You anxious to ‘get back out there?’ I ask because I’m not.

Maybe I'm kind of like the guy in the Hardy novel...

Maybe I’m kind of like the guy in the Hardy novel…

Sounds like a stupid question, doesn’t it? It seems like everything I read and hear is based on the assumption that we’re all anxious as all get-out to, well, get out again.

Even the sensible folk who tell us it’s too early — and it is — seem to assume that we all want to get back to our usual routines as soon as possible. Hence all the news stories and features about folks who want to get back to their gym, or get sports started back up, get the kids back to school or see our streets busy again, or whatever.

Not because they’re worried about the economy or people’s jobs — although they may be concerned about those things as well, and understandably — but because they and other normal people want to be normal again.

I don’t claim that I was ever normal, of course, but I thought I’d speak up as a guy who’s in no hurry at all, just to see if anyone else is as messed up as I am.

I’m anxious to do one thing — be able to see and hug and spend time with my grandchildren. I miss that a great deal, and only a return to normal will fix it. But the rest? I can wait.

I realize that several factors contribute to making me this way, and some of them are what some might call privilege-related. Not from being a white guy or anything obvious like that, but from the fact that due to what I do in my post-newspaper career, my ability to bring in the same amount of income as before the pandemic is more or less unaffected. It would be way different if I were, say, a waiter. Or, for that matter, if I had any of those newspaper-editor jobs I had over the years, especially given the technology we had then.

That’s huge. But there are other factors as well, and here are a few of them:

  • I’m an introvert. Like seriously, extremely. I’ve been tested. I’ve never felt that deprived by a lack of physical contact with most of the human race. Being alone in the company of words feels fine to me. Occasional quick Facetime meetings, with phone and text and email, more than meet the need for the interactions that are needed to get work done. I spend essentially zero time getting to work and getting home — since I do all my work at home. This is more than awesome to me. The time I spend, for instance, not shaving is greatly appreciated.
  • I had a stroke, right in the middle of all this. I told you about that. I tell everybody, in case someone missed it. It’s helpful. I say “I had a stroke,” and people are willing to tolerate all sorts of things, maybe even my lack of interest in getting back out there. I recovered from the overt symptom (my strange inability to look down) almost immediately, but I do have days when I’m weirdly tired — actually, sort of every day, but some days are worse than others. Everyone has been enormously patient with me as I deal with this, but it would be harder for them to do that, and life would be a LOT harder for me, if we all felt the expectation to get up early and shower and shave and drive through the traffic and get breakfast and figure out lunch and meet with people and stop at the store on the way home … I get really tired just thinking about it. I found the PERFECT time to have a stroke, I figure. I’ve never been known as a great time manager, but sometimes I’m smart like that.
  • All of that last bullet said, you should go back to the first one and remember that stroke or no stroke, I like almost everything about working like this better than doing it the usual way. Things get boiled down to essentials and you just do the work. The stroke thing has just heightened that. (I’m not doing quite as much as I was, due to the stroke, but I’m building back up and I think I’ll soon be there. And doing it this way helps enormously in meeting that goal.)
  • There’s just my wife and me, and other than my stroke, we’re both doing pretty well, and we get along great. Like the guy in the Thomas Hardy novel said, I like knowing that whenever I look up, she’ll be there, and vice versa. I’d honestly rather be stuck on a desert island with her than with anyone else, and this is a reasonable rehearsal for that. (Don’t ask her if she feels the same; I’ll be happier assuming that she does. But not shocked if she doesn’t. The fact is that she is very tolerant of me, so hanging with her remains very pleasant — for me. And for her, I very much hope.) Having to spend all my time with her is a huge plus. If we could get back to normal with our kids and grandkids, things would be perfect.
  • Maybe this, and all the rest, boils down to that first bullet, but I have never, at any point in life, been someone who is looking for the world to entertain him. (As a newspaper editor, I was always flummoxed by conversations about the Weekend section and when it should be published and what it should contain — I could not imagine being a person who needed a published guide to tell me what to go do. My life was full.) As you know, I can take sports or leave them alone. Yes, if I’m going to miss a sport it’s baseball, but I figure it will get rolling again at some point, and whenever it does will be soon enough. I’ve always found books, TV and movies to be more diversion than I have time for in my life. I would have to have the rest of my life off from all work and spend 18 hours a day reading (which would be awesome) to make even a significant dent in the books I want to read and have not yet — even if I denied myself the pleasure of rereading the books I already love, which to me is one of life’s best things. Why, if I had enough time, maybe I’d even write a book myself in addition to reading them — but I’d need much more time than this pandemic is thus far giving me.
  • I live at a perfect time for all this. Not only is the kind of work I do easier with today’s technology, but the ways I like to spend any free time I have — books, movies, etc. — are all easily within reach. Ebooks, streaming and whatnot. This would not have been the case, to this extent, even a very few years ago.

