It was a year ago, this week, when my casual trip to the grocery store made me wonder what the hell was going on.
Toilet paper was on the list my wife handed me before leaving.
She had (and always has) very specific instructions on the toilet paper purchase. There are certain brands we use. There are certain brands we never use. There are often coupons or “deals” I’m supposed to be on the lookout for. And then there’s some weird form of math that must be done: in this pack, one roll = three rolls, or in this pack, two rolls = 48 rolls…or some kind of equation I can never seem to understand.
But as I stepped into the toilet paper aisle to commence the hunt, I was stunned to see that all the shelves were empty. That was weird.
Oh well, I took it off the list. We’d pick it up another time. Less toilet paper math for me.
I turned my focus to picking up the food items on the list. But at every stop, the store was out of what I was sent to get. What?
Finally, I think I did eventually get home with some potatoes and lettuce and something else I can’t remember. But what was happening in that grocery store was a clear panic.
Back home in the kitchen, unloading the sparse haul and trying to explain all of this to my wife, I casually checked Facebook and saw that my brother, who was over the live events and convention department of the Nashville City Center (the largest convention spot in Nashville) posted that he and everyone under him, had just been laid off due to the fact that every live event scheduled for that year had been cancelled. EVERY. ONE. OF. THEM.
Then, later in the day, my April and May dates got cancelled. Then, later that week, the rest of my year got cancelled.
The week after that, my wife was exposed to someone at her work who had tested positive for the new Covid virus, and we were locked in our house for fourteen days.
At first, we decided to just roll with it. Maybe this would be a great time to catch up on all those TV shows we wanted to watch. Ozark had just dropped. This would work out perfectly.
But that only lasted for about a week and left us craving a bigger high. So we found ourselves mainlining Tiger King without even blinking. It’s true what they say, kids. It only leaves you wanting more.
And suddenly, while we were all on Facebook, discussing that bitch Carol Baskin, live studio audiences on daytime and night time TV shows stopped being a thing. And we got to see every late-night talk show host’s den, bad hair and unpainted face.
Not long after that, my son’s seventh grade year was basically scrapped and my daughter’s high school graduation was postponed.
By the time my wife and I checked our bank balance and found that the government had just put $1200 in there (how did they know where to find us or our bank account?) we knew were living in some weird new world.
In the months that would follow, we would learn things about ourselves, our country and humanity in general, that maybe we didn’t want to know. And what started as a stern rebuke by those who fancied themselves the arbiters of truth and science, to “flatten the curve for God’s sake!” (I added the “for God’s sake,” because it was certainly implied by all of my smarter-than-everyone-in-the-room friends), became a strange, year-long minefield of hyper-politicized science, strained race relations, plausible conspiracy theories, governmental overreaches, oddly imbalanced mandates, culminating in a straight-up weird election, followed by an actual attack on the United States Capitol building.
Did the curve ever get flattened? I forget.
Some friends of mine got the virus early on, in South Korea. According to my friend, she and her husband were in the hospital (back in Texas), on death’s door, on a Wednesday. They were started on Hydroxychloraquine, zinc and a Z-pack on Thursday, and walked out of the hospital feeling great on Friday.
But when the President mentioned something about that particular cocktail showing promise, suddenly HQC, a medicine nobody had anything to say about for 50 years, became some weird pawn in a political chess match and some places around the country weren’t even allowed to fill a prescription for it.
Why? Can’t doctors prescribe whatever they see fit to prescribe?
Then a report was released stating that this drug was harmful and dangerous to the general population. THEN we found out that that report was falsified and fake.
Dear lord! What kind of world was I living in when medicine – actual MEDICINE – was being withheld and/or having propaganda written about it? Who in God’s name cared if a medicine worked? Wouldn’t that have been a good thing?
This was officially weirder than the toilet paper day.
Then came the guy we all watched on TV, to tell us what to do and what not to do, who had just told us not to wear masks – they were not going to help us in any way – do a one-eighty and tell us to absolutely wear masks everywhere we went.
Then George Floyd was killed.
