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Thursday, May 28, 2020

Free at last, free at last, more or less

The lockdown is finally over. Now we have to clean up the mess

T wo weeks ago at the height of the virus pandemic I put my ID card in my pocket and walked into our hospital. Normally there are hundreds of people in various stages of cardiovascular disease bumping into each other like balls in a pinball machine. This time there were just two ladies at the information desk who looked at me silently, as if thinking, “Omigod! A patient!” The masked bureaucrats I encountered looked bored as always. Patients are to them a mere distraction from the important business of filling out forms.

Fox with N95 mask

Well, the lockdown was tough on everyone. I had weeds in my driveway, moles digging up piles of dirt all over my back yard, and the fluorescent light over my kitchen sink started flickering. The virology textbook I was hoping to read didn't show up until after the pandemic was over. And there was nothing on TV but Xena and Lou Dobbs. If that's not an emergency, I don't know what is.

This must be the horrific nightmare that retired people go through every day.

I found that if you tell people to “stay safe” in a quiet voice with your teeth clenched, it becomes a threat: Go ahead, stay safe. I discovered that Zoom is a terrible way to have meetings. And I found myself thinking maybe strapping N95's on the faces of news reporters isn't enough. It would be highly entertaining to watch them try to invent fake news while bound and gagged with massive quantities of PPE.

The worst part, though, was the fire.

Normally, being a guy, I cook everything in the microwave because it saves me the thirty seconds it takes to wash my frying pan. The company that built my stove thought it would be a cool idea to place the fan lower than the cooking surface because, as we all know, fans are magical things that can make smoke go down instead of up. I eventually found a solution to that. Like most things in life, it involves aluminum flashing and duct tape. I can now cook dinner without wearing hearing protection to protect my ears from the screeching of my smoke detector.

But I was still microwaving pork chops, and they tasted like airplane food. So I tried to cook one in my toaster oven. According to the internet, this is possible. They come out, say the enthusiastic folks in Internetland, crispy and juicy.

Incidentally, why is it that on the internet, people are always described as doing “THIS”? It strikes me as strange. Why aren't they ever doing “THAT” or “THE OTHER THING”? After all, that's what people do. They do this, that, and the other thing. And sometimes, like now, they do something else.

Anyway, the Internet was only half right about the pork chops. They do indeed come out crispy.

It turns out that the heating elements in those things are actually thin hollow quartz tubes with a long piece of nichrome wire coiled up inside. This makes them strong enough to handle when a piece of food turns into a flaming torch when the grease splatters around inside. I also discovered that toaster ovens are designed so the end user can't take them apart for cleaning without destroying them. The screws on the back are actually fake. I guess this is a safety feature.

Here's my cooking tip for this month: never put your toaster oven underneath a wooden cabinet.

So, to summarize: no freedom of movement, deferred maintenance, animals popping up everywhere, infrastructure deteriorating, fake news, fake screws, soggy food, and fires starting in unexpected places. That's what happens to a country under lockdown.

may 28 2020, 5:53 am

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