I could go on, but that’s probably enough to give you the idea.

Do I feel guilty not being in a hurry to get back to “normal?” Yes, if you talk about the pain suffered by people who really, truly hurting financially or otherwise. I am extremely mindful of how lucky I am in this regard. And if we need to get back to it in order to help those folks, then let’s do it.

But I thought I’d be honest about the fact that from my perspective, I’m enjoying this while it lasts. I figured I ought to admit it. The Bobs will understand, won’t they?

38 thoughts on “You anxious to ‘get back out there?’ I ask because I’m not.

  1. Bill

    Julie Christie, the rumors are true
    As the pages turn, my eyes are glued
    To the movie star and his sordid life
    Mr. Ex and his old-suffering wife…

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Thanks, Dan. I was a little reluctant to share — my attitude seems not only unusual, but likely unacceptable. But I thought it ought to be part of the conversation.

      Of course, if others start giving me a hard time about it, I can say, “Did you hear I had a stroke?,” and they’ll probably leave me alone. I’m counting on that…

      But the truth is, while the stroke has increased my appreciation of this vacation from other people, I was digging it before that…

  2. bud

    This might be a nice time to consider a complete revamping of our economy and establish a new normal. It makes no sense to have 10s of millions of American toil away at low wages while a teeny tiny handful of Americans rake in enormous amounts of money for relatively modest contributions to the benefit of society. Clearly we should be able to see how valuable professions like nurses and school teachers are and how little big company CEOs contribute. That’s what Bernie and Elizabeth Warren have been saying for years. Sadly we’re stuck with two senile, septuagenarian, white, male sexual perverts who have little interest in making important changes that would improve our country. What we need is a sustainable economy, not one based on the craven pursuit of wealth that necessitates growth, growth, growth and more growth! Obviously we cannot do this forever. Its a matter of math. Perhaps the silver lining in the COVID-19 disaster will be a better understanding of what is really important.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      “we’re stuck with two senile, septuagenarian, white, male sexual perverts”

      No, we aren’t. There’s one pervert and one normal, decent man. And I don’t think either of them is senile. Trump has been an idiot since his youth, and Joe is fine…

  3. Mark Stewart

    This is beginning to dawn in me how much like a “war” it is. The enemy gets a vote. Winning is not certain, though the costs certainly are – both in terms of human life and economic impacts. The first battle is never the last. It’s never over by Christmas. Or by harvest time. Or whatever timescale seems desirable or controllable.

    The whole idea that we must reopen seems to derive from a, natural, unwillingness to accept that things are different now. But that’s the reality. Doing stupid things now like hugging friends and family that were just normal life in December won’t bring back last year, or the dead. Or will this situation away.

    We need politicians who can bring some pastoral care to help people understand that tomorrow will different than yesterday. We need to accept that and look ahead; and help everyone through their delusions that we are going to return to 1859 or 1913 or 1938 or whatever. 9/11 was like December 7th, but without the kind of war that followed for the home front. This is more like we have just found that the minie balls at Bull Run has ruined our picnic – and yet still believe all will be restored this summer, or surely by this winter’s promised vaccine.

    History tells us there will be grinding wars that extract unimaginable tolls, not just glorious battles of quick duration. We not just scientific insights but also buckets of cold water to shock us into today’s realities.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      You’re making me feel a little guilty.

      Like I’m a guy who digs war, since I’m enjoying my own experience of this (while being fully cognizant that it’s horrible for many others).

      But in my case, it’s like a break from the warfare of “normal” life. That’s what I’m appreciating…

      1. Barry

        I’ve enjoyed much of it.

