Chances are, if you are a human on the planet Earth, you've recently spent the last six weeks (or more) in some type of quarantine – self-imposed, government-mandated or a combination of both. Unless, of course, you're a health care worker, essential employee or have other extenuating circumstances that meant you couldn't safely lock yourself away at home while figuring out what household textile to use as makeshift toilet paper or whether to binge Tiger King or Love Is Blind first.
So why has the entire world come to a collective halt? Because we have no immunity to the novel coronavirus COVID-19, a highly contagious and highly deadly (to certain people) respiratory illness that has overwhelmed hospitals across the world, infecting more than 3.5 million people and killing more than 248,000 globally from January to May, according to Johns Hopkins University. There's no real treatment (no, you cannot inject yourself with disinfectant or beams of light) and no vaccine, although scientists, medical professionals, researchers and Bill Gates are scrambling to find both.
In the meantime, social distancing has been a stop-gap measure to help contain the spread of COVID-19 and "flatten the curve," everyone's favorite phrase for using isolation to decrease the amount of humans infected with the virus to avoid inundating the health care system and killing everyone.
So, yes, we did acquire a new viral vocabulary during quarantine, but what else have we learned in the midst of this global pause? And what meaningful lessons about empathy, resilience and our shared humanity will we take with us as we move forward – masked and hand-sanitized – into the future? Other than to be a better person and never take bartenders for granted again, that is.
What six feet apart actually looks like.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends people practice social distancing to help stop the spread of COVID-19, which basically means standing six feet apart from each other so you can't spew infected goo droplets onto other people. But "six feet" is a difficult concept to understand for those with no spatial awareness. So here are things that take up six feet: two averaged-sized dogs standing nose to tail, two grocery carts, a dude in a top hat laying on the ground, a dining room table, a bathtub, three arm spans and about one and 1/5ths Danny DeVitos.
That there are multiple names for the same disease.
The novel coronavirus, in the same family as SARS and MERS, goes by COVID-19 or SARS-CoV-2. And for one hot second it went by a third name – the "Chinese virus" – but President Trump eventually stopped using the term, which he coined in late March, after many pointed out it was pretty racist.
What a pangolin is.
These cute-ass scaly anteaters are thought to have been an intermediate host for COVID-19, which may have jumped from bat to pangolin to human in a wet market in Wuhan, China – where the virus originated. In light of the pandemic, the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture recently released a list of approved terrestrial animals that can be used for food; pangolins did not make an appearance. So it seems best to avoid eating them. Also bats. Also humans.
That we never want to hear the word "unprecedented" again.
How to not touch our faces.
Don't. That's how germs get into your body.
To always have at least two weeks' worth of toilet paper.
Do. That's how you clean your butt.
On a more serious note...
Look into buying a bidet.
Every song with a 20-second chorus.
"Keeping hands clean is one of the most important steps we can take to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others," says the CDC. And the best way to keep your digits disease-free is to wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds – or the time it takes to sing the "Happy Birthday" song twice – over and over and over again throughout the day. So while the public was discovering the importance of timed hygiene, and the mind-numbing repetition of singing happy birthday to themselves, they also uncovered every other song with a 20-second chorus to break up the monotony of bathroom karaoke. The next time you wash your hands, trying singing the chorus to: Dolly Parton's "Jolene," Queen's "We Will Rock You," Beyoncé's "Love on Top," Prince's "Raspberry Beret," Fleetwood Mac's "Landslide," Toto's "Africa," Lizzo's "Truth Hurts" or the Knack's "My Sharona (Corona)."
What the actual coronavirus looks like.
Besides looking like a Koosh ball or the iPhone germ emoji, it also resembles a statue currently installed in front of the Orange County Administration Building downtown called "Superstar" by Hanna Jubran.
The names of so many governors.
And the surprising amount of power they wield.
That germ-protecting masks make good protest wear, too.
That Floridians stock up on liquor in times of distress.
The same week in March that Gov. DeSantis said all bars and restaurants would have to close their doors to in-person service, Nielsen Research released statistics that alcohol sales went up 55 percent. Wine sales spiked 66 percent, and online orders soared 243 percent.
All of our friends' streaming passwords.
That you can kill a man using a tiger and sardine oil.
That tigers can catch the coronavirus.