And while we ALL – literally EVERY PERSON IN AMERICA – stood in solidarity behind the fact that we agreed his death was unjust, we watched riot after riot after riot happen, in protest of the fact that apparently nobody heard about everybody agreeing on the fact that his death was unjust.
Then, the same mayors and governors who were locking us down and putting us out of business and telling us not to gather with more than ten people, invited tens of thousands of us to these riots…you know…as long as everybody wore a mask.
Tiger King was getting dangerously close to dropping out of the top five weirdest things of 2020.
Then our family members and friends started getting sick. Some of them died. But most of them didn’t. And some people simply got the sniffles for a couple of days, while others’ lungs turned to concrete.
Suddenly, we know we couldn’t trust the information anymore. Because it was either incomplete or it was being politicized. And that created its own new brand of terror.
Were the death numbers correct? Were the testing numbers correct? Were there false positives? Were there false negatives? Which test was accurate and which test was unreliable? And why was that Youtube video, by those doctors, being removed from the internet?
Was it because they were wrong? Or was it because they were right?
Ozark was starting to look less and less like fiction.
We had to socially distance…unless we were attending a Trump rally or a protest. We couldn’t gather to worship…unless we did it in a Wal Mart or a liquor store.
Governors started winning Emmy awards for holding daily press conferences. Then the president got the virus. Then he got better.
Then, we held the weirdest election in our lifetimes.
Then, we got banned from Facebook and Twitter for saying we had just held the weirdest election in our lifetimes.
Then we weren’t allowed to question anything.
Questioning literally EVERYTHING is supposed to come complete with every Social Security card issued. Being allowed to say, “man, that election sure seemed funky to me” is supposed to be the birthright of all Americans.
But not anymore. Not since the toilet paper ran out.
Then, a bunch of people actually believed they were going to overturn said funky election by storming into the Capitol building and doing…I actually have no idea what…to the people inside.
And that seemed to seal the door to the next room and set the tone for the new weirdness. Next stop – razor wire around the White House.
I got Covid a week before Christmas.
My doctor refused (very sternly) to prescribe me ANY medication. Not even a cough syrup. Finally, into day 5 of fever delirium, I contacted a doctor with a different political viewpoint and got some meds. Meds that may have actually saved my life.
And I came out of that experience angry and confused. Angry that I not only had to navigate a virus nobody seemed to have all the information on, but also navigate every person’s damn personal political belief, in every circumstance I was placed in, to simply survive in this world. And confused by what world I was now going to have to teach my daughter and son to operate in (I started to use the phrase “thrive in” but I’m not even sure they are allowed that kind of privilege anymore).
So, here we all are. A year after the run on the toilet paper.
A half million Americans are allegedly dead from this virus. I say “allegedly” only because all of the numbers are still kind of being sorted out.
The Virus originated in China, and even now that it is pretty well agreed upon (in much of the scientific community) that the thing didn’t come from a wet market after all, but probably leaked from the Wuhan lab, China’s General Secretary STILL hasn’t done a single press conference. NOT. ONE.
The Emmy winner turned out to be a liar and responsible for a lot of death. But so were a lot of other governors who seemed to not pay as much attention to the elderly among us.
We’re still not sure if we should’ve been wearing a mask or wearing two.
The government just put more money in my account. I have no idea what that means at tax time. Did I earn that income? Was it a gift? I’m sure some masked tax preparer will tell me at the appropriate time.
My brother went on to a different job. I learned how to do Zoom calls and perform pretty much exclusively in front of a phone.
I can’t get like 6 Doctor Seuss books, now, because apparently they were pretty inappropriate. But at least I can still listen to songs about Cardi B’s vagina.
A new season of Ozark is coming out soon. Instead of being excited, I’m almost nervous. The last time that thing dropped, a lot of weirdness followed it.
I wish I could say the future is bright and things are going to be great. But we all know a little too much about each other, now. We all know a little too much about what people will do to prove themselves right or to prove their enemies wrong. We know a little too much about the lengths to which people will go, to re-set the way things get done.
And honestly, I don’t seem to know my country anymore. Maybe I never did. Thats the saddest revelation of all, over this past year.
At least now, we always keep extra toilet paper in the storage closet.
I guess that’s something.
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