by Quinn Palermo | March 20, 2020 11:46 am
The first thing I heard when I woke up was the sound of a fan whirring gently in the humid air and the rhythmic crash of waves meeting sand. I checked the clock; it was six in the morning, and I was in Florida during one of the most temperate, beautiful days of the season.
For context, I’m in Florida because my parents wanted to go for spring break anyway, and the minute they received the notification that we’d be moving to e-Learning they all but threw us into the closest car and drove down to our annual vacation spot a few days early. I’m not saying that I agreed with that decision, though. There was lots of crying and anxiety that came from going to a new place in uncertain times like these that left me in a sulk for the first few days up here. Ultimately, I can say that this decision wasn’t a terrible one- the weather is fantastic, and the only real contact we’ve had with other people has been at grocery stores as we stock up for our stay.
Even though it’s been a couple of days since schools have been canceled, my body is still wired to get up early. I blearily rub the sleep away from my eyes and pull out my phone to mindlessly scroll through all of my social media. As things have gotten progressively worse, I do my best to steer my feed away from accounts focused on the pandemic and the related economic fallout internationally. In spite of that, I manage to see a lot of coronavirus-related posts anyway. Memes about the virus and pictures of sleep-deprived hospital staff fill up my feed as I scroll. Even when I switched to other accounts that mainly posted things like funny tumblr and twitter screenshots or fashion inspiration, I stumbled upon anxious captions with dire recaps of whatever the most recent news had been and how it was changing their lives. While it’s nice to be plugged directly into the most recent of current events throughout the world, it’s also nice to take a breather once in a while from the terrible, disastrous things happening and just focus on the tinier, sillier things. So, I put my phone down and grabbed some bread from the counter; it was time to incite a riot.
Now, when I say a riot, I don’t mean a riot with like people and copious amounts of violence. I mean a seagull riot, with a swarm of seagulls fighting amongst one another and diving at me to get more bread. It was the perfect way to get my mind off of the pandemic, so I was going to do it no matter the cost.
It was a clear breezy morning and I stepped out onto the beach as a warrior does when facing a battlefield that was not their own. The stale bread bag, both my weapon and demise, crinkled and swang with every step on the lustrously white beach. In the beginning, there were only a few gulls, and they were out amongst the surf looking for an honest meal. But I knew that as soon as I started tossing, they would come to me like the stars come to hang in the night sky.
I decided to start with a few small pieces, in order to pique the interest of the gulls bobbing in the waves. They flew over to me, wary but curious. I encouraged that curiosity with another crumbly piece. Every new piece thrown meant more fighting amongst the gulls, and that fighting attracted more gulls, who then proceeded to embiggen the size and intensity of the bread war, which attracted more gulls, and so on and so forth. I had great fun throwing the last few bread slices to the mass. It was a different story when they realized I had nothing else to give, though. The most impatient gulls began to swoop viciously towards my head, which left me no choice but to run towards my condo as fifty gulls chased wildly after me. At that moment I knew I had become icarus, for I had grown too confident in my ability to keep the swarm controlled and fell from my seagull throne in the minute it had taken the seagulls to realize I had nothing left to offer them.
Luckily for me, I was able to find sanctuary behind the sea wall of the condominium complex; it appeared that gulls would no longer have the high ground there, in a place rife with umbrellas and chlorinated water and manicured trees. And so they all dispersed, leaving only the original few seagulls that had come to this patch of the ocean in search of a few fish.
After that invigorating event, I ate breakfast, which was only unusual in that it consisted of a donut. Usually I don’t eat food like that, especially first thing in the morning, but we were in Florida and an amazingly fresh donut stand was only a few blocks away from where we stayed, and I simply had to take advantage of it. If I were at home, I’d probably have a go-go squeeze (applesauce or another fruit puree in a squeeze pouch) and maybe some granola if I was feeling extra hungry. My parents and brother were awake by then, and my mom spent the entire morning patting herself on the back for thinking of coming down here earlier than we would have normally. When I say patting herself on the back, I do mean literally, by the way- I think it was meant to be funny but I can’t actually be sure.
