Friday 27 March 2020

Isolation diaries: Stir-crazy at home alone on the web

The first thing to say about isolation is the obvious: you're isolated, on your own, rattling around, pacing from room to room.

And isolation addles the mind.

In a dead-of-night state of half-awake confusion, I did something daft. I went online and bought toilet paper - "12 Rolls Toilet Paper Bulk Rolls Bat Tissue Bathroom White Soft 4 Ply" to be exact, at a cost of $22.99. 

I am not awaiting it with any urgency. In fact, I don't need it at all. I already have enough toilet paper to wipe the arse of an army.

But I had read that, in the mad world in which we currently seem to live, there was profiteering in toilet paper. Sellers on eBay were asking four times the usual price.

I found one who wasn't and panic-bought what I don't need.

The purchase was crazy. But in isolation, we do things which wouldn't withstand a nanosecond of scrutiny in cooler times with cooler heads.

Home alone, I live in a different world from the real one outside.

In the absence of human contact, I live on the crazy world-wide-web.

I read, for example, that the pastor of a fundamentalist church in the United States believes that coronavirus is "God's death angel to purge a lot of sin".

I flit between stories where "US sales of guns and ammunition soar amid coronavirus panic buying" and "eBay urged to clamp down on coronavirus profiteering".

Twitter tells me of altercations between customers in Starbucks because one person got too close to another.

In this feverish online world devoid of human warmth and contact, it's easy to forget that the mortality figures for coronavirus are low. 

According to the experts, perhaps one per cent of those who get infected will die. Even for the over-80s, the vast majority will survive.

The best scientists are still unsure about the exact proportion of sufferers for whom coronavirus disease will be fatal, but the impression I get alone online in the depth of the night is that plague is about to wipe most of us out. 

It is not. It is about to do immense damage to the economy and may well kill many people but most of us will survive - and we should remember that.

Isolation breeds paranoia if we let it. Endless consultation with Dr Google can make us think we have every disease under the crazy moon.

Outside in the real world (from which I am excluded for another twelve days), normal humans engage with each other, sometimes badly but more often considerately and well.

I am comforted by remembering a tiny incident the last time I was in Woolworths, just a few forbidden yards up the road.

I'm ashamed to say that I found myself racing against another man to get a ticket to queue at the meat counter. The winner of the macho man race would be served first.

The stranger won - and turned round and gave me his number with a smile. 

How nice - the way it should be but isn't in the dead of night, alone on the web, in isolation.

By the way, if anyone needs a toilet roll, let me know.

I've got the 12 I bought coming soon, I think from China. They should arrive between Sunday and Thursday.

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