Journal Entry February 27, 2022: The oddness of our existence continues. Last week, because of scheduled school cancellation early in the week, Sue taught in person only one day, on Thursday, instead of twice. This week, because of a fierce ice storm, her Tuesday in-person teaching was called off again. Luckily, we learned of it a dozen minutes into our commute, in time to head safely back home before traffic got heavy. She'd again tutor in-person only on Thursday. Yesterday, at sunrise, the sun shown directly into our study window for the first time this year, a sure sign that we are headed for spring, and today we woke early to the sound of plows attacking the five or six inches of snow that fell overnight.
On those in-person teaching days in the past, I'd drop Sue off at the school and head for a coffee shop to while away the time before the local library opened. In this fiercer pandemic time, I avoid the coffee shop and visit our daughter's home for an hour or two. Often our daughter has already gone to work and her husband takes the kids off to school and then goes into his office. Yesterday, when I sat down on a couch near windows overlooking their back yard, I opened my briefcase and realized I'd forgotten to pack my laptop. The cord was there and a yellow pad and a small empty notebook and my journal, some pens, a second pair of eyeglasses, but no computer. The radio was on, and I sat there listening for at least an hour and a half to NPR reports about Russia's invasion of Ukraine and commentator speculation about the consequences. Then I packed up and went to the library.
After two years of pandemic, accelerated climate change, the threat of Republicans returning to power, and dangerously repressive Supreme Court decisions, a major war suggested the nearness of an apocalypse that we don't want to believe in. So, I am content to be in a very quiet space in the library, with only hints of snow flurries beyond the windows to connect me to the outside world. It was good to get away from hearing reports about yet another world crisis, but then I remembered a blog draft I started about how out of touch with the world I have been throughout my life.
That draft was on my laptop. My laptop was probably at home on my desk. Its cord was in my workbag on the library table. I could've driven back to Waukesha to fetch it but decided not to, though I wouldn't pick up Sue for another five hours—I drop her off at 7:00, pick her up at 2:30 or 3:00. In total that's an eight-hour day, six of them for me in the library. I looked at my cellphone to make sure I had no email I had to take personally—I didn't; I usually don't—but then turned it off to save the battery so we could contact each other later.
That meant I'd have no touch with my Facebook page or CNN, NPR, or BBC news or any of the links to the outside world my laptop usually provides. I'd see no ads, no commercials, no images of people's cats or dogs or backyard birds, no updated profile pictures or selfies, no shared articles or blog posts on political or cultural matters, no videos of gymnastic events or Olympic events or excerpts from ballets or operas or Broadway musicals or dramas or comedy skits, no beloved or respected quotes from literary works or psychological advice columns or philosophical pronouncements or health reports, no invitations to join or donate or celebrate, no chances to send birthday greetings or family loss commiserations or acknowledgements of all kinds of anniversaries, no notices of spam mail or blocked efforts to hack my computer. (There's no one near me in the library—no likelihood of my journal, in which I'm composing this, being hacked.)
It also meant I couldn't review any log entries or journal entries or rough drafts I composed on my computer. I could only review handwritten entries in my journal. What I wrote last time, on February 8, interested me but I wasn't sure it provoked anything on my laptop or not. I wondered if I should print everything I compose on the computer but then, I couldn't trust myself to bring a mass of printouts—or at least certain pertinent ones—with me when I left the house on a day like today.
So, this all brings me around to a persistent question that seems to arise with increasing frequency. What do you do when you have nothing to do other than write about having nothing to do?