It's The End of the World as We Know It...

And I feel (mostly) fine.

  I am now exhibiting mild cabin fever symptoms and also my skin is perfect.  My period false-started three times before it started for real.  Maybe it's because I'm pushing 40, maybe it's stress.  I've only cried once so far, and it was while reading a Martin Luther King Jr. bedtime story to my son.  The human mind works in mysterious ways! 

  A hermit by nature and socially distancing by choice since the 90's, my main issue with staying home for an undetermined period is with the fact that my kids are also here with me.  
  They are relatively self-sustained thanks to the privileged number of streaming services we are able to pay for, but HOMESCHOOLING has been a drag.  I have hard time pretending to be an essential oils-lover in $400 yoga pants, though UNLEARNING comes somewhat naturally to children when you are too tipsy by noon to supervise their math and DAILY JOURNALING.  Hashtag: daydrinking

  It's day 10 of quarantine... I think.  Time's relativity has made itself quite obvious.  Is it Monday or Thursday? IT DOESN'T MATTER!

  Karens everywhere want to speak to a manager, but it's unclear who's in charge.  Many have tested positive for neurosis and white entitlement.  Baby Boomers, or soon to be known as The Walking Dead, are getting more sympathy than usual due to their elevated risk status, and there's an interesting role-reversal phenomenon: Millennials are now grounding their parents and lecturing them on the dangers of hanging out in large groups.  There's Panic! at the Costco, but whatever you do, do NOT buy or ingest fish tank cleaner to fight Covid-19.

  The "president" wants to end quarantine because "reasons" (something seemingly to do with the economy, but mostly with his hubris and malevolence).  That, ladies and gentlemen, is the Anti-Vaxx movement on CRACK.  On the bright side, it would also be a textbook lesson in Natural Selection.

  Welcome to 2020: the weirdest year yet.  We thought 2016 was a shitshow, but nah.  It was just the beginning of a perpetual Twilight Zone episode with too many plot twists, featuring a cataclysm after  cataclysm.  

  Celebrities have it the hardest.  Lockdown in a multi-millon dollar mansion means they are spontaneously bursting into (a tone-deaf, figuratively AND literally) song and compulsively posting the results on social media (now deleted), which provides us with the best possible entertainment in the comment section: "It's amazing how something can be exactly what you don't want and you don't need."  Cue the videos from hot-tubs and bathtubs and poolsides of actors and musicians lamenting on how Coronavirus is "the great equalizer".  With nothing to promote and sell, they are busy with keeping the nation's morale up.  Women of color with two kids but no health insurance who just lost their two minimum wage jobs are particularly grateful for this.

  It's a relief, at least, that we still have the Internet.  Working from home has never been easier, once we manage to make our pets understand that conference video calls are NOT playtime, despite us not wearing any pants.  We can take virtual tours of the Smithsonian from our living rooms, have Harry Potter and Star Wars movie marathons in bed, or eat ice cream over pasta at 2 AM, guilt-free.  
  And while humanity is away, Nature is having a party!  The canals in Venice are clean once more, wild animals roam the streets at night, and the reduced light pollution allows us to see all the stars in the sky.  Most of us, of course, prefer to watch porn and spend all waking hours on TikTok, where cool new dance routines and a Gen Z brand of humor distracts us from thinking about our own mortality.

  I needed to write this piece as a humorous release for my personal anxieties.  Joke aside, let's have real talk for a moment. 

  I had a few alternative titles for this piece, all of them clichés—Apocalypse Now, Welcome to the Twilight Zone, No Future, Strange Days—and yet even those tired phrases manage to capture only a fraction of our existential dread and confusion in the current state of pandemic. 

Or should I say, pandemonium.  

  While clichés are bad not because they are untrue, but because they are incomplete, the incessant noise we are bombarded with today is not only false, it's dangerous.

