We’ve been into the pandemic for over a year now. I wanted to leave a snapshot for my future self, so I can look back and say, “Yep, those were some crazy times. Remember when we had to wear masks everywhere?”
March 13, 2020. A tattoo shop in my neighbourhood was having a “Friday the 13th” special. I saw the line down the block and thought, “Oh no! The apocalypse has begun!” until I figured out what was going on. No worries, we’re still cool in this neck of the woods. Little did I know those line-ups would become a regular part of life.
That day I was working background on a TV movie, and looking forward to my trip to Edmonton the next week. I’d get to see Rachel on her birthday, see some old friends from university and perform at the local Yuk Yuk’s. I hadn’t done a club show in ages; this was going to be so much fun! Plus now I have an album to sell afterward, so I can make some extra cash and try out my new credit card square thinggy that attaches to my phone.
Cynthia gave the first inkling that something might not go as planned: “Are you still coming next week? I heard a few things are getting cancelled because of the virus.” Pfffft, that corona thing that only like 16 people in Canada have (according to the last time I’d checked, which was not all that recently)? The one that makes people buy extra toilet paper for some reason?
I heard the Juno Awards were getting cancelled, which were supposed to be held that Sunday. That was the first major cancellation I knew about. It started me wondering about the Edmonton trip. There would be extra precautions, I guess, but I didn’t see it affecting me. People still traveled during SARS (2003) and the swine flu (2009).
As the day went on, we started to hear rumours from other production sets. “Did you hear, XYZ show is shutting down for a month!” “The whole INDUSTRY is probably going to close down for a few weeks, how crazy.” The movie we were working on happened to be on its final shooting day, but I wonder if it would have lasted much longer.
The doors slammed pretty quickly in the next few days. I cancelled my trip to Alberta, because suddenly it seemed insane to be going through airports and performing in a casino. All the comedy clubs cancelled their shows soon afterward. The film industry shut down, and so did anything involving banquet serving. That last one was a hard one to wrap my head around. I figured food service is one job that will always be there. An actor could always pick up a shift. If I wanted to, I could work almost any Saturday for the rest of my life (no thanks). There will always be weddings, movie premieres, conferences, awards dinners, etc; reasons for people to deliver food to other people, and then clean up after them. We still have to hand-polish glassware for fuck’s sake, so robots won’t be replacing us any time soon. But this, I did not see coming.
Schools in Ontario were going to be cancelled for three weeks, which of course turned into the rest of the year. I knew I wouldn’t be seeing much of my guy SW because he’d have his kids for spring break. Cut to us being apart for most of the first three months. We were following the whole “stick to your own household” guidelines, which was easier to do when we thought this was a temporary thing. When we did finally have a visit, it felt like we were doing something wrong. I didn’t want my neighbours to know that I’d (*gasp*) LEFT THE PREMISES! That I went out and mingled with someone from another address. Over at SW’s house, we felt weird about his neighbours as well. “Oops, they saw me today. They know I don’t live here! What will they think?“
March is a big travel month for a lot of people, and I remember it was a mad scramble for everyone to get home. My parents were in Florida when the pandemic hit, but they were able to cut their trip short and make it back to Yellowknife. My brother (who lives in town) stocked their house with groceries so they were all set for their 2-week quarantine.
I remember such a heavy feeling during those first few months. That first week of the shut-down was the longest. The second week was better, and time has been weird ever since. Every day I watched the “holy shit” news on TV and Trudeau’s updates that said more of the same thing. Sometimes I’d just feel a big ol’ wave of SAD come over me. Spending days indoors was driving me crazy, but going out in public was worse. It felt dangerous. That’s where COVID was waiting to jump out and get us. I had to psych myself up to go on my weekly grocery run. I tried to buy enough stuff so that I could avoid the next trip for as long as possible. Get home and disinfect my phone, headphones, wallet, packages — everything that had been exposed to the big bad world. This is a great time for any OCD tendencies to kick in. There were regular liquor store trips as well, spending about as much as I would if I were at a bar. Need to stock up for these end times, of course.
Going to the laundromat seemed more depressing than usual. Lots of people pass through there, and so many surfaces I didn’t want to touch (now with new reasons). Homeless people would settle in because the shelters were closed. With no malls or coffee shops open, the laundromat was one of the last loitering places out there. They would usually get yelled at and kicked out. It’s a lot easier to “just stay home” when you have a home.
I’m an introvert, and I love me some home alone time, so at first I didn’t mind staying in and being a total potato. But I missed having a choice in the matter. No setting up my laptop at Starbucks, or stopping in at Comedy Bar to see who’s there. At one point I realized I had gone a full month without touching another human. There might have been some accidental hand-brushing when paying for something at a store.
But now there’s SO much time to get things done! No more excuses. Organize your home, write a novel, start a new online business, upgrade your skills, go fuck yourself. I didn’t do any of that. I did file my taxes and purged some clothes. I also got into Property Brothers and boxed wine. “Unprecedented times” and all that. There’s no rules anymore; we’re just trying to get through it. This won’t be forever… will it?
It was a long spring.