22 January 2021

Isolation -- the world in cables

It's been over ten months now since I went into isolation to avoid the pandemic.  Unlike some people, I've observed it rigorously.  Death by covid-19 is an awful way to go, and I'm not young any more.  I can't take the risk.  And this is how I choose to pay tribute to the hard work and sacrifice of our health-care workers -- not by symbolic applause, but by being careful to avoid becoming one more burden upon them.

Occasionally there's a trip out to the grocery store.  I know exactly where everything in the store is, and I can run in, grab everything, and be out in a few minutes.  Then back home, hand-washing, and a careful procedure to avoid contamination by anything that came from outside the apartment.  It doesn't feel real.  Basically, I exist inside the walls of this one space.

Let me be clear here -- I'm not complaining.  I never much cared for socializing or going outside anyway.  And it's a pretty big apartment for one person.  It's been a huge relief not having to go to the office every day, dealing with the noise and distraction and people's irritating habits.  To say nothing of the traffic.  I don't think about the traffic any more.  It's outside.  It's not real.

There are windows through which I could look out at the street outside, and the building across the street.  However, I don't care about the street outside or the building across the street, so I just leave the blinds closed.  The sunlight is annoying, anyway.  The windows aren't real.  The cables are.

At the back of this desk stands a black plastic box with some blue lights on it and some cables and wires attached to it.  One of those cables runs to the computer on which I'm typing this (I don't trust wireless connections).  Through that cable, not through the windows, I can see the world, reach the world.

Through that cable come pictures, information, ideas -- everything, displayed on the computer screen.  News of what's happening in the world.  The thoughts and creativity of the bloggers I read.  Messages from people.  Life.  Similarly, everything I write on this blog, all the comments I post elsewhere, everything I do that in any way manifests my existence to the outside world.  All of it flows in and out, at unimaginable speed in coded pulses of electricity, through that dull grey cable snaking across the desk.

It's a kaleidoscope, ever-changing.  So-and-so has a new post up, or a new poem, something I need to think about.  There's a new video of something intriguing, or a piece of music I hadn't heard before.  There's news of some event on the other side of the planet, complete with images awesome or horrific.  All displayed on the screen.  That's the world.  That's what's real.  The street and the building outside the windows haven't changed since I moved in here nine years ago.  They might as well be a big painting a couple of feet beyond the glass.

A few feet away on the desk, at the end of another cable, sits another, much smaller computer which is the property of the company.  Through that cable flow other coded pulses of electricity which that computer deciphers into the problems which, for eight hours each weekday, I need to solve, information to be manipulated in various ways.  These, too, appear on the screen as messages and images -- rather dull ones, unlike the ones on the main computer, and dealt with out of duty rather than interest.  There are "meetings" (far too many), the screen split into several rectangles, each with a person's face, talking, nodding.  I suppose those people must actually exist out there somewhere, beyond just being small images on my screen.  Until ten months ago I used to see them every day, in person, but I hardly remember that.

Every payday I use the main computer to look at the bank website and make sure that certain numbers on the screen have changed as they are supposed to.  This enables me to type things which cause the numbers to change again, in accordance with yet other numbers transmitted to me by credit-card companies and various other entities, all through that same grey cable.  I'm acting on the assumption that all these numbers actually mean something.  In the case of one number I receive every month, I know that if I didn't make the corresponding change in the number on the bank website, the black plastic box with the lights and cables and wires would stop working, and then I'd be entombed, sealed off from the world.  So that one is real.  As for the monthly rent payment, it's automated so I won't need to worry about it if I slip up and get hospitalized with covid-19.  It's just another number to check each month and make sure that it has changed in the correct way.

I can see why living this way bothers a lot of people.  It doesn't particularly bother me.  I do want the pandemic to be over so I don't need to be afraid any more.  Plus, I want to go to Italy someday.  I'm fairly sure Italy is still real.

20 Comments:

Blogger Sixpence Notthewiser said...

Oh, I feel you.
The way our lives have been circumscribed to smaller, sparsely populated (if populated at all) circles did not surprise me at all. Even though I'm social and enjoy people's company, I'm not shocked by my own company. I've listened to more music this past year than ever before, I've watched many, many movies I've always wanted to watch, and I've made friends online that were unexpected and welcomed.
Like you, I try not to go out too much. Trader Joe's sees me once a week and it's one of those wham-bam-thank-you-man situations. Sorry not sorry.
The internet has also become a brooding companion to me. Most everything I do for work is related to my WiFi. I don't even know how I'm going to react when I go back to driving to my office...

XOXO

22 January, 2021 05:48  
Blogger Debra She Who Seeks said...

Good post, Infidel! I enjoyed reading your thoughts on this. It sure helps to be an introvert, doesn't it? For once, WE have an advantage over extroverts, LOL!

22 January, 2021 06:27  
Blogger Ranch Chimp said...

That's cool, having a goal of visiting Italy! You and I are alot different (you know me), as far as wanting to go out, etc. I myself even enjoy getting out in the sun, but still like those rainy and winter days too, I love variety in life ... I get out in all of it, including tornadoes {:-). The last few days in Dallas you would love ... early fog, and light drizzle and rain for 3-4 days straight now, about in the 50s for highs ... looking out my glass door as I write this ... yep, the building across the parking lot is still there, heh, heh, heh, heh, heh {:-) ... I been living here for 23 years or so now.