        I don’t understand why hundreds of thousands in the midlands still have to get in a car and drive in to work at 8am with the tech available now.

        Surely we can be smarter and better going forward.

  4. David L Carlton

    I must say I find the premise suspect. Maybe it’s because of how I consume news these days, but everything I’m reading (including polls) says that people are *extremely* reluctant to jump back in. Hardly anybody (except You-Know-Who) believes that there will be a rush of pent-up demand lifting the economy in a v-shaped recovery, for instance. Cell-phone data shows that people were pulling back even before safe-at-home orders were put out. There are always the exceptions, of course, and for obvious reasons they’re highly visible (You won’t see us stay-at-homers out demonstrating). I’m sure there are people wanting to hit the bars on Lower Broad again (You should see the place down; it’s eerie); a town swarming with musicians is also aswarm with people depressed because they can’t play or sing (including me). But people want to stay safe, and keep others safe.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Oh, I think you’re right. Most people do NOT want to start everything back up again.

      But my post is about something different. I’m not asking whether people think we SHOULD; I’m asking whether people WANT this to end. In other words, if you could wave a wand and have it be perfectly safe, would you do so?

      My point is that I know this is terrible for some, but I feel no urge to go back to normal, aside from missing my grandchildren. If I could hang out with them, I’d be happy to continue this routine indefinitely…

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        … and it sounds like you’re torn on this point, since you’d like to get out to play music and sing.

        Which is not surprising for a Nashville Cat…

  5. Scout

    I’m quite happy with the current status quo. I’m loving ordering things on the internet and driving to pick them up and have people put them in your car. I may never go in a grocery store again. I miss the change of scenery and the mental bookends and boundaries of driving back and forth to work. I do some of my best thinking and mental housekeeping in the car. But other than that I’m quite happy working at home. I like my animals and my yard and my husband. We are both introverts and we are fine here.

    I misread the title at first. I thought you were asking if we were anxious (i.e. nervous) about getting back out. Yes, actually, a bit. Many people really aren’t wearing masks or trying to social distance from what I see. I think we are opening too soon. I fear we are headed for a spike in cases. I hope I’m wrong.

    1. Rose

      I will continue working from home through the end of 2020, maybe beyond that with a few brief trips into the office. I’m very, very fortunate that my employer is encouraging and supporting flexibility in our schedules for the long term, since I’m in a high risk category. Like Scout, though, I do sometimes miss the drive to and from work, and I miss going to lunch with friends and coworkers. And walking around the Horseshoe.

  6. Norm Ivey

    I’m with you. This could go on indefinitely and for my own selfish needs and desires that would be fine with me. I feel guilty about feeling that way.

    I’m going to enjoy it while I can. Working from Table Rock this week.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Poor you.

      That’s one thing I’m not doing, though — traveling. I’m going to stick closer to home until I’ve put in a good bit more time from my incident.

      Oh, did I mention — I had a stroke… 🙂

      1. Bob Amundson

        Take your time; get well soon. “Aus der Kriegsschule des Lebens. — Was mich nicht umbringt, macht mich stärker.” Out of life’s school of war — What does not kill me makes me stronger.

  7. Bob Amundson

    I’m done flying in airplanes, staying in hotels, attending spectator sporting events, and eating in noisy, crowded restaurants. I had more than my fill of those activities before Covid-19 and had already begun the process of slowing down my life. Now my wife and I own an RV and an RV Park (in New York State) with homes in Utah and South Carolina. We got lucky again by investing in “dirt” and investing in growth businesses, at just the right time. Families will travel closer to home in RV’s or rent “mini-homes.” Our properties in New York and Utah are in beautiful rural areas; the “farm” in Utah is about 30 minutes from Salt Lake International and 45 minutes from downtown Salt Lake. Our properties in NY (we also own 30 acres of farmland) are about an hour and a half from Buffalo and Rochester; three hours from Pittsburgh and Cleveland.

    Believe me, none of this was planned. Those that don’t believe in luck, come have a chat with me. We did dream of this, traveling slowly from South Carolina, to Utah, to New York, and places in between and beyond. We are a bit anxious to resume our journeys, but “the new normal” is already fairly normal to us.

