Sunday night.

I ventured outside today to run some errands for the first time in almost two weeks. After I finished adding air to my tires (they deflated in the cold, it seems) at the local gas station, an old man walked up and asked how the process works. He was parked behind me and wasn’t wearing a mask. I backed away while gesticulating and pantomiming the process. It’s simple enough, so I hope he figured it out. I did not stay behind to help him: it was for his protection as well as mine.

As I walked up to the grocery store, a large and seemingly angry guy started heading in my direction, gesticulating and apparently yelling about something, though I couldn’t hear him with his mask on. Maybe he just needed a dollar coin to unlock one of those fancy shopping carts. Maybe it was something else. I speedwalked away from him. There was a time when I gladly would have stopped and helped everyone I encountered. That time was before 1.76 million people died in a global pandemic… I’m not gonna lie – I kinda feel like shit, but empathy is the first thing to go out the window in a crisis situation when you don’t know who might be infected – not even yourself.

Incidentally, even though the Ontario-wide lockdown officially began yesterday, I saw no restrictions at either LCBO (where they keep liquor and, more importantly, cider) or the local grocery store. There was no one at the entrance counting how many people have entered. There were no queues like in the earlier mini-lockdowns. It’s disconcerting.

I spent the afternoon browsing the Goodreads 2020 awards list, with the top books (and top finalists) chosen by readers all over the world. At this point, my Kindle app has several years’ worth of e-books, but most of them just got hoarded along the way. Using my highly scientific approach (reading just about everything about every top book), I created a small list of the main books to peruse. Meanwhile, though, I speed-read through the book I mentioned a few days ago (it got a bit dry after a while) and started “Dark Matter” by Blake Crouch. The way he describes the most banal things is fascinating. (E.g., “The headlights graze a teetering stretch of twelve-foot fencing, topped with a tiara of rusted barbed wire.”) The action is great too, to the point where I gobbled up the first three chapters in one go. Good times, eh.

My fantasy-world orc got sidetracked on a huge detour when his GPS spell failed: along the way, he stumbled on a cave filled with vampires, barely managed to kill them all after drinking his last health potion, and contracted a mild case of vampirism. He then spent an hour running toward the nearest city (in the buff, because heavy armor slows him down) to buy a “Cure Disease” potion and fix that nasty affliction. (In other news, human NPCs are remarkably squeamish when a naked orc runs by them.) After all, it would be mighty awkward if the world’s savior were to become a vampire. (Mwahahaha.) Ahhhh, Skyrim…

In somewhat political news, the Nashville bombing was not a terrorist attack after all. It turns out the culprit was a 63-year-old white guy who was a stereotypical loner as well as a certified alarm installer. He died in the blast and apparently didn’t mean to hurt others, which explains why he played the “please evacuate” recording beforehand. At the same time, no one is quite sure why precisely he hated AT&T so much that he destroyed their office. (Incidentally, that also disabled the local 911 line and a whole lot of cellphones, so his actions might have ended up killing people indirectly.) Because of his skin colour, the media is painting him not as a terrorist who set off the first suicide bomb on the US soil but much more mildly. The New York Times headline is “A Quiet Life, a Thunderous Death, and a Nightmare That Shook Nashville” instead of, say, “a suicide bomber terrorizes Nashville on Christmas.” This is madness. If he were Muslim, every headline would have been along the lines of “why didn’t his community de-radicalize him?”

In covid news, the US has crossed the 19,000,000-case mark. The current count is 19.2 million, and that doesn’t account for all the people who can’t get a test, who won’t get a test, or who received a false negative. (Just like one of my favourite writers, John Scalzi, who got sick after his daughter got it from her college roommate. His test was negative but he had all the symptoms and is currently stuck with the dreaded brain fog.) Realistically, the real number of covid cases is several times higher… The exponential growth is getting to the point that even the slowpoke official count logs a new million every few days. If hospitals aren’t already rationing medical care, they will begin soon.

In other covid news… What’s the most polite way to tell your landlords “Sorry, but I think your daughter is a plague vector?” They’ve been having guests for dinner for at least three days in a row now, including tonight. I can kinda-sorta understand (though not accept) celebrating Christmas and Boxing Day, but what the hell kind of holiday is December 28th?.. This time around, there are three guests: their 20-something daughter and her boyfriend, as usual, and a friend of theirs. At least three households under one roof. They typically come over once a week. Given that the new mutated variant is already spreading through Ontario, it’s really just a matter of time before one of the guests brings it (or the plain old normal covid) to one of these gatherings. They may be careful in their everyday life, and the odds may be low, but they’re greater than zero.

I’ll try to politely ask “so, is your daughter as careful as you guys?” or something along those lines, but there is definitely a future where I’ll have to wear a mask in the common areas of the house… My year-long lease ends on February 1st. I’d initially planned on renewing it, but… I’ll spend the rest of tonight online, searching for anyone who would be willing to rent a standalone apartment for six months. Depriving myself of human company altogether would not be good for me, and I’m fully aware that maybe I’m overreacting, maybe I’m being too paranoid. Then again, in my line of work there are only two ways to survive: an open mind and a weapons-grade paranoia. (And as the old saying goes, “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean there isn’t a poltergeist with a knife right behind you.”) Given how I’ve outlasted several governors, prime ministers, and presidents in my strict isolation regime, I’m not eager to break that streak just because my landlords are feeling extra-lonely. We all are. Not all of us ignore medical advice and take unnecessary risks, though. They are, on the balance, good people, and it hurts me a fair bit, but we’ll have to part ways.

So it goes.