COLUMN: For Generation X, COVID-19 isolation just something to grin and bear

Segment of society has been training for this our whole lives

Who’d have guessed that while we ’70s (and ’80s) kids sat planted in front of our television sets all those evenings waiting for the latest episode of the Wonderful World of Disney or the Muppet Show to come on – that we were, in actual fact, training for our part in the greatest global challenge that will (likely) come along in our lifetime.

Over the past few months, there have been countless tweets and Facebook posts about how the COVID-19 lockdown was Gen X’s time to shine.

These are jokes, of course, but like all witticisms, they’re built around a solid grain of truth.

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We are, as it’s been pointed out, a tough crowd to bore – but it actually makes a lot of sense, if you think about it. Many of us born between the mid-60s and 1980 were “latchkey kids.” We were the first generation of children who were as likely as not to see our parents divorce. Often that meant mom went to work and we came home from school to be left to our own devices in an empty house.

Our out-of-school hours weren’t chockablock with clubs and classes and play-dates. So it’s no wonder if we were well-equipped to deal with the isolation of phase 1.

Back then, between soaps and talk shows, daytime TV offered little to hold a kid’s attention, but luckily, we had bikes and books to carry us off on our respective journeys, whether real or imaginary. And, of course, we had music and video games to help fill our hours on inside days.

Boredom is nothing new and certainly not something to be feared. It’s also much harder to come by than it was back then, thanks to an endless stream of content available online and hundreds of cable channels, catering to every interest imaginable. That doesn’t include the multitude of streaming services that have sprung into existence in recent years.

And, of course, there are still books, bikes, music and video games.

So what’s with this headlong rush to get back to doing absolutely everything immediately?

Since restaurants began to re-open some of my friends have flitted from patio to patio like hummingbirds jacked up on caffeine, posting grinning selfies along the way. Meanwhile, I’m approaching phase 3 more like a bear emerging from hibernation – slow and a little disoriented, but still, obviously, on the hunt for food.

Living in the most densely-populated area of the province puts us at a bit more of a risk than others, but it doesn’t mean we have to cram in, cheek-by-jowl, at all the same places. We’ve been invited to get to know the rest of our province a bit better this summer, and there’s plenty of nature to explore at a safe social distance in B.C. – that is, as long as you’ve already booked your campsite or ferry passage. If not, you may be out of luck.

I blame the practice of first-come, first-served for most of the frustrations we’ve endured these past months.

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From the initial race in March to be the first in line to buy all the toilet paper, yeast and Clorox wipes, to now booking up tee times and hair appointments weeks or months in advance. Unless you’re first out of the blocks, there’s a good chance you’ll miss out.

Luckily, the whole concept of FOMO (fear of missing out) is as foreign to many Xers as the notion of being entertained every waking hour of the day.

We’ll get out there – eventually.

Of course, it’s important to continue supporting local businesses, and the vast majority have processes in place to ensure the safety of staff and patrons alike.

But when it comes to dining, I think I’ll keep carting my meals home to the den a little while longer.

Besides, with all those hummingbirds at the feeder, I’m guessing there’s very little space on the patio right now for a clumsy bear.

Brenda Anderson is editor of the Peace Arch News. For more news from Vancouver Island and beyond delivered daily into your inbox, please click here.

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