What if a pandemic closed schools 40 years ago?
I’ve had to quarantine a couple of times over the past 12 months. The first time was in the spring of 2020 when I had all kinds of COVID symptoms (as did my wife), but I couldn’t get a test to confirm it one way or the other because I didn’t look, you know, dead enough. We got charged hundreds of dollars to be told “never mind.”
The second time was when my wife had contact with a science-denier who went out as usual without a mask around a bunch of like-minded folks. Sure enough, the science-denier brought it to us — and probably many people at restaurants, grocery stores and business offices (because, you know, freedom and all) — and we had to spend at least two weeks at home.
While I was down and out and miserable for a few days, the rest of the time being “stuck” at home wasn’t so bad. I didn’t have to commute and yell things like “What does a yield sign mean on your planet?!” every day and saved a lot of money on gasoline. I also did not have to get out of bed as early, and the dress code is far more lenient at home, although I did often wear my formal pajama shorts.
I could handle not being at the office just fine. But it set me to wondering what it would have been like if a pandemic had forced us kids out of school back in the day — “the day” being way back last millennium, the 1970s and 1980s.
I was never a big fan of going to school — primary school, elementary, junior high, high school, college or the penitentiary’s continuing education classes. I got it honest. My dad claims that they were allowed to miss 20 days a semester, so he would miss 19. By the time I was in school, you could only miss 10 days a semester, so I’d miss nine. I reckon it ain’t had no effect on my learning.
I loved staying home from school and preferred to have “stomach aches” on beautiful sunny days. While other kids were studying useless things like math and history, I was riding my bike down to the creek, where I’d play the afternoon away.
But what if I had been ordered to stay home to slow the spread of a pandemic? Could I have handled it? I don’t know. I don’t like being told what to do — which is one of the reasons I didn’t like going to school.
With my relative absenteeism, I was still able to skirt by academically. But if I hadn’t been in school at all, that might have been a different story. We didn’t have online options back then. On line was where the clothes would dry on a breezy day. The closest thing we had to a computer was a Pong game that connected to the back of the boxy TV.
I’ve always been a bit of a loner, so I probably could have survived without the social interactions that school provides. And when I say I’m a bit of a loner, I mean like Grizzly Adams level, although I don’t know if I could have handled that bear being around me all the time.
“Geez, bear. Go spend some time with Yogi and Boo-Boo or Pooh. I need some me time.”
A few weeks ago, I spent a few hours with my 10-year-old nephew making sure that he was focusing on his online classes while his folks were away. He seemed to handle it fine, but I could hear the other kids speaking and reading. They sounded lonely. No matter how much the teacher tried to encourage them, they all sounded depressed.
Maybe that isolation would have caught up to me, too. I guess I’ll never be in their shoes to find out. My feet are too big.
Hopefully all kids will be back in real classrooms soon as vaccine distribution increases enough to offset the science-denying idiots who’ve contributed to the spread of the pandemic in the first place. And kids can then stay home only only on sunny days when they have a “stomach ache” — a life skill every child should master.
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