Back in 1993, I was living in the United States with two roommates in an apartment on the east coast.
I didn’t know either one of them before moving in – the landlord was a corporation that owned the entire “bloc” (building) and specialized in renting out one room at a time for their multi-room apartments.
All was more or less fine with my roommates until a superstorm hit, dropping at least a meter of snow on us. The roads quickly became impassable, and so we became, effectively, “quarantined” at home because the snow was so deep that you couldn’t even walk through it.
For reasons that I can no longer remember, one of my roommates was out of town when the storm hit, so that left just me and Bob home alone.
Bob was a bit older than I was and worked as a freelance photographer (a more lucrative job in the days before digital cameras), so ordinarily, I rarely saw him.
Luckily, the electricity stayed on, and the sewage system stayed operational, so we were more or less doing okay “sheltering in place” in our apartment. I can’t remember what our food situation was like, but I don’t remember worrying about running out.
I do remember that we had a TV, and so we spent lots of time watching that, especially the news bulletins about the big storm. Bob also had some photo developing equipment in his room, so he was kept occupied for a while with that as well.
But after a couple of days, Bob started to go insane.
At the time, I remember thinking that was weird because he was from Colorado, a state which has a lot of mountains and snow. But being stuck at home with, quite literally, nowhere to go, started acting like a worm in Bob’s brain.
For me, I had the good fortune of having two good friends living downstairs in the same apartment building, and one of those friends had a video game system, so I was spending a large part of my day down there, goofing around with my friends and having fun.
The first time I realized that Bob was having a problem was when I returned to our apartment and the thermostat was set on maximum. The temperature inside the apartment was extremely hot. And since we had to each share the cost of that heating bill, I wasn’t too pleased.
I remember Bob was in the kitchen, dressed only in his underwear. The oven was also blazing away at maximum temperature, and he was making cookies or something like that. When I confronted him about the heat being turned up, he gave me a strange look and said, “The weather in Hawaii is so lovely!” and then began laughing maniacally.
After spending eight hours non-stop in the kitchen, cooking and baking every last remaining ingredient, he then starting getting really restless, physically. I remember him skipping and dancing and twirling around in the hallway, and at one point, my friends and I had to strongly encourage him to put his underwear back on.
Fortunately, a day or two later, a friend of ours who owned some kind of rugged four-by-four vehicle (Jeep) called and said he thought he could make it over to our apartment. He then asked us if we wanted to head up to the highway to see if some of the stores were open.
Of course, we said yes. Bob, overhearing our conversation, became desperate to join us. Since we weren’t really friends with him, it was an awkward situation, but he eventually smoothed it over by paying my friend with the Jeep fifty bucks.
All told, I don’t think we were stuck in the apartment for more than five or six days at the most, but that’s all it took for Bob’s mental health to seriously degrade.
1 Billion Bobs
At this point, whatever the global death toll and the total number of hospitalized patients is for this coronavirus thing, the mental stress of one billion people currently undergoing some kind of “stay at home” restrictions is causing a lot of mental suffering.
Simply put, there is a limit on how much time a person can spend indoors. And it is really hard to spend a long, interrupted period of time indoors with someone else, whether that’s a roommate, family member, spouse, or romantic partner.
Being forced to stay indoors puts an enormous burden on people. Every day, I see more and more restrictions on people going outdoors. Romania is one step away from making it illegal to go outdoors “without a good reason.” And I’ve already heard of people in Chisinau being stopped by the police and asked what “legitimate” reason they have for being on the streets.
If you’ve committed a crime, and you’ve gone through the process of being found guilty and sentenced to jail for a fixed length of time, at least you’re (more or less) mentally ready to handle the loss of your freedom.
But for most of us around the world, we have committed no crime, and we don’t even know how long our “sentence” is going to be.
Pretty soon, there is going to be a whole hell of a lot of “Bobs” out there.
There is going to be a massive increase in divorces and domestic violence incidents, including murders. And there are a lot of people who are going to have mental breakdowns, permanent or short-term, along with a severe decline in overall global happiness.
Who Gets Into the Titanic’s Lifeboats?
Everyone knows about the RMS Titanic, the ship that was struck by an iceberg in 1912 and sank. There were some 3,500 people aboard yet only enough room in the lifeboats for just over 1,000 people.
What has always fascinated me was the unspoken consensus on who got to get those places in the lifeboats. Spaces weren’t given to the wealthy (one of the richest men in America was on board) or the powerful. Instead, priority was given to the women and the children.
Now, why is that? I’m not disagreeing with the logic, only inquiring as to its source.
Why did the Titanic passengers and crew want to save the children over, say, wealthy and powerful adults? And why were women prioritized over men?
The coronavirus, based on what we’ve seen so far, seems to pose zero threat to children. I’ve yet to hear of even a single case of a child dying from it. Furthermore, there seems to be a growing body of evidence that the coronavirus is striking (adult) men twice as often as women.
In other words, the very people that got priority in the Titanic’s lifeboats are now the ones least in danger from the coronavirus.
This means that we are, in effect, putting the wrong people “in the lifeboats.”
Jobs, the economy, our civil liberties, and our mental happiness are all being sacrificed for adult men, and predominately old men, the very last people we’d ever give a slot to in an emergency lifeboat situation.
Now, maybe people haven’t thought through it the way I’m presenting it here, but I think, deep down, that we’re all starting to feel it “in our bones.”
If kids were keeling over dead from the coronavirus, I think we’d all be a lot more eager to wear masks, stay home, and do whatever else is needed to protect them.
But when the kids are all perfectly untouched, and the women are (mostly) safe, every instinct inside us is screaming that these truly gigantic sacrifices that we’re making are not fucking worth it.
And based on the recent coronavirus bill passed in the UK and the impending coronavirus “bailout” in the US, it looks like old, rich men are going to be the ones who will continue to benefit most from our sacrifices.
And that, my friends, is a recipe for global revolution.