The Student’s Guide to the Quarantine

Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the western spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun.

Orbiting this at a distance of roughly ninety-two million miles is an utterly insignificant little blue green planet whose ape-descended life forms are so amazingly primitive that they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea.

This planet has — or rather had — a problem, which was this: most of the people on it were unhappy for pretty much of the time. Many solutions were suggested for this problem, but most of these were largely concerned with the movements of small green pieces of paper, which is odd because on the whole it wasn’t the small green pieces of paper that were unhappy.

And so the problem remained; lots of the people were mean, and most of them were miserable, even the ones with digital watches.

Many were increasingly of the opinion that they’d all made a big mistake in coming down from the trees in the first place. And some said that even the trees had been a bad move, and that no one should ever have left the oceans.

And then, one Thursday, nearly two thousand years after one man had been nailed to a tree for saying how great it would be to be nice to people for a change, one girl sitting on her own in a small cafe in Rickmansworth suddenly realized what it was that had been going wrong all this time, and she finally knew how the world could be made a good and happy place. This time it was right, it would work, and no one would have to get nailed to anything.

Sadly, however, before she could get to a phone to tell anyone about it, a terribly stupid catastrophe occurred, and the idea was lost forever.

This is not her story.

But it is the story of that terrible stupid catastrophe and some of its consequences.

But the story of this terrible, stupid Thursday, the story of its extraordinary consequences, and the story of how these consequences are inextricably intertwined with this remarkable book begins very simply.

It begins with a house.

Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Mostly Harmless

This story begins with a house, and it ends with a house, and everything in between involves a house. This is because I am not allowed to leave the house. Even if I was, it is hard to say whether I would or not because most 

things I do involve the house and not leaving it. However, not being able to leave the house takes some adjustment, whether you were originally planning to leave or not, because once you are told you can’t do something, all you can see is the benefits of doing that thing. Such as seeing friends, and not sitting down all day playing video games to somehow speed up the slow passing of time until you can leave the house again, or at least the next episode of whatever show you are watching is released, just to feel some sense of normalcy. The point is, not leaving the house sucks, especially at  a time where a lot of your friends are graduating and moving on with their lives and you don’t know when you’ll see them next, if at all. It’s a struggle with any year that people graduate, but when everything ended so abruptly, it’s a new kind of struggle. One that tries not to focus on regrets or what could have been, but one that focuses on what did happen, and how to move on from it, learn from it, and grow from it.

So Long, and Thanks for all the Work

Of course, the school year couldn’t just end, its not like we don’t have work to do, but the style of work has changed dramatically. It has shifted from carefully planned assignments that will last us until the end of the year, with maybe a week to spare for exam review, to maybe one assignment per day with maybe a short video of the teaching. Until we learned that school would be ending early, on May 15. (I need you to read this next part as fast as you possibly can) In which case everything that was planned for the next three weeks must now get done in one, one week since you looked at me, dropped your arms to your side and said exams, five days since I laughed at you and said, “You just did exactly what I thought you were gonna do”. (You can stop speed reading now.) And it makes sense, exams in this style wouldn’t work, because (and this may come as a shock to some people) people are cheating, obviously. They are doing a 10-question quiz over the Civil War where all of the questions could be Googled, so people are. But, with exams cancelled suddenly, there is a lack of a point in doing the work for some people, myself included. Because when you are going to be tested over something, and that test will determine a lot of things in the coming years, it matters what happens on that test. But, as soon as they say “There is no test”, my brain says, In that case, there is no point

Don’t get me wrong, I am not advocating for final exams, I was glad they got cancelled because then, I don’t have to take one. But it presents every student with a moral conundrum that is exponentially expanded upon by them saying that if you have done 63% of your online work, you cannot be given a lower grade than your previous quarter grade. So my brain tells me, Don’t do the work then, you have done the work over the last 6 weeks, you don’t have to do the last week. All of which starts to test the motivation of a student, especially me in this case. Because I, don’t want to do the work.  want to sit at home and let the time idly pass me by as I do something quasi-productive, because that is easy, but what isn’t is learning the nervous system of a fetal pig.

The Restaurant at the End of the Quarantine

But what’s the point of me telling you all of this, well it was an assignment. But beyond that, as people the thing that most of us are best at, is talking. Talking about nothing, talking to people, and talking about talking as I am doing now. But if 2 months at home has taught me anything, it’s that I am a lot more socially reliant on people than I thought I was. I used to think that I could not talk to anyone for a week and be fine, but by the end of a day, I can’t wait to jump into a call with some friends and play some jackbox games, or talk about nothing until a topic comes up, or even just exist in a similar space.If High School Musical” and corporate ads during this time have one thing in common, it’s saying that: We are all in this (clap) together. And, at the end of the day, they’re both just trying to sell you something.

Jack Earl