I then checked into all of my e-Learning classes on my phone, because I didn’t want to do my homework just yet and I knew that if I opened my laptop I’d just start doing it. Once all my classes were electronically attended, I was gripped by a desire for some light napping. So, I grabbed a towel and beach chair and set my stuff up out on the beach. It was devoid of people at the time I went out, which was good- I was able to fully sprawl out on my towel in a way that probably would have been embarrassing if I had been seen. So I napped, occasionally switching positions to get even sun coverage for about five hours. It was very nice, and very much needed. I’m not a napping person in general, but the sun’s gentle rays and the newfound freedom awarded to me by e-Learning made it something that I could do to fill up the time I had available to me.
All that napping had worked up quite an appetite, so I went back inside to make full use of the kitchen. My mom had gone crazy stocking up the pantry so we wouldn’t have to leave to continually get more food throughout the week, and it showed. I had a lot of options, but I decided on starting with a light snack of crackers, cottage cheese and pickles. It makes my mouth water just thinking about it. The best uncommon food combination, by far. Just as I was gearing up to make a sandwich, I was approached by Danny, my brother, who had come from who-knows-where to ask if I would come with him to get something for a late lunch. I enthusiastically agreed; I had no idea what the state of things were in some of the neighboring towns, and wanted to check it out for myself. My dad was confident that Seaside, an upscale town next to Rosemary Beach, would be totally deserted because of some of the (admittedly basic) measures put into place by whatever local government that was here in order to keep people from gathering. We hopped in the car and drove over there, expecting to have to find a place to eat elsewhere.
So imagine our surprise when it was packed to the gills as usual. The local restaurants did their best to abide by the anti-gathering rules in place, but it was clear that they were stretching it at certain points because of the surge of people who had come to shop and eat. I don’t think floridians would know what social distancing was if it walked up to their front door and introduced itself. The social distancing we’ve done here has to be done actively; a lot of the people we’ve seen here have been carrying on with their daily routines like nothing is amiss, and have even been going to large gatherings in neighboring towns without any regard for the safety of themselves and other people. It’s kinda crazy, not gonna lie. But we contributed to the problem when we ate at one of the local places anyways, I suppose. The fried pickles weren’t even that good, and there were simply too many people for it to be enjoyable in any way.
It was at around this time that I was supposed to do my work, but the new “Act of God” rule put into place by J.B Pritzker left me feeling confident I could afford to put off all of my work until Friday evening. Was that a bad choice? Probably. But working in a place that I’ve always traditionally considered to be a vacation spot just doesn’t feel right, if that makes sense. Obviously I will get to it at some point, but I have a lot of outdoor options that won’t leave me in contact with other people that made doing schoolwork seem like a bad use of my time. I think it would be easier for me to find the motivation to do my work if teachers were able to build in time for an optional lesson live stream, or something similar to that.
We got back and I swam in the ocean for a good thirty minutes before taking another nap on the beach. Everything I had was wiped down with disinfectant by my dad when he saw us and heard what we’d been doing- he absolutely did not want to catch COVID-19 under any circumstances. After the nap, it was dinnertime, and I ended up eating some asparagus and corn and a little bit of steak, though I wasn’t that hungry. It was probably around 9:00 by then, and I was tired. I threw myself into bed and passed out, completely unaware of the world around me. Man, beach bum life is hard. Too many naps, and I just become sleepy all of the time.
E-Learning, while allowing for a significantly more flexible learning schedule, is also keeping people from learning as they should. I’m definitely missing out on a lot of key concepts when learning from worksheets, and I miss seeing my teachers and fellow students every day. If I could, I’d leave all of this behind to go to school in a heartbeat. It just feels weird to be learning but not actually learning, you get me? Once spring break actually begins, I think I’ll feel a little less weird, but in the meantime it still throws me off. Family is great, but I can only spend so much time with them before I go crazy.
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