  I keep hearing (reading) stuff like It's just the flu, The flu is way worse, The danger is blown out of proportion, and my personal favorite, It's a Chinese virus.  It's okay.  Isolation drives us all crazy and sometimes makes us say DUMB things.  There will be a lot of philosophizing during the upcoming weeks and months, and not all of it will be gold.

  Similarly, many of us will feel the opposite—like the sky is falling.  That's okay, too!  It will take time for us to feel any semblance of normal.  We are not supposed to figure this out on our own.  Acceptance is a process, especially with so many unknowns.  We will cope with different levels of success, in different ways.  It will feel hard and scary and impossible.  Try and adapt at your pace, and don't worry if you are struggling.  It's only natural to struggle when the whole world is changing so suddenly and drastically before our eyes. 

  Nothing could have prepared us for this is another line I keep stumbling on.  It's unprecedented times.   

  But that’s not entirely true, is it?  Not if you ask a doomsday prepper.  We have a plethora of zombie movies/video games to learn from.  We, as species, have been preparing for Armageddon since the very beginning of civilization.  From the Bible to Hollywood, from classic literature to punk rock, we’ve always grappled with the question whether or not we’re on the “right” path, and how it all is going to turn out.  A Big Giant Flood to wash away our sins.  A devastating natural disaster.  A possible (though not probable, in our lifetime at least) meteorite colliding with Earth.  The War to end all wars.  Aliens!  Global warming.  Children of Men.  Morlocks and Eloi.  Running out of resources. Etc., etc.

  And of course, a killer virus. 

  Philosophy/theology aside (who knows what the point of everything is, though we might be forced to find out by the end of the Covid-19 crisis) we’ve had that before. 

  Not aliens but viruses: we’ve had viral outbreaks and global health crises previously.  We also have pretty great science, and we’ve learned a ton from past events.  Coronavirus is a novel virus, but we principally understand how it works and what it does.  And that’s already a great advantage. 

  We also have the experience of many Great Wars.  We know about shortages of supplies, rationing, utilizing resources, and about coming together to fight a common enemy.  As much as I hate the military analogy, our current situation is closer to the War Effort than anything else I've seen. 

  We should look to people who have lived in confinement for perspective on psychological effects.  We should look to people who have survived refugee camps and detention. 

 Many of us have seen the economy crash (I personally have in two countries and at two different points in history), have overcome inflation, debt, and unemployment. 

 Many of us have survived devastation after a major natural disaster and have dealt with loss of homes and livelihood. 

  There’s much less misinformation being spread compared to past important points in history (2016 election) and technology is helping tremendously with keeping us connected, educated, and entertained. 

  People are finally grasping the importance of science and modern medicine.  There will always be deniers, but our lives literally depend on protocols of behavior, tests and vaccines developed by medical specialists, and backed up by scientific tests, research, and peer reviews.  Covid-19 doesn't need you to "believe" in it to kill you, and this FACT will be made very clear even to the most extreme skeptics.

  Now, these are dystopian times.  It's nuts out there.

  Still, we pretty much know what's going to happen:

  There will be a Depression—by definition this means more than 10% unemployment.  It will take a long time to get a replacement job because businesses will be afraid to hire. 

  Small businesses will go bankrupt as they need to keep paying rent and their employees, but they won’t have any money coming in. 

  People will get evicted or lose their homes, as there’s no emergency legislation in place yet. 

  Crime will go up. 

 Black and brown people will be disproportionately affected by the pandemic—on average they have worse health insurance, and lack paid sick leave and easy access to health care. 
   People 65 and older are high risk AND will depend on savings, which will be soon gone. 
  The economy will implode and which industries survive depends on how connected it is to government bailout efforts—there will a be picking of winners and losers.  For instance, if the Airline Industry gets a bailout, would an adjacent business (caterer, uniform supplier) get help as well?! 

  There will be no IPO’s.  Stock market at minus 50% of its high point.  It will erase 4-5 years of stock market increases (it will reset the market to something from 5 years ago). 

