DISPATCHES: My Life Under Quarantine

My_Favorite_Martian_Ray_Walston_1963EDITOR’S NOTE: I’ve asked Phawker contributors to send in dispatches describing their lives under quarantine. Enjoy.

Dan Tabor_byline_avatarBY DAN TABOR FILM CRITIC So, for my day job, I do IT. Luckily it’s something you can do from almost anywhere. I work for a successful local non-essential retailer whose home offices are based in Center City. Our stores may be closed for the time being, but retail life is all about planning ahead — since it can sometimes take 3 to 6 months to get a product in stores. So currently all of corporate is working from home, pulling normal 8 hour days getting ready to re-open when this all hopefully passes.

While I work in the city, I live in the suburbs and enjoyed that brief disconnect when I would hop on SEPTA to decompress on the way home, it’s where I do most of my writing that you read here. Now, I fall out of bed about a half an hour before I would normally get into the office, grab a quick bite, and get online so I can start my work for the day. Then I basically sit in my home office and stare at a screen for eight hours, sometimes running on my treadmill in my basement on my lunch break. At the end of the work day I shut down my laptop and simply go downstairs to my living room in an attempt to decompress, leaving what transpired during the work day upstairs.

My day job had a very fun, social atmosphere. We were the kind of small business that never missed an excuse to have a company sponsored happy hour. These days I sit in solitary and go about my daily tasks, working to stay motivated, often times feeling a lot like Sam Rockwell in Moon. It took me a good week to acclimate myself to working from home and to be honest I don’t know how you freelancers do it. It’s so easy to get distracted and I feel like you have to double your focus and participation, just so no one thinks you’re off playing Animal Crossing instead of doing your job. Needless to say I miss interacting with my colleagues and people in general, and while you do get the mild pleasantries when you IM a coworker or attend an online meeting, everyone feels distant and preoccupied, and it’s completely understandable.

But what about the movies? I’m the movie guy, right.

One of my favorite things is going to the movies. Nothing is quite like that communal experience of watching a film with a crowd of like-minded individuals. I mean I fly to Austin every year to do just that at the Alamo Drafthouse during Fantastic Fest. Unlike some critics, I not only go to the theater to see films I review proper, but I also had an odd Friday night ritual of going to see the latest horror release that often didn’t get the official critic screening treatment. That is something that’s simply impossible right now. All the big theater chains and the indie houses have shuttered and from what I understand, when all this goes back to “normal”, whatever that may be, we might lose a few theaters, and possibly entire chains in the process.

Film festivals have been cancelled, movies have been delayed indefinitely and the whole Hollywood machine as a whole has come to a grinding halt. Don’t get me wrong, there are far worse things happening in our world right now, but film doesn’t act as just entertainment in tumultuous times. It is also an outlet for escape, a release, giving you the ability to lose yourself in a story projected with light in a darkened theater. You can’t do that now. While you still can see a few of the latest releases from the comfort of your couch, you have to do so in your own home, thanks to quarantine. But there you are still vulnerable to the same distractions you would normally go to the movies to get away from, since part of the theatrical experience is leaving that all behind until the lights come back up.

What’s that line in Lynch’s Dune?

“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer.”

At this point the only way I get through my day I try to abstain from consuming too much news if possible and keep to my daily regimen of 60’s television re-runs (My Favorite Martian [pictured, above] is a current favorite) and nightly movies with my wife who is also working from home. The news is just too distressing and honestly makes it near impossible to focus at all. The first week I was home I couldn’t write not only because I didn’t have that train ride disconnect, but because it was the 2016 election for me all over again. I was glued to the news consuming every ever worsening update I could while slowly being consumed by the Fever Swamps of Sadness in my mind. I mean I’ve seen 12 Monkeys, so I know where this could go and we are currently in the worst timeline version thanks to Trump.

So that’s me. I am desperately trying to stay busy (Yesterday I used a YouTube video to repair a broken ice maker in my fridge), and looking for that rare ray of positivity as I turn a blind eye to the rest for now. It’s like what Olaf said in Frozen 2, “this is called controlling what you can when things are out of control”.