An extrovert’s life in the time of COVID-19

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I was sitting in the waiting room of a doctor’s office on Thursday, March 19 when I got the news that Walker County had its first confirmed case of the coronavirus.  Not too long after that, I received word that I actually knew the person who had the first confirmed case.

Over the next several days, Walker County cases slowly climbed. At one point, I knew five people out of the first 10 cases, with one of them being one of my closest friends.

When health officials started talking about staying at home, being in quarantine and all things like that, I knew I wasn’t ready emotionally for this type of crisis. If you’ve ever met me at all, it probably wasn’t too hard to come to the conclusion that I am an extrovert. If you haven’t met me, let me just assure you that I am an extrovert with a capital “E.”

Before COVID-19 hit, my days were usually filled meetings, people coming by the office or me attending various functions around Walker County. My nights were typically filled with similar social function for the newspaper or sporting activities with my children. It would be difficult to point to a day on the calendar and say that I didn’t have something planned.

I’m glad I had some fun the two weeks before the coronavirus really hit our area. Old 64 Barber Shop put on a great brewery crawl at Twisted Barley and Tallulah brewing companies the weekend of my birthday, and then my New Era Wrestling organization celebrated its second anniversary with our biggest show ever on March 14. Since that time, the most fun I have in public is deciding if I want name brand ketchup or not.

If I didn’t have the DME office to come to every day, I think I would lose my mind. I love being home with the family, but five kids will get on your nerves after a while. I try to invite Andrea to lunch almost every day just to get her a break from the children.

There has been so much going through my mind during this entire pandemic, I think I need to do like DME News Editor Ed Howell and clean out my (mental) notebook, but I will promise not to share nearly as much as my pal Ed does.

Jack Torrance has become the most relatable character to me in the history of fiction. “Spend some time with your family,” they say. I know exactly what he means when he says “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” 

What’s wrong with all you Walmart people? I understand the need to get out, and I understand the need to purchase supplies, but you couldn’t pay me to go inside a Walmart during this outbreak. It would be difficult for me to accept payment to go into a Walmart at any time, but no way during this. And the parking lot looks everyday like it is Black Friday. I know a few people working at local Walmart stores, and I have seen them post about entire families coming into the store, many with small children with no shoes on and playing in the floor. One person even spotted a kid licking the floor. I just now had a shiver go down my spine only thinking about walking into a Walmart. I don’t think I could pull into the parking lot without taking some kind of anxiety medicine.

Sports are a needed thing. I’ve been a sports fan my entire life. There’s no sports right now. Period. I saw a meme the other day that said, “Remember when you made fun of me for being a pro wrestling fan. Now it is the only sport!” I’ll even admit that it is pretty boring without an audience. I’m hooked on “The Last Dance,” which is an ESPN documentary on the Chicago Bulls dynasty. Michael Jordan was one of my heroes growing up, so this has really taken me back. The pandemic also took away spring high school sports. I miss seeing my son Stone at goalkeeper for the JHS soccer team. I love to see him knock some poor kid head over heels after he tried to come into the keeper box. My oldest daughter Breeze is even more aggressive than Stone. Some of her own teammates would cringe when she would come running at them in practice. And my 12-year-old daughter Daisy doesn’t have that mean streak, but she made the team as a 7th grader and looked super cute in her uniform.

Speaking of memes, that has become my greatest form of entertainment. I probably have 300 memes saved on my phone now. I need to delete them, but I see something funny and save it. Then I show it to Andrea or send it to friends who I think it matches their personality. An extrovert could never have survived this pandemic without a cell phone and social media.

Seriously, I have much to be thankful about. My family is safe and healthy. I have a job with a great team at the DME. I get to go to work, eat great food from our local restaurants and sit around the house binge-watching Netflix. It is tough not being as social as normal, but I am in touch with friends via the phone daily, and I think the DME and some other groups around town may join together to throw a party like Jasper has never seen once we are back to some sort of normal around here. Thanks for listening to me ramble. It still wasn’t as long as one of Ed’s columns.

James Phillips is editor and publisher of the Daily Mountain Eagle. He may be reached at 205-221-2840 or james.phillips@mountaineagle.com.