|Chalked sidewalk plea, Northbrook, Aug. 20, 2020
One common mistake among middling writers of opinion is to take whatever emotion they are experiencing and universalize it. The viewpoint being aired is not their own particular private perspective. Oh no no no no. Nothing that singular. Nor are they responsible for airing this set of notions. Not at all. Rather, they are merely reporting and seconding common wisdom, merely conveying the vox mundi.
Haters do this a lot; Trump supporters often slip into the first person plural, like a tiny creature puffing up, trying to look bigger, adding heft—in their own minds if nowhere else—to their taunts. "We read your column and have to chuckle..."
I try not to do this, try not to conjure up imaginary friends and dragoon them to nod in approval behind me. Try not to fall into the trap of those, as Thoreau so neatly put it, "mistake their private ail for an infected atmosphere.”
So I'm reluctant to announce that, five months into the pandemic, the public has entered into a new, brittle phase. It would be easy to do so: tempers are short, eyes narrowed, teeth grinding. Maybe they are, generally. It sure seems that way.
Or maybe it's just me. Maybe 150 days of ... sitting around and writing stuff, with occasional forays into the living world, have made me ... slightly punchy. Ground down and hopeless. Certainly welcoming other people's expressions of strain, such as the sidewalk art above. The frustration, the fed-up-ness, detected in others. Not schadenfreude. I'm not glad they are unhappy. But rather, I am glad not to be alone.
Just saying that gives me pause. "Unhappy." It's such a whine. Such an unwelcome development. I glided through the first four months of pandemic on gratitude. April, May, June, July. Not fake gratitude either. Real, genuine, got-a-job, not-sick, kids-at-home thanksgiving. Dissatisfaction seemed a rude gesture to everybody in worse shape. The sick. The unemployed. The friends and loved ones of the thousands and thousands dead. That's unhappiness.
This is ... well ... what? Blessing fatigue? I'm glad I didn't go down with the ship, glad I didn't drown with the others, glad there's still some water left in the canteen. But boy this lifeboat is starting to feel cramped. And the sun....
Blessed. I know that. Blessed blessed blessed. I would say, brightly, "I'm having a good plague!" And I was. Both boys home, finishing up their spring semesters, baking bread and playing Bananagrams. "A stolen season!" I would say. My job, clicking along, as far as I can tell.
And while all that is still true .... maybe it's the looming election. What are the chances of Trump being defeated and going quietly? I'd say even odds for the first, and no way for the second. So fairly certain some cataclysmic historic foundation shaking in six dozen days, as the worst human being to occupy the Oval Office grabs the curtains and shrieks as decent Americans try to drag him out and throw him onto the dustbin of history.
Reason enough alone to be grim. And it might not even work. There is no guarantee that these aren't the good days, before whatever horrific Sixth Act shocker comes lumbering in from the wings. Heck, Russian tanks, rolling down Pennsylvania Avenue—laugh, sure. But who could be surprised by anything anymore?
So yeah, the bright spin is slowing to ... the slightly glossy creeping rotation. Like hands of a clock—tick ... tick ... .... ... ... tiiiiick—the steady march of the calendar. What? Aug. 23? You're kidding me? How did that happen? What? Still 2020. Will this never end?
What do to about it? I tore out some drywall Saturday. Water damaged, from a leaky radiator. Needed to be done. Well, I can't go on vacation, but I can do this... I thought. It wasn't fun, but what is nowadays?