So can lions. Eight big cats at the Bronx Zoo tested positive for COVID-19 after contracting it from a zoo staffer.
That housecats can also catch the coronavirus.
Two pet felines in New York state were confirmed to have the coronavirus in late April after most likely getting it from humans. The CDC now recommends the same social distancing protocols for animals as they do for people. No more cat parties!
WTF Zoom is.
And how to turn yourself into a talking potato.
That Facebook Live is not the same as going to a concert.
But thank fuck for Facebook Live (and Instagram video groups).
That every single person you know is currently baking bread.
That we will never complain about having to wait two hours for a table at a restaurant again.
Remember eating at restaurants without worrying the menu was a smallpox blanket?
That grocery delivery services are extremely convenient until everyone else also learns they are extremely convenient.
Here's hoping you can survive on peanut butter and cans of tuna until 4 p.m. three weeks from now.
How to make a no-sew face mask with items you can find around the house.
Small businesses will step up when the government or supply chain can't.
When America ran out of personal protective equipment for frontline workers, small businesses started pivoting their production. Those with access to 3-D printers started churning out plastic shields and masks, and home sewers and craft clubs started making their own cloth masks for people to wear over their medical masks. Textile producers and clothing labels across the U.S. used their resources to make masks as well.
That it's more important than ever to buy your musician friends' albums.
Live music stopped for the most part in March, when bars and venues shut down. So out went most opportunities for local musicians to make money and promote their art on stage and in person. With that in mind, if there are Orlando or Floridian musicians whose work you enjoy, and they've kept it together enough to get some new music out during this pandemic, buy it. If you've got the liquid cash, buy an LP, a CD or a cassette; if you prefer digital, and have a few spare dollars, go to their Bandcamp page, especially on a day when Bandcamp waives artist fees, and pick up some downloads. They'll appreciate the support now more than ever, and we need the music now more than ever.
That drive-by honkings are the new birthday parties.
That distilleries can make alcohol for your hands and not just your mouth.
When the general public heard the word "pandemic," they started hoarding toilet paper, guns and hand sanitizer. So when the CDC said, "If you're going to make your own sanitizer, you need to make sure it uses at least 60 percent alcohol spirits," distilleries thought: "We can do that." So thanks, Winter Park Distilling, Yalaha Bootlegging Co., JLA Distillery, Loggerhead Distillery, Copper Bottom Craft, and others for making boozy hand sanitizer for first responders, health care workers and also general humans.
That Florida's leadership failed you with a broken unemployment system and a criminal lack of empathy.
As you or someone you love desperately tries to navigate Florida's glitchy and labyrinthine DEO web portal, waits for hours on hold only to speak to a representative who doesn't have the power to be of much aid at all, or is left waiting weeks for unemployment benefits that are the lowest in the country, don't forget who is responsible for this: Sen. Rick Scott. As governor, he stripped unemployment benefits to the bone and paid cronies millions to devise a garbage website that treats you like an ungrateful peasant for begging for the table scraps of $275 a week. Equally culpable is Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has failed utterly to right these wrongs or even pretend to give a damn about the Floridians in need that he works for. Vote them out when the next opportunity comes. They have failed you and deserve no place in public life.
That the Insane Clown Posse cares more for its people than many American politicians.
As the TV airwaves filled up with politicians and talking heads clamoring for states to reopen and save the economy regardless of the potential loss of human life, some real leadership emerged: Namely, that of the Insane Clown Posse, two face-painted clowns from Detroit who shut down their annual Gathering of the Juggalos festival months ahead of its planned dates, saying they were unwilling to risk the life of even one juggalo in the face of a global pandemic. Our government, at the state and federal level, have a lot to learn from these wise men, who once gave speeches about their buttholes during a D.C. civil rights protest on the national mall.
That sweatpants can also just be called "pants."
That teachers should be paid 10 times more for dealing with our unteachable heathen offspring.
Oh, so you thought teaching was easy, huh? Wrangling a bunch of snot-nosed, mouth-breathing beasts, animals restrained in their behaviors only by their relatively small size, uncaring creatures hellbent on refusing to learn and continuing to eat crayons. What fools you were. Now you are the one who rations the crayons; you are the one whose lesson plan has devolved to "Please leave mommy alone for a moment for a little cry," and "Oh, no, don't drink the 'juice' out of mommy's glass." Not so easy now, is it? And get this: You even love your children! Imagine if you had to deal with these monsters without the requisite emotional connection. Now, don't you think teachers should be paid more?