I truly miss sitting down in a restaurant with a friend or family gathering (I'd like to be sitting down with you at that Thai restaurant in SE Portland, enjoying a bite, for example), and being Santa for all the kids at our annual Christmas Party... popping in for a couple beers at like the Oaklawn (LGBT District) huge Halloween block party. I miss being able to drop in to check out some local music "live" ... going over to a friend or family members place to watch the NFL playoffs and SuperBowl, etc ... so there is much I do miss. But it is what it is. I feel sorry most for the young people ... I know, the way I was when I was younger, this would have me restless as Hell probably. I have also been locked down in solitarty confinement as punishment when incarcerated (no knowing day or night, and constant blaring light 24/7 and fed through a slot in a metal door, no read, no tele or radio, no contact with people) ... so this is much easier to handle, like a cakewalk in comparison.

The traffic in Dallas is still heavy, and lockdown is weak, frankly, comapred to some towns ... and why infections and spreading are high. I do go out and drive daily, go shopping, etc (I use modified masks I made, or double mask, and when in store/ grocer, I wear latex transparent gloves) ... I go to the markets when they first open and are less crowded ... I call in to a restaurant, order, and pick it up, to just go in to get to go. One daughter and her husband work home daily, and are very busy, due to their positions, and hardly ever visit their offices ... but still go to the gym they are members of, and walk around the lake daily (small Bachmann Lake, about 3+ miles to walk around) ... I myself walk the neighbourhood daily, etc. Another daughter and her husband are RN's (registered nurses), they are out in the trenches daily treating/ serving people ... when they come home after a shift, they go directly to garage, strip clothes to wash and straight to shower, as daily protection. Another daughter goes to work, she is an instructor at a local college in visual arts (but they have been cut back in attendance because of COVID, so more strict), and she also works another part time job, as a video/ programme editor for a local TV station ... so she goes in there quite a bit, but they do have strict rules.

If people were to JUST DO THE BASICS, of masks, handwashing, and safe distancing ... we would be in so much better shape than what we are ... it's NOT all governments fault ... too many ignore so much, I see it daily ... and it's sad ... including those who refuse to do anything out of anger.

22 January, 2021 08:27  
Blogger Lady M said...

I agree with Debra - we introverts don't mind the working from home or the lack of awkward parties to attend. I do miss going to the pub for a beer however. I have not been as good as you though - I have gone to see the horse this whole pandemic. But it is easy to socially distance outside and I do love the sun! So kudos to you Infidel for commitment to not become another Covid statistic and for keeping your fellow human safe. If there were more like you, our nation might be performing much better.

22 January, 2021 09:14  
Blogger Leanna said...

Such a good post. I can relate. I went from extrovert to introvert 10 years ago not because I wanted to but because I had no other choice medically. Except for having to go out to get blood drawn for lab tests and the occasional doctor visits every 3 or 4 months, I spend 98% of my time inside either cooking when I can or sitting on the couch watching C-SPAN or reading. That is how my day goes. I have become a prisoner in my own home whether I like it or not. I laughed when COVID hit and people just couldn't get used to the idea of staying indoors. I do understand what they were going through but I still have to laugh.

22 January, 2021 09:19  
Blogger Mike said...

If I never went outside again it wouldn't bother me a bit. I go to the grocery store and the drug store and that's about it. My wife does get bothered sometimes with being couped up so we go for a drive. The interstate that loops around the St. Louis area is right by our house. We hop on, set the cruise control, and an hour later we're back home.

If I do go out for walks, I go at night (11-12). There is a hospital complex near our house. It takes me about a half an hour to leave the house, circle the complex, and get back home.

22 January, 2021 10:52  
Anonymous Rocky D said...

One more introvert here, actually "not suffering" during the pandemic. I think what I appreciate most about this long "time-out" has been that I have finally slowed down enough to appreciate the small surprises and pleasures that daily life can gift us if we would only notice them. I was a major busy butt so that's a big change for me. The saying is/was "I'm so busy I don't know if I've found a rope or lost a horse." Those days are gone and I'm not sorry about it. Another thing I now take the time to enjoy is listening to the stories and opinions on sites like this one. Thanks for the space & time Infidel. Peace to all.

22 January, 2021 11:25  
Blogger Kay said...

We walk before the sun comes up and take our trips to the grocery store. That's about it for us, but we're surviving...so far.

22 January, 2021 16:23  
Blogger Victor said...

I hear you, man!
I'm entombed in a room at an assisted dyin... Assisted LIVING facility.
We haven't been out of our rooms all week.
Orders.
And for weeks now, it's been highly recommended that we inmates stay in our rooms and only leave if was really necessary - like for your daily drug doses, PT, or meals.

And I don't have too much of a problem with it, because I'm basically a hermit at heart.

But man, I'd kill to go to a good local pub for an evening out!

