By Dom Cioffi
When we look back on the “Great Pandemic of the 2020s,” we’ll undoubtedly remember it as a two-year halt to normality. There’s no doubt that things got weird on multiple fronts once Covid-19 entered the picture. From politics to religion to healthcare to education to sports, it seems like every facet of society went through its own unique disruption.
I look back on the pandemic with some disdain. Sure, I enjoyed the working from home angle, and I did have a strange appreciation for driving on barren roadways, but I also suffered from a lack of human interaction, something I would have never expected had you told me it could happen.
I’ve always enjoyed spending time alone. Most of my interests — like running, playing guitar, and writing — are singular activities that require no other participants. I was always ok with this because I got all the social interaction I needed at my job via the office environment.
Prior to the pandemic, I worked for a company in a small office building that housed 25-plus people at any given time. It was an eclectic mix of professionals who got along swimmingly. I always enjoyed the banter with my coworkers, with each day being filled with a bevy of laughs and frivolity.
But after a couple months of lockdowns and working from home full-time, I started to feel the absence of those human connections. It was subtle at first, almost negligible. But as the weeks passed, the feelings of discomfort increased.
I combated this uneasiness by increasing the mileage of my runs and the hours I put into playing guitar. I also journaled more and watched more movies. But none of that helped because it was just an increase in my time spent alone. Once the first year of the pandemic was over, I fully realized that the lack of human connections was causing me some low-level anxiety. That’s when I started going back into the office once a week. I found a few other likeminded coworkers who were also struggling, but for the most part, everyone was staying home.
Now that the pandemic is over, my company has made the decision to maintain the working from home option, which most people have opted for. However, as much as I like sleeping in and not having to commute, I still plan to head back to the office at least once a week just to maintain some sanity — either that or I’m going to have to find a new post-pandemic hobby that involves other humans.
My wife did not have the same issues during the pandemic. She is much more of a social butterfly and maintained a lot of connections while Covid reigned. She also picked up one of the more successful covid hobbies that I’ve heard about.
Early in the pandemic, my wife had an uncanny sense that things were not going back to normal anytime soon. She scoffed at the “two weeks to slow the spread” statement that was circling. Because of this, she decided she was going to use the cooped-up time to learn how to bake and decorate cakes.
She created her first cake at the start of the lockdowns. It was a basic birthday cake that looked like it came from a grocery store bakery. It tasted great and looked acceptable. Visually, I would have rated it a solid 6 out of 10; she would have agreed.
But then something strange happened. She became obsessed with making professional looking cakes. Every day the Amazon truck would show up with new baking gadgets and decorative accoutrements. She spent hours fine-tuning her baking style and icing recipes.
I realize I’m talking about my wife so I’m naturally going to refrain from too much praise, but when I tell you that her cakes went next-level, I’m not kidding. Visually, they are stunning pieces of art. She usually picks a theme — like a holiday or an event — and builds the cake around that idea. The coloring is always precise, and the decorative elements never detract.
She is now known in her circle of friends as “The Cake Lady,” with her confections being in constant demand. Appropriately, I have taken pictures of every one of her creations, which now number just shy of 50 (there’s been many more, but they got dumped when they didn’t meet her expectations).
Speaking of expectations, I had few when I started watching this week’s feature, “Metal Lords,” an amusing little film about three high school outcasts who decide to form a heavy metal band so the other students will accept them.
I watched this film during a recent flight just to pass the time and was pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed its coming-of-age story. You may not think that heavy metal can be redemptive, but this movie proves that idea wrong.
Give this one a shot if you love music (especially metal). It’s not going to win any awards, but it will provide you with a fun little escape.
A head-thumping “B-” for Metal Lords, available for streaming on Netflix.
Got a question or comment for Dom? Email him at [email protected]