What did people do during lockdown?

Well, Gareth Wild completed a six-year labor of love, which was to park in every space in his local supermarket’s parking lot. Or–since he’s British–car park, which makes it sound like a place our cars go to play on the swings. It’s not. It’s a flat stretch of pavement marked out with yellow lines and it’s almost as much fun as it sounds like it is.

Gareth Wild is a man who lives up to his name. 

He went about this methodically, not just parking here and there but studying a satellite view of the car park. He made color-coded diagrams and spreadsheets.

Or possibly just one spreadsheet. I hope you’ll forgive me if I exaggerate. It’s the excitement of the thing. 

In a tweet, he explained his method: “Rather than walking around the car park counting each space and exposing myself as a lunatic, I used the overhead view to mark out a vector image to make it easier to identify each space.”

A vaguely relevant photo, since I’ve mentioned cars, and by extension driving. This is a traditional Cornish traffic jam: cows being moved from one field to another. They weren’t in any kind of a hurry.

The parking lot/car park has 211 spaces. I’m going to assume that doesn’t include the handicapped spaces or motorcycle spaces, which he couldn’t use. He’s got kids, so he could legitimately use the parent-and-child spots.

Don’t you learn wonderful things here? Hasn’t your world become richer and your brain stranger?

And what else did people do during lockdown, Grandma?

Other people used the various lockdowns to drink at home. In England and Wales, 2020 alcohol deaths hit a twenty-year high, climbing almost 20% higher than the year before. Blame the way the pandemic disrupted their work and social lives if you like. 

That doesn’t mean everyone ended their evenings shitfaced on the living room floor, but a substantial number of people did take to hazardous drinking at home. 

For what it’s worth, a similar thing seems to have happened during the bubonic plagues. Emphasis on seems, because no one was tracking the numbers. The evidence is anecdotal.

Although the government didn’t shut down the places where people gathered to drink completely, the authorities in 1665 London (by way of example, since it’s the only one I have) did give them a nasty look, calling them “the greatest occasion of dispersing the plague” and decreeing that they had to close by 9 pm.

That included coffee houses, reasonably enough. It wasn’t about people drinking but about gathering. At night. 

The plague worked the night shift. Before 9, everyone was safe enough.

That information about the plague is, I admit, hanging from a thin Covid hook, but it was the authors of the study who put it there. Presumably they decided that Covid sells. I’m only taking advantage of their opportunism and then blaming them.

*

In the U.S., some baffling number of people used lockdown to collect trading cards, which drove up the prices. Boxes of first-edition base set Pokemon cards (whatever that means) have sold for as much as $400,000. So speculators rush around to stores and buy up whole inventories–a deck might sell for a couple of dollars–then break up the sets and resell the more expensive cards online. They can go for a few hundred dollars.

What’s the connection to lockdown? People have too much time on their hands, maybe. And the people who don’t have too little money have too much. My best guess is that no one’s collecting the cards because they care about them. They’re collecting them to sell to people who are buying them because they think they’ll be worth more tomorrow. Or to put that a different way, everyone’s collecting them because other people are collecting them. 

Not that I actually know that. Maybe someone loves them enough to spend $400,000 on a set. We are a strange species, as I’ve said before–and I’m sure you wouldn’t have noticed it yourself if I hadn’t.

In an effort to make sure the U.S. lives up to its reputation as well armed and completely insane, a disagreement over trading cards in a Wisconsin store (a Target if you know the U.S. retail landscape) ended with a man pulling a gun on four other men in the parking lot. 

No shots were fired, no Pokemon characters were injured, and the guy with the gun had a permit, so it was all okay, but Target suspended sales of trading cards in stores, at least temporarily. They’ll still sell them online where it’s harder to shoot people.

*

In Britain, the proportion of people working from home more than doubled in 2020, but they’re still a minority of working people. About a quarter of people who work were working from home at some point in the week. 

Or more accurately, at some point in the week they answered the survey question. Compare that to 2019, when it was 12.4%. 

That was unevenly distributed. In London,that  was 46.4%, and in the most expensive suburbs it was 70%. If you wondered why Covid has landed hardest on people with the least money, you can start here. It’s not the only reason, but it’s door you can walk through to find the others.

 

And what happens when lockdown ends?

When lockdown ends, all the fun moves to the black market in fake test and vaccination certificates. Researchers found 1,200 sites selling them worldwide. By now, I’d bet on that number having gone up. If you’ve got £25 (or more) and an itch to pass yourself off as safe to be around, you can buy one. Police in Connecticut ended up with a whole box of fake vaccinations cards from an anti-vaxx rally. Whether someone was there to sell them to a likely crowd or was nobly giving them away I have no idea.

As for the fake test certificates, they’re showing up at borders, where people use them because they’re faster, cheaper, and more certain than genuine Covid tests. Unless you get caught.

