In 1993, my mom, my two younger sisters, and 16-year-old me ventured to a movie theater in Gaithersburg, Maryland. My mom had some odd desire to see “Jack the Bear,” a movie starring Danny DeVito. My sisters and I, having recently seen “Groundhog Day” with our father the weekend prior (our parents were divorced), had a different idea.
We allowed mom to purchase four tickets for the DeVito film playing in Theater Three, but we sufficiently distracted her with pleasantries until we were safely within the confines of Theater Six, where “Groundhog Day” was playing. We were amused with ourselves, the conspiracy almost complete.
By the opening credits, mom realized what we had done. However, majority rules, so she watched the film and enjoyed it immensely, as poor Bill Murray was forced to repeat the same day over and over until he got it right.
Fast forward twenty-seven years, and here we are: actually living a warped and distorted version of Groundhog Day. Murray was repeating the same day because he was a sarcastic jerk, living his own form of purgatory. We aren’t reliving the same day due to the Coronavirus pandemic. It just feels like we are.
Having a wife and two kids of my own, living the same day over and over again has been an interesting social experiment. As Murray’s character said in the film, “Well, what if there is no tomorrow? There wasn’t one today.”
The kids are doing schoolwork online – one doing so eagerly, the other begrudgingly. My wife and I are doing full-time telework: one doing so eagerly, the other begrudgingly. Zoom and Facetime calls are rampant reminders of a new routine and of an old life put on indefinite hold. My son, 12, socially distances himself with his buddies on his Xbox. My daughter, almost 15, takes long runs in preparation for rejoining her high school track team one day. Despite this, we still see them more than we used to.
Simple things are a treat these days. In my old life, the idea of making my own coffee in the morning was abhorrent. Now, I do so each day – with the exception of Sunday, when I venture over to Starbucks with a smile on my face (that no one sees because of the face mask I’m required to wear). I have to admit, home-brewed coffee isn’t the worst.
On the rare occasion that I do find myself in the grocery store, I take my items off the shelf like I’m a Navy Seal on a dangerous mission to a hostile nation to retrieve the frozen pancakes and bananas they stole.
I haven’t worn pants that require buttoning and zipping in well over a month and I can’t tell you the last time I put gasoline in my car. It was sometime between the national gas shortage of 1973 and February of this year.
It feels good to have a legitimate excuse for purposely avoiding people while out on walks. Before the pandemic, I had stealthily tried to do that for years in order to avoid chit-chat. When I was caught doing so, it made for an awkward situation. Now, when a neighbor sees me do it, they say “Thanks.”
I haven’t touched my face in forever and, not to brag, but I’ve been washing my hands for years. I never needed a global pandemic to remind me of the importance of hand hygiene.
We hope things get back to normal, perhaps even in time for the concerts we were lined up to see later this summer. Though it’s unlikely that we will resume normal operations in the near future – if ever – we feel as if we are doing our part to help the community. We have our health and we are spending time with each other when we otherwise wouldn’t be. So, it may not be the life we’re used to but, hopefully, abiding by these new rules will allow us to get back to that life at some point.
Mom passed away in 2009 and I still haven’t seen “Jack the Bear.” Maybe I’ll gather the family around this evening and tell them that mom always wanted to watch it, but I’ll put on “Groundhog Day” instead.