of those who have not yet experienced the disease. Their lack of antibodies becomes a disability. There is an analogy to allergy sufferers there somewhere.

Buyer beware.

Meanwhile, the rest of the population restart their lives. Reopen their businesses. Return to their jobs. Recommence their studies. Resume their once normal day-to-day existence.

Which brings me back to the blank page, now slowly filling up with words.

Usually, my stories flow. Telling themselves, as words effortlessly pour out of my brain and onto the keyboard.

Not so much lately.

A malaise has interrupted that flow.

It seems to be contagious. Afflicting many bloggers the world over. SavingNinja’s thought experiment is providing a convenient vehicle for a brain dump.

Misadventure

Lockdown has been an interesting experience, one I have been maintaining a daily microblog throughout.

Challenging in some ways. Rewarding in others.

Indefinitely confined with those nearest and dearest to us, without the possibility of escape.

Homeschooling is hard.

Homeschooling while working full time sets the difficultly level to extreme.

Yet we have stumbled into a routine that seems to be working.

The cancellation of GCSE and A-Level exams has, in turn, led my elder son’s school to cancel the remainder of the school year. Their current thinking is that the new school year will commence towards the end of April, providing additional time for students to accrue the course work credits that may be used in place of standardised testing, should the lockdown persist for an extended period.

Amidst the challenges, there has been much fun and laughter. In my house at least.

My kids have worked out that virtual assistants can be turned into unwitting accomplices in their escapades.

I was on a conference call earlier this week when Alexa suddenly started serenading the attendees with a rendition of Billy Ray Cyrus’s “Achy Breaky Heart”.

Not to be outdone, a couple of days later Siri repeated the trick with “Rubber Biscuit” during an attritional and bruising Steering Committee call. That proved to be a work of genius, as all the iPhones within earshot of the call attempted to obey the command. Those linked to Apple Music subscriptions did so successfully!

Fear not, I had my revenge during my elder son’s nightly online Xbox tournament with his friends. “Baby Shark” and 1980s era Australian bogon rock. Alexa and Siri can be shouted into silence. Dads manually playing from dubious Spotify playlists are not so easily dismissed!

Video conferences are also perilous. Between meetings I had been playing dress-ups with my younger son. I then forgot to remove a brightly coloured jester hat, earning a few laughs amongst my offshore team during our weekly catchup.

Not as many laughs as the client C-suite had the time I was shot in the ear, live on camera, by a beautifully executed Nerf gun ambush.

I did deserve that one, having deployed a water gun to motivate my reluctant elder son out of bed earlier that morning.

My lady wife’s virtual social life exceeds the former heights of her real-life socialising, back in those halcyon pre-children days.

Birthday parties. Coffee dates. Happy hours. Even a tequila cocktail mixology class. All via video conference from her eyrie in the loft. Catching up with far-flung friends and former co-workers.

For many of us, social isolation is a lifestyle choice rather than a necessity. She has ably demonstrated that we are only as isolated as we chose to be. All that is required is a little effort to coordinate the virtual meet-ups.

Lockdown hasn’t been all unicorns and rainbows, but once I surrendered to it the stress began to dissipate. How long it will last is not worth worrying about, as it is entirely outside my control.

The important thing has been to make the best of it. Have fun where possible. Avoid taking things too seriously. Maintain a passing interest in the progress against the virus, but filter out the constant noise and demoralising angst.

This too shall pass. Normalcy will one day return. It always has in the past. It will again.

What fun, misadventure, or positive discoveries have you encountered while locked down?


To hear what others have been up to during lockdown, check out the other responses to SavingNinja’s thought experiment:


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4 Comments

  1. weenie 6 April 2020

    Interesting read, plus I’ve been enjoying your daily microblog. I don’t have anything particularly interesting or different to share of my life during lockdown – as mentioned, much of it is still business as usual (for now), except that I’ve taken the time to re-indulge in one of my spare-time passions, that of video gaming which provides some good escapism from doom-laden reality.

    Totally with you on keeping a passing interest in the progress against the virus whilst filtering out the noise and angst. I thought social media was bad before but it’s even worse now so I’ve cut down my use even more. (One of the worse culprits I found is my Mum, forwarding scary fake news…)

    Anyway, as you say, ‘This too shall pass’ and life goes on.

    Good to read that you and yours are ok.

    • {in·deed·a·bly} 6 April 2020 — Post author

      Thanks weenie.

      I share your pain with the wrinklies forwarding on all sorts of random misinformation! No wonder they are such easy prey for scam merchants.

      I remember video games [sigh]. How I miss them!

      Nowadays there is a queue for the Xbox, and my elder son goes to bed later than I do. On the rare occasion I do manage to put one of my games on, the younger one magically appears. Immediately followed by my lady wife’s admonishing that sniper games and Red Dead Redemption aren’t age appropriate. So we’re back to Mario Kart and Lego games full of Stan Lee cameos.

  2. David Andrews 7 April 2020

    I fear that many more will have catastrophic outcomes from the “cure” rather than the underlying disease. Many households have no savings which means any income disruption can prove catastrophic. Landlords will still want their rent as they will have mortgages to pay and other related bills. Banks need to avoid large scale defaults and institutions ( and individual shareholders ) still want their dividends (oops). I agree that the exit plan will be as more people (hopefully) become immune. The present approach is simply kicking the can down the road and moving the potential hospital admissions to a later date to hopefully keep the demands on the NHS within their capacity. The uncomfortable truth is that you can’t save everybody. Keeping my 6 year old entertained whilst pretending to be a productive employee is tough but I’ve always planned for the worst and hoped for the best. Personally it’s a bit painful when hearing that “some” who have “lived it large” are getting handouts but there will be many more who be deserving of help and hopefully getting it. We love Mario Kart and Super Mario World on our Wii U. My son gets his morning exercise from Just Dance 3, I flail around along with him in Dad dancing support. For now, my household remain fully employed with a minor dent in our finances – things could be much worse so I’m thankful.

    • {in·deed·a·bly} 7 April 2020 — Post author

      Thanks David. Glad to hear you and your family are doing ok during lockdown.

      I suspect you are correct on the outcomes front.

      My kids would undoubtedly classify my “Dad dancing” as a catastrophic outcome!

What say you?

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