Every morning when the sun crests, a nurse is here to take our temperatures with a hand held laser thermometer. With each zap her voice chimes out “97.1” or “97.4” or “97.5”, etc. as she tells each person their result. By now guys have fallen into this morning routine without hesitation, and within 15 minutes everyone will be back to doing whatever it was they were doing. It’s almost my turn. Surprisingly, the line conversation is upbeat this morning.
“97.6,” says the nurse to a guy three ahead of me.
Nice, I think.
“97.1,” she says to the guy two in front of me.
“98.6,” she says to the guy in front of me.
What did she just say? Conversations instantly freeze, and heads ripple toward the front of the line.
“Hmm,” says the nurse. “How do you feel?”
“Fine,” says the guy in question. He’s a New Fish that just arrived here 2 days ago.
No-o. He’s not fine.
“Cough, muscle aches, sore throat?” she asks New Fish.
“Well, if you develop any of these symptoms, let us know right away okay?”
What!? Oh, hell no. Take him away! Take him–
“97.4,” the nurse says to me. I snap back from my thoughts to see the laser thermometer pointed dead center between my eyes. I stand there for a moment without moving.
“97.4,” she says again. “You’re good.”
I skulk from the line, still shocked at what just happened. Everyone watches New Fish as he walks back into the dorm. Like Patient Zero, cut loose to infect the planet. I recognize him. He’s my new neighbor.
Over the course of the day I–and everyone else around New Fish, for that matter–never lose sight of him, careful to keep distance. At some point I must’ve thrown wide the window without realizing it, because one of my cubemates is telling me he’s freezing. I lower the window, but not all the way.
The next morning, New Fish gets his temperature taken and everyone is secretly watching and listening to what the nurse says to him:
“97.4,” she says. The dorm finally exhales.
I’m not yet convinced. What if he was on the tail end of his fever and is still sick? What if he is infecting all of us right this second? I eye him intently for several hours longer searching for any indication that he’s nursing a secret illness.
I notice nothing odd.
Guys have taken to forming “cohorts,” or small groups to stick together in. We’re encouraged to do this right now as a way to manage our risk to COVID. Which frankly is funny. Any other time it’s the complete opposite. Get caught grouping up and you’re guaranteed to get an ear full. But these aren’t normal times now are they?
My cohort consists of my 3 cubemates, all part of the dog program. We stick together when in the dorm, keep visitors out of our area, eat at the same table in the chow hall (whenever I decide to risk a dine and dash), or otherwise hang out together most of the day. It’s a boring life.
I’ve taken to entertaining myself at the expense of those around me. My latest: Presenting a convincing argument that what is happening in the world right now is the beginning of the Apocalyse. It’s fantastic entertainment. When you think about it, you really can’t prove it isn’t now, can you?
“I’ve always wondered,” I said to my neighbor, “what the apocalypse would be like. I guess now we know.”
“Really?” He asks, suddenly interested in what I said and not the movie he was watching. “Do you really think it’s the apocalyse?”
“Probably. I mean think about it with what’s going on in the world right now.”
“Wow, I never really thought of it that way.”
“Seriously? You realize don’t you, that every country in the world is going through the exact same thing as we are here. Right? It’s the whole planet. Supply chains are breaking down; emergency medical services are overrun. Gun sales are hitting records. Death is prowling!”
My neighbor became wide eyed and silent.
“Listen,” I said. “All we’re missing right now is asteroid impact. Jeezo, we’d be through if that happened.” I said this last sentence more to myself than to him. “What could we do? What could anyone in the world do?”
“Right. Pandemonium! And that won’t be the end either. This is just the beginning. There’s other stuff to come. I mean, stuff we can’t even figure out right now.”
“Like what?” He leaned in close.
“Well, we’ve had giant tsumanis—”
“Yeah, I remember those!”
“Right. And think about all the volcanoes around the world that seem to be erupting now. What’s that all about? That doesn’t even take into consideration the epic, I mean EPIC earthquakes the world has seen in recent years. Yeah, dude. It’s the apocalypse and there’s nothing we can do about it.”
“Nothing. FUBAR and life sucks.”
I then left him standing beside his bunk with a deer in the headlights look. Who ever knew boredom could be so fun? And, no, I don’t really believe it’s the apocalypse.
When you’re bored out of your skull, you’d be surprised at what convicts will do to entertain themselves. Some guys have taken to racing mice down the dorm aisles, others watch movies and play finger games on their tablets. Earlier some guy came running past me chasing down a giant, blue-green fly for a spider he’d caught as a pet. I’m not even going to tell you some of the other stuff because this blog is read by EVERYONE, and well, let’s just leave it at that.
So that’s life on our beautiful island right now. No inmate cases of coronavirus, and that’s a good thing. If island life means that I must watch the mice race every day or play mindless finger games on my tablet or watch free B movies with actors no one has ever heard of–that’s fine by me. It sure beats the alternative.
Look at it this way: I’m getting a lot of letter writing, reading, blogging, studying, and sleeping in as I watch the sun rise and set. Didn’t Tom Hanks make a hit movie about being stuck on an island once? And he had less to do.
*For those of you at home still stuck in solitary, pay it forward by sharing this post with others. Boredom loves company.