Possessed with a shoddy immune system and a hair trigger bronchial inflammatory response, I’m one of the more diligent members of today’s virtualized physical distancing “crowd.” Fortunately, as a devout and practicing introvert, I’ve worked from home since the mid-1980’s, and am comfortable with my place on society’s periphery — more eyewitness than participant. Like a sperm whale that needs but a single breath per hour, I can easily subsist for a month or more following a single social interaction. It’s made me uniquely qualified to endure the current social distancing measures with relative ease. As others succumb to the lassitude and melancholy of extended isolation, I simply continue to operate, as always, in my role as observer.
But even a whale needs oxygen; and even I need social interaction. So before my brain turns to mush from a dearth of human contact, I decided to publish a few COVID-related observations that I’ve jotted down this past month — totally random and without benefit of narrative.
CARTESIAN GEOMETRY: When lining up for groceries, my fellow citizens have proven to be fairly adept at maintaining two meters of separation between themselves and the person in front of them. Alas, when the line snakes back in on itself, they pay absolutely no attention to the proximity of those immediately beside them — blithely unaware that objects exist in a 3-dimensional space. While this is certainly a frustrating phenomenon, I can’t help but to be fascinated by the psychology behind it.
THE FIVE-SECOND RULE: We humans are also maintaining separation while we wait for an elevator. Upon its arrival, we then cram together into a coffin-sized box — returning to prescribed distances upon exiting. I have identified this as a modern variant to the “Five-Second Rule,” which is the mythical belief that it’s perfectly safe to consume food dropped on the floor, as long as it’s picked up within five seconds. In the future, because hoarding will insure the majority of humanity won’t have access to food, I predict the meaning of the “Five-Second Rule” will no longer be understood, and the term “Elevator Rule” will be used in its place.
NOTE TO SELF: Make sure, prior to the start of the next pandemic, that I’m not already seven weeks overdue for a haircut.
EXPOSING REGRETS: Had I ever known I would be forced to eat my own cooking for months on end, I would have put a little more effort into learning to cook.
NANOPHOTOGRAPHY: My photography style has been decimated by the pandemic. Though it’s still technically possible for me to photograph people using either of my preferred focal lengths — 21mm or 28mm — social distancing insures they will be rendered at a height of 7 pixels.
TELEPHOTOGRAPHY: In light of the above, and in order to conform to physical distancing measures, I’ve taken to walking around town with a 135mm lens on my Leica. Alas, with nothing going on anywhere, all this has done is enable me to bear photographic witness to the vast amounts of nothingness “over there” rather than the vast amounts of nothingness “over here.”
THE LAW OF RELATIVITY: I’m a tiny bit jealous of those people who were able to put the CO in COVID, and have isolated in pairs. Social distancing must be a lot more fun for those who can do it together.
DARWINIAN AMENDMENT: All this obsessive hand washing has resulted in the transformation of my soft, supple human skin into hard, leathery reptilian scales. From this result, I have devised two possible theories: 1) Reptiles have excellent hygiene; 2) Reptiles are the mutated offspring of humans who once endured prehistoric pandemics. It is highly possible — if not downright probable — that both theories are true.
SUBLIMINALISM: Am I the only one fascinated by the background objects chosen by each and every home-bound, self-isolated pundit that Skypes into cable news? The carefully selected artwork that obviously does not normally reside in that location; the curated collection of books selected to imply gravitas and intelligence; and the oh-so-popular framed diploma. It’s like you get mainline access to each and every individual’s insecurities, neuroses, and baggage. It’s a psychiatric treasure trove.
TINDERING YOURSELF: I continue to shave, shower, dress and groom as if nothing has changed, yet I know full well that I will not interact with another human being that day; nor the next; nor even the next. Why do I do this? At first, I thought it was habit. But I’ve come to realize that I simply like to look good for myself, since I’m the only person I ever get to see.
BLACKLISTS: I’ve recently started to maintain several blacklists. One contains the name of every company that continues to televise product advertisements depicting happy customers engaging in fun group activities and enjoying a life no longer possible. Another lists companies that feel compelled to email me and tell me they’re “here for me in these difficult time.” Just because I bought some crappy software from your company in 2007 doesn’t mean we’re BFFs — though I have been tempted to test the theory and call one of them for emotional counselling.
INCONGRUITY: If the letters we use to communicate are called the “alphabet” and not the “letter system,” shouldn’t the numbers we use be called the “enadio” and not the “numerical system?” Or does this make too much sense? And yes, I realize this has nothing whatsoever to do with COVID-19, which is precisely how I know the brain mush is settling in…
©2020 grEGORy simpson
ABOUT THE PHOTOS: “Pandemic” was shot just prior to the lockdown using a Minolta 28mm f/2.8 M-ROKKOR lens on a Leica M10 Monochrom. Although not its original intent, it now serves as a rather dark and foreboding depiction of a single individual’s sphere of contagion. “Cartesian Distancing” illustrates the proper (but rarely adhered to) 3D social distancing technique, and was photographed with a Ricoh GRIII in the early days of the pandemic. “Over Here” was shot on a Leica M10 Monochrom fronted with a 1967 Leica Tele-Elmar 135mm f/4 lens. The photo itself is not all that compelling, but having mentioned that I’d recently started to hunt for photos with that particular lens, I did feel compelled to include one — both as an example of that experiment, and as an example of why I’ve decided to abandon that particular experiment.
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