  8. bud

    I cant imagine flying in a plane now. Hated doing it before COVID. In addition to the normal indignities of security screening passengers will now have to undergo MORE screenings for COVID. Then they will have to wear a mask in a crowded, potentially germ filled flying can. I’ll drive except for very long trips for the indefinite future. I don’t see how the airline industry gets past this.

    1. Bob Amundson

      It’s nice that Nevada, California, Oregon, Colorado and Washington are all fairly close to Utah.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          … which is like this…

          Not long after I started working in Wichita as the news editor — which meant among other things that I decided what went on the front page, so I had to closely read every story that was vying for a position there — I read a feature that at one point mentioned that a central figure in the story had taken a job teaching at a college out in the Western part of Kansas (the wild, woolly and largely unpopulated part), in part because it would only be a 400-mile commute from his home.

          I raised the point that this must be a mistake, saying perhaps the writer had meant “40-mile” or “40-minute,” although that would still be a long commute for anyone to regard as “only.”

          But no. The guy thought it was a great advantage that this job was only 400 miles from his home. This was a big plus to him. And everyone sitting around me thought that made sense…

            1. Bob Amundson

              I love contrast. Being comfortably out in the middle of nowhere (comfortable not so important when I was younger, but love the RV now), then visiting a thriving city with big city things to do. Our country is open enough to do that most anywhere, even in my home state of New York. The New York I am from is so much different than the New York most people think I am from. I connect with “Hillbilly Elegy.”

          1. Bryan Caskey

            That’s amazing. The entire state of Kansas is only about 400 miles in width (East and West). He was he commuting by airplane?

            1. Brad Warthen Post author

              Oh, I don’t think he lived in Kansas, but in another of those rectangular states out there.

              It does kind of bend the mind, doesn’t it? But when you’re the relative new guy and you look around among a bunch of Kansans expecting someone to back you up, they’re all like, “400 miles? Sure, that’s right. Makes sense. Lucky guy!…” Of course, I’m sure some of them weren’t Kansans — that newsroom had the usual distribution of about half natives, half transplants. Lot of people from North Carolina in that newsroom, probably because of Buzz Merritt — the longtime executive editor, who had started his career in Charlotte.

              Of course the North Carolinians might have acted like it was normal, too, to yank my chain and to show what old hands they were. Those hammerheads… As I’m always saying to people who think there are a lot of errors in newspapers — it’s a wonder they ever contained anything accurate.

              Of course, I’m joking. Sort of…

              1. Brad Warthen Post author

                Of course, I lived in the relatively settled eastern half of the state, where you find Wichita (the state’s largest) city, Topeka, and the Kansas part of Kansas City.

                I always meant to go and check out the western half, where the big town was Dodge City. All I had to do was get on a road about a block from where I lived and drive west for three hours. But I never did. I worked there for less than two years, and most of the time I was working six LONG days a week — frequently from about 10 a.m. to about 2 a.m. — and looking forward to the day when we could leave…

                Anyway, I understood that the big attraction in Dodge was an Old West town for tourists. And we had one of those in Wichita. After all, Wichita was the big cow town before Dodge was, featuring a lot of the same characters, such as Wyatt Earp…

                1. Norm Ivey

                  We flew to Colorado last summer, rented a car and drove back. Dodge City was really fun. Touristy, but a good touristy. The museum–the old west town–was educational and tasteful. We toured a historical home that was really well done.

                  I grew up about 20 miles from Tombstone. Very different vibe.

  9. Brad Warthen Post author

    Oh, by the way…

    I keep getting reminded that one reason I’m fine with this is that my home fully accommodates me in working from here.

    I keep seeing things like this, with pictures or descriptions of people working from far less commodious quarters. This picture is staged, of course, but I think it points to a true thing: Lots of people, maybe even MOST people, working from home don’t have what I have.

    Just before all our kids moved out (actually, one of them already had done so), we finally moved to a house big enough for all of us. We had pretty much always been as crowded as the woman in the picture before that. Then, within a few years, the rest of the kids moved out. We’re still in the house.

    So no one sleeps upstairs, except when one of the kids or someone else is visiting (for instance, whenever my youngest comes home from Dominica, she still sleeps in her own bedroom). We have three bedrooms up here, and one of them is my home office. It’s a roomier, quieter place to work than my actual office downtown.

    So there’s that. That should probably have been on my bulleted list of reasons why this suits me…

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