As I mentioned, so far I haven’t been getting much creative work done due to the pandemic distractions. I can understand if you out there aren’t either. However, I think COVID-19 is still a valuable learning experience, much as it’s a class I’d rather skip.
A week and a half ago I went into the grocery store to pick up some emergency supplies. I’d figured it would be early enough nobody would be there, but there was a big line and very few staffers, so the lines crawled. I was standing there, surrounded by people. No way out without just abandoning my purchases. Would one of them be the carrier who put me in the hospital?
I was, quite simply, terrified. I didn’t leave and got through the line, but it’s been a long time since I’ve been in a situation that scared me simply by having people around. Maybe not since dealing with bullies in junior high. And even then it was specific individuals, not just the idea of being out with people.
This is close as I will ever come (at least I hope so) to that classic thriller situation where the guy is wandering through a crowd, conscious any one of them could be an assassin with a knife sent to eliminate him. If I were writing that situation, I’d use what I felt: the desperate desire to be somewhere safe with nobody around. The constant awareness of my surroundings. Second-guessing whether my decision to stay or go or to pick up X or Y is right.
Next, there’s fears about my health. I’ve had those before but constantly evaluating my coughs (is it mucusy? Yes? Phew!) or feeling relief because I just completed a workout and I’m not short of breath is new. If I had a character worried about this kind of issues, either serious or funny (obsessive hypochondriacs are a staple of humor) this would certainly give me fresh perspective. Hopefully the pandemic won’t show me personally what it’s like to actually have a serious illness.
Then there’s the general sense that we’re staring at a sea change in the world, not for the better, and having no idea how it’s going to play out. Will it be over in a year? Will the restaurant TYG and I were going to eat my birthday dinner at still be there? Will any of the non-chain restaurants around here survive? Can I honestly cope if this drags on for months? How can I help?
I’ve long been fascinated by the realization that people living through WW II had no idea how it would end. I used to read old issues of Time for that reason (my local library in Florida had them going back to the 1950s), to see what the world thought of events as they were occurring. You’d be amazed how often victory in Vietnam was imminent, for instance (Time in those days was conservative and anti-communist). And that by the mid-1960s, it was obvious students at American colleges had no interest in protesting or getting involved in politics — they were in it for education and career, nothing more!
Now I’m living in one of those events, along with everyone else. It gives me fresh appreciation for songs like When the Lights Go On Again, All Over the World or The Last Time I Saw Paris. Again, I don’t have anything that immediately gains from this insight, but hopefully it’ll come. I just have to remember the feelings … and somehow I don’t think that’ll be hard.
#SFWApro. Fear-filled cover image by Carmine Infantino, all rights remain with current holder.