On returning to normalcy

I feel like I should already know why you get so many pictures of Warren G. Harding if you Google Image Search the word “normalcy,” or at least that I should be able to figure it out if I apply some thought to it, but I’m not going to do that. This post could use some weird, frankly, and that picture is funnier if I don’t know why it came up.

One of my oldest friends passed through town on Friday, and we hung out for a while and chatted on the back porch; the topic of masking did not come up. Yesterday we put the pool up; it’ll likely be a week before we can take a proper swim in it, judging from the weather report, but it’s full already somehow and ready to go, and my wife got to say the words “I’m going to go buy sand and acid” to me earlier today and that was fun for both of us. I mowed the front lawn today (no cicadas yet, but I’m watching) and did some weed whacking and other various Adult Chores, and I was done with my grading within two hours of getting up.

It has, by any account, been a Productive Weekend. I still have some school stuff to do after dinner, but there should be plenty of time for guilt-free video gaming tonight.

I also filled the car up with gas, which is only significant insofar as I needed to break a $20, so I went into the gas station to buy a lemonade, and realized when I was almost inside that I didn’t have a mask on. I shrugged and went in anyway; the county mask ordinance has been cancelled and a two-minute in-and-out at the gas station is about as safe as an indoor interaction can possibly be. If someone had said something to me, I’d have gone and gotten a mask, but no one did. This is the first time I’ve purchased something in a store without some sort of face covering on in well over a year.

(I even did it without any particular self-recrimination about looking exactly like the kind of guy who refuses to wear a mask rather than a vaccinated person who briefly forgot, but I’m blogging about it fifteen minutes later, so maybe I don’t get to pat myself on the back about that one.)

In keeping with the theme of this year, which had about six “first days of school,” this Wednesday represents the first Last Day of School; this year will feature at least three, if not four. My students have their 8th Grade recognition ceremony on Wednesday and are not expected to return to the building afterwards. Friday is the original Last Day of School for everyone else, and since there was a day of school cancelled in January because the entire city lost power, June 1, which is the Tuesday after Memorial Day, is the technical Last Day of School, a day after a three-day weekend where I expect no students at all to attend. Then there’s my Last Day of School, which is June 2, and then I’m off until August, barring a day or so a week where I’ll have various responsibilities that can be done from home and studying for this math test from Hell I have to take sometime.

Bring it on.

On masking up

Some good news: the mask panic attacks, after four days at school where I had to have one on for hours, appear to be subsiding. I have ended up landing on this one as my preferred mask, and the only complaint I have about it is that it rides up on my eyes a little more than I’d like it to, so I’m probably touching it and adjusting it more than I would like to.

I’ve been thinking more lately about what it’s going to mean to be “done” with Covid. It’s been made pretty clear that there’s a certain subset of the population who are going to have to be dragged kicking and screaming into vaccination, and to the best of my knowledge there is as of yet no shot that has been approved for use with middle school kids. So masking up at school is likely to remain a thing for a fair bit of time longer than masking up in general is going to be, especially since I live in a red state.

Thing is, it’s not like the masks are doing my kids any good, because as I suspected they cannot be convinced to wear them properly. Four days of in-person instruction in, I have reminded kids to cover their noses or their mouths with their masks approximately 123,425,208 times. And I’m probably still not doing it as often as I should, because there is literally someone without their mask on properly in my classroom 100% of the time, even with our current seriously-reduced number of students. I think I’ve been pretty consistent about this from the beginning: I hate wearing a mask, and wearing a mask genuinely fucks with me, but I’m going to do it anyway for as long as it’s necessary to do it. But hell if it’s not difficult to conclude that it’s safest for me to keep wearing one at work when I’m fully vaccinated and the kids around me are wearing theirs in a way that is literally not doing any good at all.

In general, I’m trying to be attentive to how much of my current behavior is reasonable and how much of it is basically quarantine-driven paranoia and, frankly, claustrophobia. I think it’s reasonable at this point to say that if you’re outside, unless you’re having a conversation in close quarters, you’re probably all good, and even in the building I tend to not put my mask on until I actually see another human being– if I can make it from my car to my classroom without wearing it, and frequently I can, I don’t put it on. But how long is it going to be until I feel okay going into a restaurant again? Like, I don’t even really have a guideline for what might make me decide “okay, this is all right now.” I got invited out for a drink with a couple of other teachers after work on Friday and turned it down. I’ve turned down multiple other such invitations over the course of the year. And I don’t even know what the plan is for when I might decide that sort of thing is okay again.

Actually, I do know one thing that would help: I don’t think there’s a solid consensus yet on whether vaccinated people can spread the virus easily. I know I’m not immune to catching Covid, it’s mostly just that if I do get it it is much, much more likely to be a minor case. But that doesn’t mean I can’t spread it to my father-in-law if I end up asymptomatic, and I’d prefer not to spread it to any strangers, either. But, like, if I spend the next six or seven weeks in a poorly-ventilated classroom and in near-constant contact with middle school kids who aren’t wearing their masks right (because, again, none of them wear their masks right) and don’t catch it, I feel like that’s pretty good evidence that I can at least, like, go to the store without having to wear one. Sitting in a restaurant? I dunno. Going into the gas station to buy a candy bar and pay for my gas and leave? When there’s plexiglass between me and the dude behind the counter? Is that okay?

I dunno. I’m kind of talking in circles about that, but that’s because I’m thinking in circles about it too. I need the people who are making this a political issue to walk into the ocean so that the rest of us can come up with a reasonable set of standards for when we let our guard down a little bit, and if they’re not going to walk into the ocean, the least we should be doing is employing government snipers with dart guns to vaccinate these idiots so they can stop fucking things up for the rest of us.

Biden should put that in the jobs plan, as a matter of fact.