  Every business and person who is able to has to learn to work remotely.  There will be less spending and no financial risks taken, which will additionally slow down the economy. 

Now, the GOOD NEWS.   

I keep saying this: I witnessed the profound and fundamental changes Bulgaria went through during the transition from communism to democracy in the late 80's and early to mid 90's.  There was a few-year period during which we had no electricity, waited in long lines to buy essential goods, and organized crime and corruption exploded.  People suffered immensely, and are still recovering.  

  The difference is: America is larger, stronger in numbers and morale, and is incredibly well resourced.  

  There will be sacrifice and damage, but this country will come out on the other side.  Here we have lots of land, great manufacturing capabilities.  It’s a matter of organization and maintaining morale at this point. 

A vaccine is coming.  Questions: how long will it take, what side effects, distribution issues? 

  In the meantime, we simply must do our part.  The War Effort analogy works for me because this time we are ON THE SAME SIDE.  
  The situation sure is disruptive.  We are certainly dealing with many discomforts.  Our concerns and anxieties are valid.  However, if you are anything like me—fairly well isolated, stocked up, healthy, and otherwise financially privileged—you must admit that the requirement to stay healthy and flatten the curve by hanging out in the safety of our homes with our loved ones is a minuscule price to pay.
  Please consider this when you are down and losing hope.  It helps to realize how lucky we, in fact, are.  Think of all the people on the FRONTLINES and count your blessings.  Think of people with health conditions, with severe food allergies, with eating disorders, with mental health issues.  Think of people with newborn children at home, and expectant mothers.  Think of the immunosuppressed and the elderly, the seasonal and hourly workers, the nurses and doctors, and the essential service and supermarket employees.

  To pile on the clichés... our true colors will come out in times of trials.  

  It will become very clear who’s hoarding, who’s price gouging, who’s offering help and support, who’s maintaining a level head and their good humor.  There will be lots of self-entitlement made obvious.  Don't let this distract you!

  When we say we’re all in this together, aside from being a sweet sentiment, this is quite literally the cold hard fact: virtually everyone is affected by this one way or another.  What an amazing learning opportunity for us as a society, especially after being so polarized lately.  
  This is our chance to agree on the basic fundamentals we should value and work for: universal health care, adequate measures against natural disasters and prompt crisis response, closing the wealth gap by holding big corporations accountable and forcing our representatives to serve us and not financial interests.  We can not allow this to reduce us to “every man for himself” and to divide us further.  (Yup, I'll die idealistic.)

  Ending this with a cliché:  there is a sign I've always liked that says THERE WILL BE A $5 FINE FOR WHINING.  Whining and complaining has been BANNED in my house.  The kids are simply not allowed to do it, under any circumstance.  They lose a privilege if they do.  I know they miss their friends, playdates, outside time, and other fun, but whining won't help or change anything.  So we hunker down and we play games and we read books and we do our thing, and we are going to wait this out, and possibly learn something in the process.  Like how to live together without accidentally-on purpose smothering each other in our sleep, starting a baby Fight Club, or drinking ourselves to death.    

  Perhaps we should implement the $5 fine for whining as a federal law.  This just might even save the economy.


  1. How do you think, my dear Bobby, will people get better after isolation? After the crisis in a changing world? Imagine that there was no coronavirus tomorrow, that everything was just a script for a horror movie. If all people and the world do not come to conclusions, unless human relations change for the better, as well as relations between countries, nothing good awaits us. For example, KOVID -20, 21 ... I don't want to think about it, endless horror. When I look at your faces I am optimistic about the future. Nobody knows if there is a future for millions around the world.
    That being said, let's come back with intact abilities from this battle. And finally, every person must rethink their life, their aspirations and ideals. Then the good will win because the current price is too high.
    With a lot of love from me
    PS This is a strange attempt to write to you in English and surely this experience is terrible. Something like compensation for the translation of your essay into Bulgarian by Mr. Google.


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