That Familiar Feeling

A SARS-CoV-19 Post

As I write this, we are well into our third month of a pretty comprehensive “social distancing” practice. Work from home unless necessary. Social life dependent on technology. No dining out. Avoiding bars. Exercise is one of the few reasons to get out. In short, we stay close to the house.

I feel like I’ve adapted fairly well to this routine. We went from hanging out at breweries, dining with friends, and meeting our various social groups to 100% none of that in the space of a few days, and since then, it’s been a matter of “get work done, then find a way to relax.” I’m ashamed to say that it took me three months to figure this out, but I’ve been here before. I know how to handle this, and if you’ve been in the military, you know too: we’re living the social life of a deployment.

Doesn’t have to be a deployment. This would feel familiar to anyone who recalls being a recent boot camp or combat training graduate. You’re socially limited, there’s no where to go and nothing to do but work and try to stay sane.

My primary experiences with this sort of social isolation happened on ships and in Afghanistan while deployed. As an aircraft mechanic, my duties were to work. We flew constantly, so we worked all the time. Once done on duty, what’s to do? We were pretty limited, as you might expect. You can try to work out, but finding motivation is difficult. You can’t just go get food, the chow hall has to be open. Maybe you’ve got a good stock of supplies you can tuck into, but you probably weren’t fully prepared. Toilet paper can be a scarce resource, depending on your proximity to an Underway Replenishment. You’ll find that you’re stuck in a fairly small place with people you (hopefully) care for.

Given that my experiences were back in the mid-naughties, I can’t say what current methods of outside communication look like, but back in the day it was emails and phone calls. Heavily device dependent, and dog help you if it’s River City when you’re trying to get your socializing in, that’d be like everyone in the neighborhood hitting the network with multiple streams to every house at the same time.

Does this sound familiar to your life right now? If so, welcome to a small taste of what military life can be like.

Would you like another taste? I’ve got one for you:

Masks. They’re just uniform items. For whatever reason, no matter if you agree with it, you need to wear it. We had weird rules on what to wear, when to wear it, and how to act while wearing it all the time. It permeated daily life. If you took a look at things out of context, a person living a non-military life would probably have many questions on the subject. People living the life often had the same questions, but they learned the important lesson:
Understand or not, agree or not, it was in your (and everyone nearby’s) best interest to gear up properly. In the Marines, punishment, like a virus, can spread pretty easily to those nearby, and not everyone appreciates catching your shit.

We can do a little work to tie this all together in a nice civic duty bow. Those who serve in the military subject themselves to these inconveniences (and innumerable more) with a sense of duty to their fellow Americans. The same could be said for staying home, maintaining distance and wearing a mask. You don’t have like it, but you could find a way to frame it as your duty to help those around you.

Don’t worry about what what the country is doing for you, worry about what you can do for your neighbor, your friends, your family.

Stay safe, stay smart.

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