Why do people keep using the phrase “when things return to normal”? Things aren’t going back to the way they were, ever. That’s OK though: if you’re dealing with quarantine right, you won’t want them to.
Take restaurants: We loved going out to eat. There’s nothing more relaxing than going out for a nice meal. No mess, no fuss. You pick out what you want to eat and someone else does all the work. Couldn’t be improved upon!
This is, it turns out, incorrect. We’ve been cooking the restaurant foods we miss at home. It’s a weekend thing now: “What would we love to go out for today if restaurants were open and we thought being near other breathing humans was a good idea?”
The restaurant replacement project is going swimmingly. I made the best onion rings I’ve ever had. We made the most amazing fried shrimp. I have remorselessly murdered nine lobsters; I even bought a Chinese cleaver to dispatch them more effectively. I made mapo tofu. My sourdough starter has been turned into waffles, pancakes, sandwich bread, crumpets, popovers, amazing pizza crust, and soft pretzels.
I know what you’re thinking, but all parties involved have lost weight. I don’t know what Sysco or whoever is putting in the restaurant food but home-cooking-wise I’m not worrying much about calories and the predicted (by me) effect of gaining 75 pounds in quarantine has not materialized. So yeah, restaurant meals — especially “I don’t feel like cooking after Pilates; let’s just eat somewhere” and the assumption that a restaurant is a foregone special treat on weekends — are probably a thing of the Before times.
So are movies: I loved giant-screen blockbusters, but I cannot think of much that sounds less soothing right now than sitting in a dark room with people I do not know and breathing for three hours. I am sad about James Bond, Furious 9, Wonder Woman, and a disaster movie called “Greenland,” the trailer for which appeared to feature people trying to outrun comet fragments in pickup trucks. I won’t be going to the movies until there is a vaccine or something though; I sit near people for more than five minutes right now and I can just about see them exhaling virus. It’s like watching Dementors inhale souls at Hogwarts, but in reverse.
The gym: The gym, alas, is under the same constraints as movies. I could probably handle it outdoors, but I am not sure I trust all of the other clients of my gym to be avoidant of exposure, and I keep seeing the headline “200th Case of COVID-19 Linked to Suburban Fitness Center” in my head.
I’m sure a lot of you are nodding while the rest of you are rolling your eyes. That’s another thing I haven’t figured out how to handle: Living in this post-truth world, half of you are convinced I am right and sensible and are nodding vigorously while gleefully planning on sending this column to your intra-family enemies, subject-lined “THIS,” while the other half of you are certain I am not only wrong but in a total handwringing namby-pamby panic over what is essentially a vanishingly small chance of catching a mild cold. All of you are 100 percent backed up by your own experiences and news sources. I don’t actually know if I am being sensible and prudent or if I am being a scaredy-cat. Used to be you could figure these things out with a little effort; now there are zillion-dollar industries dedicated to ensuring you never have to read anything you don’t want to read.
(Except this, I guess.)