Our trip to Pandemica was unplanned. It began March 17, on a sunny St Patrick’s Day.
The voyage was short, comfortable and hassle free. No packing, no suitcases, no plane tickets – and no jetlag.
We simply got out of bed and we were there. I wasn’t sure what to expect in this strange land or how long we’d be here, so I acquired a couple of travel books. Fodors Guide to the Living Room has come in handy, and Lonely Toilet has been indispensable.
The climate in Pandemica is quite lovely. The weather hovers around room temperature year-round and there’s very little precipitation – with the exception of an occasional morning shower.
The sights and sounds are unique, wondrous, spectacular. I never get tired of staring into the refrigerator. There’s something raw and primal about gazing vacantly into an appliance, the barefoot uncombed silence broken only by the perpetual tick of a kitchen clock.
Pandemica is a fun, exciting place. Every day brings new adventure, challenges and occasionally, life-defining choices. Should I brush my teeth before or after checking the mailbox? Is that stale-dated yogurt edible or shall I just heave it?
Although not a big place (as vacation spots goes), Pandemica has lots of interesting, undiscovered regions to explore. Don’t be afraid to wander off the beaten path. Move that fridge. Open the hide-a-bed. Look behind the stove.
Venture outside your comfort zone. Here you will discover strange sights, ancient artifacts, long-forgotten foodstuffs. And before vacuuming up the primordial grime and decades-old grit, reminisce and enjoy the moment.
Take the time to really examine that plastic letter ‘K’ you found under the oven. Time will fly. Before you know it, it’ll be time to stand naked in front of the fridge again.
The view from my armchair is comforting, but yesterday, throwing caution to the wind, I snuck out the back door to dump the garbage.
I scanned the perimeter for COVID-19 police, then made a dash for the alley. The fresh air on my face was intense and exhilarating – but also unfamiliar and a little unnerving.
I looked up at the clear blue sky. There were no contrails. I shuddered involuntarily and scurried back inside to seek comfort from the daily White House briefing.
Often, we sleep in. But one day, it was a Tuesday, maybe a Wednesday, I got up early… and sat on the couch.
Time in sequestration can pass slowly if one doesn’t keep the mind honed and the body occupied. And since I’m a “get things done” kind of guy, early on, I created a to-do list:
l look longingly out the window;
l observe woman at the other end of sofa knitting something;
l check corona virus stats;
l wander aimlessly from room to room wondering what it was you went in there for;
l descend into YouTube wormhole/re-watch Groundhog Month;
l stare vacuously into refrigerator;
l (repeat above steps as necessary until mind is comfortably numb).
Before you know it, the day will be over and it’ll be time for bed. And you can look forward to tomorrow – and another pathetic day executing the same monotonous rituals.
But remember, a steadfast routine is what makes life worthwhile, consequential, meaningful.
We borrowed a 1,000-piece puzzle from the neighbours. It took forever. Cleaning each chunk before assembly was enormously gratifying and a real time killer.
For moi, self-isolation has ratcheted up the agoraphobia factor a couple of notches. The more I’m confined, the less I’m socially inclined.
Humans are an adaptive species – but also remarkably sheep like. The new awkward requires that, on those rare occasions where we dare step outside to seek provisions, we keep our heads down, move quickly to the other side of the vegetable aisle and, at all costs, avoid eye contact. I’m really enjoying it.
And it’s interesting how quickly we have evolved to accept and adopt strange new mores, such as physical distancing. On the 13th straight night of Netflix, I began talking to the television, quietly berating the stars of a ‘90s sitcom.
The actors were co-mingled around a coffee table, unabashedly unmasked. I really lost it when they hugged, high-fived and then broke bread together. Disgusted, I switched over to watch Gravity, not my favourite flick, but at least the cast had the decency to wear space suits.
From the heights of my stepladder in the dining room, the vista is stunning. I have an unobstructed look at the neighbour’s garage and a bird’s-eye-view of our entire ceiling.
Overcome by this stippled splendor, I nearly forgot my purpose atop the ladder. But I was quickly brought back down from my lofty reverie when my wife hollered, “Are you or are you not going to remove the dead flies from that light fixture.”
We so enjoyed our trip to Pandemica that we decided to exercise the full two-month extension. And I’m proud to say I’ve now checked off some lifetime bucket-list items: taking down the Christmas lights before June, vacuuming the wood pile, discarding a pair of mismatched socks, sharpening a drawer full of dull pencils. There’s more, but I don’t want to boast about my less sensational achievements.
At the end of week nine, we finally caved and invited a couple of friends over for a social-distancing dinner. What with catching up, toasts to the “new normal,” etc., it went rather too well and, since no taxis were operating, our friends and their car had an impromptu sleepover.
After breakfast, unwilling to don her previous evening’s formal attire, our lady friend exited the house barefoot, clad only in a pair of borrowed pajamas. Fortunately, no nosy neighbours were extant. But a murder of crows, blissfully ignorant of their obligation to self isolate after a winter abroad, were on hand to raucously caw Barb’s walk of shame down the driveway.
When this mess is finally over, I’m not sure I want to go back to work. Come to think of it, since I didn’t have a vocation before this compulsory vacation, I’m pretty sure I’m not going back.
Gerry Feehan is an award-winning travel writer. He lives in Red Deer and Kimberley, B.C.