Quarantine. The concept never really seemed to be such a big deal to me before 2020. Of course, we’ve all heard of massive outbreaks and pandemics in the past, and we’ve all been sick with the flu or a bad cold and stayed home for three or four days to rest. Quarantine usually means the sequestering of ill parties in order to protect the healthy population. Quarantining the entire world, including the healthy? Is that really a thing that can happen? Yep. It’s something incredible.
As you’re reading this, consider your friends and their friends. Consider the friends of their friends’ friends and so on. I’m in there somewhere, and so are the rest of you readers. We are all stuck at home, or have been, even if a few of us are experiencing a premature re-opening of the real world. I’ve been out to the beach a few times in the past couple weeks, and its packed. Meanwhile, confirmed cases of the virus skyrocket. A few short weeks ago, you could find me holed up with a book or on a writing project for a client while I received the same few messages from all of my friends. “I’m watching Netflix… not much else,” or “I’m bored with everything including myself…” A few lucky people were being paid a full salary. Most were telling me they were going broke. As far as I know, my closest friends all maintained a relatively firm grip on sanity during tragedy. But I wondered.
The real tragedy is the effect of the quarantine on the modern mind. Many of us are patient, but the developed world has grown accustomed to instant gratification. People are anxious and ready to get back out into society as it was before the pandemic broke out, but some… Some have taken a little too well to the forced isolation. I’m curious if this side effect is as contagious as the virus that bred it. Cabin fever is normally defined as irritability and listlessness resulting from long confinement or isolation indoors, and I’ve certainly seen firsthand some comical examples. Grown men fist-fighting over toilet paper in Costco… Vigilantes shooing pedestrians off of derelict beaches with their ATVs… But cabin fever only really becomes a problem for the rest of us when the afflicted make the conscious decision to bring the cabin to the public. See the above photos.
No matter how you reacted to this, or what you think about the individuals (I’m staying away from the obvious controversial political jabs), there is definitely something to be said about the complete lack of shame. Unabashed doesn’t cut it. When you’ve flushed your dignity down the can with your bulk toilet paper, 401k and casual day wear, it only makes sense to let your newfound liberation from typical societal conventions wash over your equally (if not more) unfortunate neighbors. Freedom is winning. By 2024, hopelessness will be considered an innate trait and the few determined (or over-bored) will be sitting naked at their laptops in their local park, stealing WiFi from the hotel across the street, and blogging or tweeting (or both) about the struggles they face in the new civil rights movement. A few of them will be filthy rich.
Until then, let us all learn a lesson (the easy way) from these brave souls. And please remember, we all feel a little like this from time to time. Let’s not judge too harshly.