Reflections from an umpteenth quarantine

Do you know what everyone loves? Quarantine. When I heard that we would be in quarantine when we returned to campus, I felt so wonderful that I immediately went to my room and began emitting sobs of pure emotion. It felt like meeting an old friend or slipping into an old pair of shoes––provided that we are talking about the worst possible friend and the worst possible pair of shoes. You know the ones, right? The kind of formal shoes your parents bought you when you were 12 for your middle school band concert, and they pinched your feet and felt like misery, and you had to wear them while you sat in the back row on the stage, trombone in hand, and you were trying to look cool, because you were in middle school, but as long as you had that trombone there was nothing you could do?

Okay, that might not have been a universal experience, but still. Quarantine sucks, and quarantine at Vassar is especially bad. First-years (or, as I like to call ‘em, fun-sized scholars) may not know what I’m talking about, having experienced the 2020-2021 academic year at high school rather than Vassar. I have no sympathy for them, though; not having to set foot on my high school campus during my senior year would have been a privilege for which I would have paid, at minimum, one of my kidneys. Maybe part of my liver, too.

Hopefully, by the time you read this, we’ll be out of this round of quarantine. As we’ve learned over the last approximately 200 million years of the COVID pandemic, though, it probably won’t be the last. So that begs the question: How do you survive quarantine on the Vassar campus? What are some tips and tricks to help you survive and thrive while in socially-distant isolation? How can you emerge from seclusion a happy, healthy person, able to meet the challenges of your college career?

Well, I can’t answer any of those questions. If I could, I wouldn’t be the cynical, twisted shell of a human being that I am today, and I would probably also have a lucrative career lined up in the lecture circuit. But I do have a key tip that you can use to help yourself endure the dark days spent in isolation! If, at this point in the pandemic, you still have any capacity whatsoever for human communication, do reach out and let me know how my “hack” works out for you. Or don’t – conversations terrify me.

The tip is: Lower your standards. This is a handy trick that helps out in all areas of life, including homework, personal hygiene, and, later on, parenting, but it’s especially useful in quarantine. Did you like having options at the Deece? Too bad. Most of them are gone now, replaced by “succotash”–which, by the way, is a prank food inspired by Daffy Duck’s famous catchphrase, not the other way around. Did you like speaking to people? I don’t know why you would, frankly, but the Vassar campus is replete with rocks that look like faces, tree branches that look like outstretched arms, and other faux conversational partners. If you imagine that you’re talking to someone suitably silent and misanthropic (me), it’s almost exactly like the real thing!

By lowering your standards far enough, you’ll reach a point in life where you, like me, are never actually disappointed by any of the bad things that happen during quarantine. That means you’ll be free to look at life through new eyes, able to enjoy the unique opportunities quarantine presents. My favorites, by the way, include sleeping as recreation and having a narrow object jammed so far up your nose you begin to wonder whether the person administering the COVID test believes that it’s meant to be done on cerebrospinal fluid rather than snot. Until next time, everyone––and just remember, if you hear any screeching on campus late at night, it’s probably me! Don’t stop and say hello.

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