Mar 23, 2020

12 Tips to Help You Survive Self-Isolation

The crisis is real. Read this, then wash your hands (of me)

By Ed Goldman

As someone who’s been in self-isolation since 1984, though I always called it working at home, I thought I’d provide 12 tips on things you can do to make your next 137 weeks of quarantine, or whatever duration the CDC is calling for, both productive and even enjoyable.

1. Sleep as late as you can. I realize this isn’t easy if you have kids to (not) get off to school and who are constitutionally incapable of pouring their own bowls of cereal—or, in my case, a cat that begins screaming for breakfast at 7 a.m., regardless of how late we were up the night before (to be fair, he really can’t prepare his own breakfast unless the next crisis will consist of a mouse convention in my living room).

2. Get up really early. Think of how many years you got up early to go to your job and didn’t really have a chance to notice the sly play of morning light reflected off the back fenders of the idiot damn drivers in front of you braking every four feet. Set your clock for five a.m. Grab some coffee and walk into your backyard. Try not to worry about the overgrown weeds and drooping trees because your gardener told you last week he’d be “sheltering in place—just not your place.” Breathe in deeply, belt out a few bars of “Oh What a Beautiful Morning” from “Oklahoma,” exhale loudly, then, for God’s sake, go back to bed. Your singing is waking us up. 

3. Don’t go to sleep at all. Why bother? You’re not tired. You haven’t done anything all day except eat, watch CSI reruns and pray for a 2-ply Charmin storm to hit the region. If you get exhausted, just lie down wherever you are and pop off to Dreamland. This is called Napping In Place. 

4. Create your own jigsaw puzzle. This is much easier than it sounds, as long as once you cut a dreary seascape painting into 100 pieces, you don’t have the slightest desire to take all the pieces and reassemble the thing. Why bother? It’ll be the same dreary seascape painting, now with segments curling up at the edges where you didn’t evenly apply the rubber cement.   

5. Add on a room. This may prove daunting if you live in an apartment, mobile home or a condo whose homeowners association has rather inflexible Covenants, Conditions & Restrictions (CC&Rs) but you can get around all of this by simply putting up partitions, the kind they have at most government offices to create that congenial environment its employees always recall fondly once they retire.

6. Alphabetize your underpants. This will require you to first give names to each pair (you simply can’t alphabetize BVD over and over) and that can be a fun family project which all but guarantees that when this crisis passes, you’ll become a peppy empty-nester, even if your children are only in grade school at present.

7. Learn a new language. For President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden, this would be English.

8. Cancel meetings that have already been canceled by others just to show you’re your own person. This is a little like yelling, “Okay, then, I quit!” as an armed security officer is helping you carry boxes to your car. 

9. Print your own 3-D toilet tissue. The challenges are: (a) you need at least one roll from which to create a template and the last time I ventured out to buy any, the shelves were empty and the perimeter of the store’s parking lot was being guarded by either armed zombies or a reunion of the supporting cast from “Duck Dynasty”; and (b) copy paper, from which you’ll fashion your 3-D rolls, isn’t exactly celebrated for its non-abrasive qualities. To recap, things may be rough for a while.

10. In the meantime, just to be safe, avoid eating bran and frijoles. 

11. Recharge your phone every 45 minutes. On that same note, you might wish to reboot your computer every two hours and read a book about obsessive-compulsive personality traits. Once you do the latter, you’ll certainly want to buy every book imaginable on the subject and read them at the same time every day in the same chair with the reading lamp adjusted just so.

12. Have a heart-to-heart talk with yourself about “social distancing” and why it’s not a stretch for you since you’ve been doing this with your spouse, partner and co-workers for years, even without being urged to by the government. Don’t be hard on yourself if you’ve also been this way with whole-life salespeople, however. Cut yourself some slack. I mean, we’re in a crisis.

Ed Goldman's column appears almost every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A former daily columnist for the Sacramento Business Journal, as well as monthly columnist for Sacramento Magazine and Comstock’s Business Magazine, he’s the author of five books, two plays and one musical (so far).