Living in the time of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is, to put it mildly, quite a challenge for most people, especially those of us who live in the United States. As I write this on the afternoon of April 10, there are 1,673,423 confirmed cases worldwide, with the U.S. in the not-so-great spot of being No. 1 in number of people with COVID-19: 486,490, of whom 18,002 (the size of an average infantry division in the Army) are dead. And although there are signs that the “curve of infection” is leveling off in some parts of the country, the number of cases (and fatalities) is still climbing.
I have been practicing “social distancing” since March 6, 2020; for me, my daily routine is not all that different from that of before the pandemic. With rare exceptions to get a haircut, go see an occasional movie at a nearby theater with The Girlfriend, or go to the nearest branch of my bank to cash a check, my life has not really been affected…much.
So far, the biggest sacrifice I’ve made recently is to forgo the use of the Internet while The Girlfriend works from home. With the Internet carrying far more traffic than normal, our household of five has to deal with s-l-o-w connections and less band-with than usual. Four of us need to use the Internet for work or school at any time of day, but three people absolutely must be online during school/business hours, because that’s how many Wi-Fi connected computers can be online at one time. If a fourth computer attempts to get on the wireless connection, it will knock the one with the weakest connection offline. And because that computer happens to be the one that most needs to be connected for remote-office work, I don’t use the WiFi until after five in the afternoon.
That does not mean, however, that I can’t use my PC at all during the day. Like most computers with built-in wireless connectivity, my Lenovo All-in-One can operate on “airplane mode.” So while I can’t access the Internet, look up information on, say, the Internet Movie Database, or stream video from my Movies Anywhere or Amazon Prime Video accounts, I can at least use Word to write, listen to music on my Amazon Music app, or even read ebooks that I’ve downloaded to my Amazon Kindle app.
Admittedly, I overlooked the “airplane mode” function on my computer; I’d never needed to be offline on purpose before, so I didn’t even think about it until a week into our county’s “lockdown” and the new routine at home. But once I figured out that I could, at the very least, use Microsoft Word in offline mode, I was less upset about the no-Internet-until-5 PM restrictions than I was at first.
Even though I love my day job as a screenwriter and blogger, I sometimes get restless when I can’t check in on my friends on social media or read articles or other people’s blogs online. I’m so used to being connected that I get antsy when the Internet goes out or I have some restrictions placed on my use of it. (In the early 2000s, when the average connection was through conventional phone landlines, I could not log on until after 11 PM so my mother would be able to use the phone; this didn’t change until 2006, which is when I convinced her to get a DSL connection for our house.)
To maintain my sanity in these trying times, I try to find as much joy as I can from various forms of entertainment. Some, of course, are dependent on my use of a computer on airplane mode, and they include the following activities:
I have a small selection of computer games in my hard drive, most of which I’ve bought on Steam. Because I was so used to being connected to the Internet all day long, I had forgotten that most, if not all, of those games can be played offline. So, as of late, I’ve been spending my offline hours playing some of my favorites, which include a Steam-revived Silent Service II, a World War II submarine simulation originally published by the late, great software company MicroProse in 1990.
I also learned that I can play Sid Meier’s Civilization V, the fifth entry in the series of world history sims that began with the original game published in 1991 by MicroProse, which Sid Meier co-founded in 1982, when I was still in high school and half-a-decade before I got my first home computer.
Of course, I try to not limit my entertainment options to gaming. I also like to read fiction, non-fiction, and art books related to pop culture. Sometimes, of course, I read books (either new purchases or ones that I’ve owned for decades) in order to review them in my blogs. But most of the time, I read for pleasure and to continue learning new things, especially about history.
If my office’s layout was optimal, I probably would watch movies on my personal TV/Blu-ray combination. Unfortunately, the way my desk is placed (almost in the center of the room rather than flush against a wall), it’s not easy or pleasant to indulge in this particular pastime. I was given the smallest of the rooms for my “mancave,” so not only is the layout awkward (I can see the TV because it’s on a wall mount, but I have to look over the top of my monitor in order to do so), but space is limited and I feel extremely confined. It’s a good thing I’m not claustrophobic, otherwise…..
At least I can, if I so choose, go to another room and read there. And sometimes I do. But I can’t really watch movies, at least not in a fashion that is comfortable and enjoyable. So that’s one entertainment option that’s closed off to me, at least during The Girlfriend’s working hours.
But, yeah, these are First World problems. And like I said earlier, I do have ways to kill time during these strange, scary, and challenging days of the coronavirus pandemic.