Start the evening off with a nice Manhattan on the rocks.
And alongside that wonderful drink, I'd have a hoppy, cold (but not overly so) IPA to sip on - a kind of sweet & sour dish, only in liquid form.
Rinse & repeat several times.
And then, rinse & repeat the rinsing and repeating!

And then, for dinner, I'd murder for a nice, thick, juicy (AND FATTY!) pastrami reuben on rye, like the ones I ate at the old 2nd Avenue Deli back in the 70's and 80's.
OY!

22 January, 2021 22:04  
Anonymous Burr Deming said...

Wait!
You only plan to travel to Italy?

Then the anti-QAnon conspiracy can dismantle New York and London!

22 January, 2021 22:19  
Blogger CAS said...

Your post reminds me of Ready Player One. :-) I can't say I've been as isolated as you. I live with 4 other people and regularly take long walks around my town. I occasionally miss doing some of the things I used to do, like go to a restaurant or seeing friends in person, but overall, I'm pretty content.

I've filled the time pursuing interests that I never seemed to be able to get to before the pandemic, blogging being chief among them. I can almost say the crisis has been a positive experience for me personally if it weren't for the negative impact that it has had on my kids and their peers.

Just as they've reached an age where their parents should serve as occasional shoulders to lean on they are spending more time trapped within their parents' home than they have since they were 4 or 5. At least my kids are since their schooling is all online.

Don't get me wrong. We all happen to get along well with each other and in many ways, I'm grateful to be able to have this extra time with them. But, the fact is that this is not a healthy way for them to live. I'm concerned about the long-term negative impact that the pandemic will have on their mental health.

23 January, 2021 06:56  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Sixpence: I hope never to return to the office. I'm trying to negotiate continuing to work from home when the pandemic is over -- and I'll be getting close to retirement by then, anyway.

Debra: Thanks! Indeed, we're rather coming into our own.

Ranch: I do miss the restaurants. And there are people I'd visit and hang out with if it were possible -- but they're all bloggers I've met via the internet, so they live huge distances away anyway.

That's a good idea about the gloves. I should look into that. My hands are really ugly anyway (arthritis), so I'm a bit sensitive about people seeing them.

Lady M: Thanks. I do feel we have an obligation to not endanger other people. And I don't think horses get covid-19, so you should be OK there.

Leanna: Thank you. I hate to think of the kind of health problems you have to deal with. They seem to just be a perennial torment.

Mike: That must be tough living in a place like Missouri. At least here in Oregon almost everyone observes covid-19 precautions. I'd hate to be in a red state now.

23 January, 2021 10:52  
Anonymous Wordifull Melanie said...

As oft happens, Simon and Garfunkel lyrics come to mind...

"I have my books
And my poetry to protect me
I am shielded in my armor
Hiding in my room
Safe within my womb
I touch no one and no one touches me."

23 January, 2021 10:55  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Rocky: I've known a few of those busy, driven people. I can't even imagine being that way. Glad you've found a chance to slow down and become more aware.

Kay: At least your mother got the vaccine -- so your most at-risk family member will be safer. That's something.

Victor: And I hear you. My mother lived in one of those places for her last two and a half years. The staff must be saints to be able to do that kind of work, but at best, they're depressing places.

Burr: That's just what I want them to think.....

Carol: I've spent a fair bit of time considering the concept of virtual reality -- maybe that makes it easier to imagine questioning the reality of things.

If you've had more time for blogging, so much the better for the rest of us. :-) But it must be tough on the children as you say. At least now we have vaccines and, finally, a competent government to administer them. The light at the end of the tunnel is a ways off, but it's there.

23 January, 2021 11:03  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Melanie: I love that song! Very appropriate.

23 January, 2021 11:05  
Blogger Mary Kirkland said...

I haven't gone out much in the last 10 years so not a lot has changed for me over the last year. I'm still very careful with the groceries that my daughter brings home. We wash everything. She doesn't go anywhere except the grocery store when needed.

23 January, 2021 13:37  
Blogger Jack Vance said...

I really enjoyed this one. It sounds like we have an awful lot in common. Most of the people I know are have a very hard time with the isolation, and I do empathize with them. It has been fairly easy for me because I was already doing much of it. There are a few things I miss, and most have to do with what you said about staying home as much as possible so as not to be a burden to others (e.g., first responders). I had to venture out recently to get a tire repaired, and it had been so long since I was in a public space that it felt very strange.

24 January, 2021 03:54  
Blogger Unknown said...

Nice.

I'm autistic. Similar experience to yours.

In some ways, social distancing and isolation have been a hon for me.

26 January, 2021 03:17  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Mary: Glad you're being careful. I'm very cautious with anything from outside the apartment -- I know the virus is rarely transmitted via food or packaging, but it's better to be safe than sorry (or dead).

Jack: Thanks. I sometimes think I may have a harder time adjusting to being around people again, when the pandemic is over.

26 January, 2021 03:38  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Unknown: One of these days I need to read up on what "autistic" means. I'm pretty sure I'm not, but I seem to have a few things in common with autistic people.

26 January, 2021 03:44  

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