Tri-City News journalist Mario Bartel is voluntarily self-isolating and working from home for the rest of the month after his wife and son returned March 13 from a brief getaway in Arizona. He is writing a daily diary during that time.
Our first week of self-isolation is behind us.
It feels like a month.
It’s not that we’re at each other’s throats cooped up in our little condo. But all sense of time has been warped by the remarkable, incomprehensible events of the past 10 days.
Every day, the rhythms of our daily lives are being further dismantled. No sooner do you digest another change, another cancellation, a further uncertainty, then more bad news comes down the pike.
Ask anyone in the news business about the biggest story in the past 30 years and they’ll likely point to 9/11, a day so monumentally tragic it took your breath away, made you question if there could be anything worse, or a catastrophe so big.
Even here in the suburbs of Vancouver, far from New York City, we chased 9/11 stories. I remember going to a Future Shop (remember them?) to get the requisite photo of someone watching the bank of display TVs (none of them larger than 36”— oh, the humanity!) and my newsroom colleagues pulling together stories about travellers getting bunked at local hotels when all flights in North America were grounded; people from our community caught in New York on that fateful day; the fear of recrimination in the local Islamic community; and, of course, every HazMat call out for mysterious white powder.
But this, this global pandemic has been like 9/11 every day.
Conversation at the dinner table has become muted. Not because we have nothing to talk about after being cooped up together for a week but because the pandemic and its accompanying repercussions, as well as the fear and anxieties they ignite, are pretty much all there is to talk about. To do so just raises the stress level of my wife and me, and of our seven-year-old son, who’s already feeling the pressure of being away from his friends, his normal outdoor activities.
Retreating to the TV, radio or the internet is also fraught with peril. We continue to record the six o’clock newscasts but rarely watch them. Seeing Contagion or Pandemic pop up as a current top pick on Netflix is hardly escapism. Even rifling through my library of Blu-Ray movies fills me with ennui; I want to watch Cloverfield — one of my guilty pleasures — but will the war against a sudden monster stomping through NYC give me hope that we, too, can beat this current scourge, or will it deepen my sense of despair that there is, indeed, a beast among us?
Even a romantic comedy is just too much reminder of normalcy, something we were blithely taking for granted less than two weeks ago.
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