It was just after the dumpster blew into the side of a car I’ve owned less than a week that I decided it was time to tap out and let 2020 take the win.
Emily and I were rushing home from what should have been a nicer afternoon because a really nasty storm was coming. Our phones told us that, alarming with the sound I associate with tests of the Emergency Broadcast System, except this was no test. The advisory suggested we take shelter immediately. The wind was blowing so hard it blew gravel into the car like pollen when we opened the doors to make a run for it, and the aforementioned dumpster that skated across the alley like it was light as a cardboard box crunched the fender of a car with temporary plates, so farewell deductible. And everything is like that this year; the literal fender-bender was a bookend to waking up this very day to more stories of police violence, more stories of looting, and ever-climbing infection rates of COVID.
I’m supposed to write the light and fun stuff, but this is the third month in a row of trying to find something fun to talk about and I’m obviously overreaching by this point. I’ve canceled vacations, I’ve been working way too much at the day job, and no one wants to talk about anything except how angry and sad they are. Have you tried introducing other topics? It’s a nonstarter. Traveled lately? Nope. Been to any good restaurants? Uh-uh. All conversations really devolve down to “What are you doing to cope?” and more and more the answer is that coping strategies are increasingly ineffective.
So what’s left to talk about? I’m not interested in hearing people rehash the same opinions, the same politics, the same news stories, and the same resigned misery as everyone else. I am way over listening to fretting about schools and bars and protests and how people are behaving in other parts of the state/nation/world. But you can’t change the subject or the speakers will get suspicious that you’re one of the Others.
Besides, what can you talk about that isn’t pandemic? Fitness? I canceled my gym membership. They promised they’d be distant, but I’m not quite ready. New hobbies? I have thought about it, but I’m not sure what I would take up. I’m not a collector and I don’t want to accumulate crafts made by my own hand. Food? It’d be nice to drop a few pandemic pounds. Sex? Everyone is tired of everyone they know and new friends are hard enough to come by before you introduce the notion of smooching in the time of COVID.
Lots of folks, I know, do not share this view. I am equally uninterested in hearing from them. Conspiracy theories are fun as a parlor game but not as a topic of conversation among peers. Mask efficacy and lawyerly arguments over the limitations of authority are all conversations of merit but not by proxy via openers like “Apparently masks make things worse.” (“Apparently,” by the way, has become a one-word codephrase indicating that one is citing an opinion acquired from an article shared on social media. Now that I have pointed this out, you won’t be able to stop noticing it.)
Back to the recent windstorm — which added “weather” to the list of things trying to kill us this year. It’s an eerily long list, albeit a super-inefficient one. Downed trees are 100 percent effective when aimed accurately, but the trees I saw tonight were just strewn everywhere, haphazardly. The wind was breathtaking but couldn’t strengthen into a tornado. It’s as though the weather has given up, too.
I don’t want to root for the end of the world, but if it has to happen, I would appreciate it happening before the November election. I mean, haven’t we been through enough?
Alan Brouilette is a columnist for our sister publication, the Forest Park Review.