You learn something new every day, even if you don’t immediately take notice of it.
That’s certainly been the case around our house in the last couple weeks, as my daughter — like all kids in South Carolina — has been out of school and my wife and I have been working remotely from home in the midst of the ever-evolving coronavirus pandemic.
Now, every job is different. Some people have been able to use the web and teleconferencing to keep their jobs rolling at home. Others have work that has required them to continue to be out in the field, with social distancing in mind. But, one way or another, I think the vast majority of folks have scaled back their lives in the past few weeks. More people are, if at all possible, staying at home.
And that’s where you learn things, big and small, as you work through this (hopefully temporary) new normal.
For instance, I’ve learned my hands don’t love sanitizer infused with aloe. Like many of you, I’ve been near fetishistic about washing my hands throughout this crisis, as public health professionals have suggested. And I’ve been sanitizing them, too. But the sanitizer with aloe, for whatever reason, sets my hands ablaze. Literally ablaze, like in those those old athlete’s foot medicine commercials. Between the washing and sanitizing, my hands have taken on an almost reptilian quality, like the Lizard Man of Bishopville lore.
I’ve learned that the movie “Togo” on Disney Plus is quite good. In lieu of our typical jaunt to the cinema — most theaters are closed, anyway — we had Family Movie Night at home on Wednesday. (I’ve also learned that I still leave popcorn in the microwave 30 seconds too long, giving it that signature singed aroma that Orville Redenbacher would likely frown upon.) If you haven’t checked out “Togo” yet, you should. It’s outstanding. Starring Willem Dafoe, it’s the true story of an Alaskan sled dog team that made a treacherous run in Alaska in 1925 to deliver medicine to a town with a diphtheria outbreak. It’s a great story for families — particularly if the kids are just a bit older — and, in my opinion, it was better than the similar “Call of the Wild,” which starred Harrison Ford and was in theaters recently.
I’ve learned that, even when in a pinch and up against incredible odds, teachers remain absolutely essential. I have been so impressed with how the teachers at my daughter’s school — on the fly — cranked out curriculum and have kept things running from home during this COVID-19 crisis. Through the web — particularly with Google Classroom — my girl has been doing lessons every day, learning new things, and communicating with her teachers and classmates. They even have big Zoom video conferences where they can all see each other. My daughter took our dog, Ollie, to “class” one day last week, which went over well with the others. Teachers have long been a part of the backbone that keeps this crazy world upright, even though we don’t pay them enough or believe in them enough, particularly at the state level. But, as this crisis has proven, if you unshackle them from the bureaucracy —just a bit — and let them get creative, teachers can do amazing things in trying times.
And through watching me do my job remotely and from home, my wife (I think) has learned, at long last, that I actually work for a living. We’ve long had a running joke that she thinks I spend most of my days in the office with my feet up on my desk, eating bonbons and playing Nerf basketball. One day last week — after I had been reporting and writing for nine hours straight — she asked, “You’re still writing?” Indeed, I was. (OK, maybe I snuck in a bonbon or two. And one game of Nerf hoops.)
These are unusual times. We all know it. We’re all in it, at once together and separate. But we’re still learning new things.
Imagine what we’ll learn tomorrow.