That you can't self-quarantine on Discovery Island.
Who wouldn't want to ride out quarantine in an exotic tropical paradise, in your own backyard no less? In late April, Richard Maguire decided he was going to live his best "shelter in place" life and ride out the coronavirus on the abandoned Discovery Island on Disney property. But his paradise was lost in less than a week when he was apprehended by Orange County Police and charged with trespassing. He claimed he didn't know he was trespassing. Most magical place on Earth, amirite?
That the "Reopen" protests are not a spontaneous, grass-roots movement.
Nationwide, protests have erupted against governors' stay-at-home orders, arguing they're excessively hurting the economy. But this is no populist uprising – it's an Astroturf campaign funded by Big Money right-wing agitators like the billionaire Koch and DeVos families to make the working class get back to work (for the billionaires). And it's funny how when Colin Kaepernick kneeled during the National Anthem to protest police brutality he was a traitor, but when a bunch of white guys storm the Michigan capitol with assault rifles they're patriots. Hmmm.
That there's a chance they make getting unemployment a bureaucratic nightmare on purpose (insert shocked face).
The term "Cuomo-sexual."
Thank you for the Cuomo Brothers memes, internet.
That love conquers corona.
Some weddings have been rescheduled, others have been held in creative and intimate ways.
How to grieve from a distance.
If you know, you know. We're sorry.
That staying "safe at home" isn't always safe.
Especially for victims of domestic violence or children who are suffering from abuse.
That essential workers are heroes.
Delivery drivers are heroes. Mail-delivery people are heroes. Grocery store employees are heroes. Nurses are heroes. Transit workers are heroes. Frontline workers are heroes. Any essential employee that has continued to go to work to make America move when the rest of us were afraid or hunkered down in our homes is a hero. Thank you.
That every essential worker deserves access to personal protective equipment.
Period. Full stop. No further discussion necessary.
That somehow, nitrile gloves don't biodegrade when left on the ground outside of the grocery store.
This is what our dogs and cats feel like cooped up in the house all the time.
The true benefit of outdoor activity.
Whether it be backyard gardening, a walk with your dog or a solo hike, we've never appreciated our "outside time" more.
How to exercise with wine bottles instead of weights.
Or a dictionary, a jug of bleach, a cinder block you found in the backyard ...
That apparently we should stop our longtime practice of drinking bleach as a health cure, if all of these memes making fun of the president are to be believed.
That many couples are learning they can't stand to be around the people they love even one second longer.
But many single people think they should shut the hell up.
That doctors and scientists don't know anything; the only real doctor is Dr. YouTube.
Never mind what infectious disease specialists and medical professionals have to say about the matter: Your cousin who never graduated from high school just shared a video from YouTube saying that curing the coronavirus is as simple as eating a shitload of cotton balls or similarly absorbent material in order to "soak up" the disease, and also that the virus isn't a big deal in the first place since in one month it's only killed just barely less than the number of people the flu typically kills in an entire year. You are all just stupid sheep! Now hold still; we need to shave off your fleece and eat it.
That blocking access to hospitals for a protest is OK but only if you really need a haircut.
Blocking roadways during a protest against police abuse of power among minority communities? "How dare you! Can you imagine the lives you have put at risk? What if an ambulance tried to get through? Somebody should really run over these people with a car." Literally blocking the entrance to a hospital during a pandemic because you can't go get your nails done? "We are patriots! Give me beauty salon or give me death! George Washington would have never infringed on my right to get my roots touched up!" In conclusion: Get bent, and go get an essential job, you lazy slackers.
That when industry stopped, global pollution dropped.
People in northern India could see the Himalayas for the first time in 30 years. Los Angeles had some of the cleanest air of any major city in the world in April, and jellyfish were seen swimming in the nearly clear canals of Venice. Although temporary (pollution will rebound when the global economy restarts), the near immediate impact is a nice reminder of the power humans have over the environment – for both good and bad – especially with the recent 50th anniversary of Earth Day.
That all of our favorite brands care about us during These Trying Times, and they will be there for us as soon as These Trying Times are over.
We love you too, Totino's Pizza Rolls.