In which I require psychiatric help

I am going to be continuing to work from home for the foreseeable future. New Covid cases in Indiana and in my county have skyrocketed since our school board made the decision to return to school, (scroll down and select the state) and I don’t actually expect the kids to be back for very long, but I am going to keep teaching from my house, and I’m currently working out exactly how that’s going to work with my various and sundry co-workers who are affected by this decision.

Now, this is not the reason that I’m working from home, but as this whole thing drags on it’s becoming more and more of a problem: masks give me panic attacks, and nothing I’ve been able to do has been able to fix that. Furthermore, none of the masks I’ve found have really made much of a difference, although some are better in some ways than others. Now, to be completely clear: this absolutely does not affect whether I wear a mask in public! I’m just fucking freaking out while I’m doing it. If I’m outside my house and not in the car, I’m wearing a mask, and I’ve noticed that if I’m talking to people it’s generally not bad, so it might be that an eight-hour day where I’m constantly talking to students might not be as bad as I think it is. But I had to go into my building twice today (don’t ask) and I discovered a new wrinkle to this whole thing: even the mildest physical activity makes it a lot worse. Like, say, climbing stairs to get to my classroom. Both times I went upstairs today– a single flight, mind you– I was damn near ready to claw my face off by the time I got to my classroom. I start focusing on my breathing, which leads to heavier breathing, which quickly turns into a really nasty spiral that I don’t like at all.

This is not a call for excuses to avoid wearing masks (and, for the record, my issues with them date to well before Covid-19 was an issue,) it’s a call for strategies for dealing with panic attacks. I’m already on Effexor for anxiety issues, which I continue to think is a lifesaver, but I’m not going to up my dose just because of mask issues, and I’m not convinced that would help anyway. I need, like, concrete strategies for how to trick my brain out of falling into a panic spiral every time I start thinking about my breathing. Because one way or another this is going to keep being a thing for a while, and I need a way to deal with it. Anybody have any suggestions?

It is too early in the morning for this shit

It is 9:09 in the morning, I have been up for approximately 39 minutes, and I have not had my coffee yet. I had a dream last night where I won tickets to a Phil Collins concert, was late to the concert, showing up only after the entire first set had finished, and then realized that not only was I the only person at the entire show wearing a mask but that somebody from high school who I never want to see again was sitting right in front of me.

Since waking up, I have checked my email, to find a message from the guy who is supposed to be my new partner teacher this year. He has sent me a couple of emails over the last week or two. I did not respond to the first one, and just replied to the second last night saying that I had basically been ignoring my work email (true) and that I would be in the building sometime this week to move my stuff between classrooms and that if he wanted to get together I’d let him know when I would be in.

I received a response this morning. He will not be in this week, because he is driving with his daughter to South Carolina to attend a wedding. South Carolina is currently in worse shape than Indiana is, and I suspect anyone dumb enough to be holding a wedding right now is also dumb enough that there will be no masking and/or social distancing involved.

This motherfucker doesn’t get to come near me for two weeks after he gets home. Sorry! Except not.

I’m done for the day now, I think.

Sunday miscellany

This has potential to be a really, really important week, both for reasons that are obvious and I can talk about and at least one or two that aren’t. I’m kind of in a place where I want to just put my head down and sleep through it and find out a week from now what happened.

The school board is meeting tomorrow, and supposedly they are going to vote to let us know what the plan is for the next few weeks, which is good, because school starts on the 12th. I will probably head into work at least once this week, if for no better reason than to move my stuff into my new classroom, in a pile in a corner if nothing else. I am not going to put any effort into decorating my classroom this year, simply because I don’t expect to be in my classroom this year. My district’s plan has gone from “we’re back in person, but parents can opt their kids out, and we’ll find teachers for those kids” to “we are going to be virtual for two weeks to get kids used to the rules about masks” to a document that I was emailed by my principal today that at one point uses the word if to describe returning to school in-person. I am fully expecting to find out that we are virtual for the first nine weeks, I am predicting we will not return to school at all in 2020, and while I’m not willing to make it an official prediction yet I would not be surprised at all if we don’t return at all during this school year, because none of this is fixable with the current administration in office, and it’ll be February at least before President Biden (and Vice-President Harris, crossing my fingers) are able to start solving problems. But one way or another I ought to actually know something in about 24 hours (maybe 26) and at that point I can sort of maybe pretend to start planning.

To that end, I went to Guitar Center today, because I want to put my desk microphone on a boom arm so that I can keep it out of my way when I’m not recording and it’s more functional when I am, and while they didn’t have what I was looking for I was really happy to note that they are actually taking the pandemic seriously– the front door was opened for me by a guy with a mask and gloves on, and another thanked me for wearing my mask and explained that I needed to keep it on and my nose covered while I was in the store. Not a single employee had their damn mask on under their nose while I was in there, either.

Which: for fuck’s sake, people. I had to make a Target run afterwards too and by the end of it I was halfway to being a goddamned axe murderer. You motherfuckers have been told how to wear these goddamn things and you have been told why to wear these goddamn things. I am tired of stupid people.

Anyway, I came home and ordered a boom arm, because I can’t find one in a store and I’m not about to do what I might have done a year ago and check more than one place before having someone bring me shit. I wish there had been something else I wanted to spend money on at Guitar Center, but as a non-guitar person there just aren’t a lot of options.

(Okay, I took a look at a $1000 “podcaster recording bundle,” but I’ll never have a podcast because I’ll never have a good idea for one.)

Let’s see, what else? Eyes are getting better. Dropping the nighttime gel drops was a good idea. I’m noticing them a lot less often, which I think is supposed to be the point, right? Let’s go with yes.

I feel like I had more, but it’s fallen out of my brain. Maybe I’ll update if I remember something important.