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OPINION: Living with myself … but looking for an escape clause

BY TERESA MALLAM

Mallam Unmuzzled

I often hear people say that they enjoy their own company. Well, as Rudyard Kipling has penned, that makes them a “better man than me, Gunga Din.” I can only take myself in small doses

After six weeks of this stay-at-home life and except for brief outings for groceries, I’ve been mostly keeping to myself, trying to come up with new and imaginative ways to amuse myself.

When my favourite places, stores, library, parks, and coffee shops began closing, I was feeling a little lost. But then suddenly my social life (at a distance) picked up dramatically. I was never so popular. My email “dance card” and Signal app was full, I was setting up Zoom.

Family photos and well wishes began to appear  from people in my distant past. Old friends, school chums, work buddies —.people I’d given up on, long ago, as lost at sea. Suddenly, there they were, coming out of the woodwork, like time warped termites, eager to make contact.

They were reporting in  —- some after 30 years. They wanted to catch up on “lost” time since my move out to B.C. (1988), or the years since university (decades ago,) even the years since England (ancient history).

After a few days, I came up with a dandy form letter; an overview of my life and its many highlights, glossing over the divorce, job loss, greying hair and other negative news. Then I attached a recent (Photoshopped) photo of myself with flattering black background.

As the Sent mailbox got bigger, I basked in the warmth of all the people who suddenly cared about and wanted to hear from me. It was oddly exhilarating. But just as my inflated ego was about to become a problem, a wise friend of mine, texted me:

“My friend, you are part of a phenomenon I call COVID-19 created connections or CCC. Those folks are trying to revisit a time when life around them still made sense. The future is unknown (actually it always is) so they reach out to family, friends, faith, anyone, anything, that helps validate their life and give them hope. They are without a compass right now. So you’re it.”

He did say, “Take care” but after he burst my bubble, I decided to lay off letter writing and explore other ways to occupy my time. It wasn’t long, however, before I was fast running out of new hobbies, horticultural pursuits and home entertainment.

Sadly, I have read every book and magazine on my shelves, and, in desperation, even read my appliance manuals. I’ve watched all my DVDs, and listened to every CD in my vast collection.

Imagine my delight, then, during a COVID19 created cleaning rampage (CCCR), to find my tucked away tablet with some series that I can play off my TV for an “enhanced” theatrical experience.

All week, I’ve been binge viewing The Man in The High Tower, which explores the realm of alternate histories or realities. The book upon which the series is based was written by Philip K. Dick in the 1960s, but the concept of time travel, escape, still intrigues.

Today I was musing, how wonderful it would be to just escape all this, do some time travel, and come back when this pandemic thing is all over. However, that runs the risk of me ending up in a worse time in our world history.

I’m okay with finding myself in England, circa early 1900s, marching in long skirts down the  muddy streets with Emmeline Pankhurst and her suffragettes. But I’m wary of coming up for air to find a roaring fire licking around my legs, a victim of 1600s era Salem, New England witch hunts.

BC Premier John Horgan in a recent response to questions about time lines, said he was himself  “taking it day by day.” I like that, but I like the idea of an ejection button, Houdini vanishing act or a time travel departure launch even more.

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