*

Britain’s traffic-light system for labeling countries safe, risky, and Very Scary to visit has created the usual chaos

The environment secretary said people could travel to countries on the amber list. (If you speak American, that’s the yellow warning light.) Then the prime minister said people shouldn’t visit them unless they had pressing reasons. Then the Foreign Office said it was safe to visit 20 amber-list countries and it had published the list on its website, so there. 

That’s 20 out of how many countries are on the amber list? Lord Google tells me 170 countries are on the amber list. He also tells me the world contains 195 countries at the moment. And that 43 countries are on the red list and 12 on the green list.

Lord Google’s math is worse than mine. And I set a high standard. As does the U.K. government, but at least I’m not pretending to run a country.

50 thoughts on “What did people do during lockdown?

  1. Well, during the mandatory indoors lockdown I redecorated my gym, reinforced my crappy cheap squat stand with lumber and built my overhead press up to 170 pounds. Had my first son home from NICU. Did a lot of landscaping. Bitched about the gubmint like everyone else. I did not arm myself to go catch Pokemon in the generic Midwest, however. Although I did, during ticketed Hannaford runs, see unsettling numbers of armed hippies in the Ben & Jerries aisle.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sounds like you’ve put your time to good use, but entire aisles of Ben and Jerry’s? I’m living in the wrong place. I don’t think it has much resale value–it has a habit of melting; also of getting eaten–but I wouldn’t mind stocking and seeing how long it lasts.

      Liked by 1 person

        • …and I’ve gotten old enough that sweets don’t taste as good as they used to (and young people don’t speak as clearly, and we walked five miles to school through simultaneous sandstorms and blizzards), but I do have ecstatic recall of how good they used to taste and I’m sure still would if I could just sweep that aisle clean and sit in the middle of it with spoon in hand. And a cup of tea.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Maybe you should be running the country. You could hardly do a worse job of it than this shower. Although now I read that back it sounds a little insulting, so I apologise for that. But I’ll post it, anyway.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Oh, don’t worry about that, Mick. I’ve had worse things said to me–usually behind my back, but not always.

      I sometimes wonder about people who decide they could do a better job governing the country/state/whatever and leave Hollywood/the wrestling ring/wherever behind to run for office. And then they win. And I can’t help imagining them when the news comes in and they think, Oh, shit. Now what do I do?

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I feel sorry for the people who have wasted their time drinking and parking only to see on the news that Dads have made accurate replica stately home Wendy houses for their children and on line pilates studios for their wives – all in their tiny back gardens. I say dads because the mums were too busy home schooling.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Ellen, thanks for starting my day with a laugh. Not sure which topic you so brilliantly addressed. But, I have a visual of you sitting in the middle of the Ben & Jerry supermarket aisle, spoon in hand and eating ice cream. And the cow traffic jam photo is priceless. Leave it to you to stretch the car park to cows parking to eat. Your creative brain has no bounds or is it no boundaries? That’s just a play on words! The creative brain first part stands! Have a great middle of the week. 🌺🎶📚 Christine

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I had to work from home all through lockdown, and went for a long walk every day just to get out, so I didn’t have the time or energy to do much else, and felt vaguely guilty over all the stuff about people baking banana bread and clearing out every cupboard in the house. Had I had the time, I doubt I would have spent it driving round a supermarket car park, but, hey, each to their own!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Clearing out every cupboard in the house? Don’t scare me like that. I’m old. I could die on the spot from a fright like that. And then everybody’d know that cupboards haven’t been cleaned since the Civil Wars (ours or yours, take your pick)–and the house wasn’t built until the 1970s, so I’m not sure where this all leads except eventually to the end of the sentence.

      Liked by 1 person

        • You remind me of a memoir I read by a German woman who was a child during the war. One of her grandmothers was like that–never threw out anything. During the collapse at the end of the war, she came into her own and (at least as I remember it–I read it a long time ago) suddenly seemed immensely wise.

          In the in-between times, however, yes, I’m with you.

          Liked by 1 person

  6. i WAS ALREADY RETIRED AND OUT OF A PART-TIME JOB SO STAYING HOME AND READING WAS NOT THATMUCH OF A CHANGE (please pardon the caps lock).

    I could identify with the cow picture. In my days as a local reporter I was the only one who would venture out miles away to one of the county high schools to cover their sports.. It only took once to encounter Lawrence Walkden’s cows crossing State Route 301 to be milked to get me to reset my drive time plans. Luckily I got habituated before it got dark early and I came over the hill into Holsteins.

    I should have been cleaning cupboards. but since no used book stores or Good Will /Salvation Army posts were taking donations that seemed counterproductive.
    And since even a wine cooler now makes me dizzy I couldn’t drink either.
    Hope the UJ ordeal is slowing down as ours is – so far.

    Liked by 1 person

    • We cleared out some books (not all of them ours, but never mind that) and some clothes that my partner can’t wear anymore (want to lose weight? a gall bladder attack’s an amazing diet plan), and they’re all over my study. Which isn’t large to start with. They’ve become invisible by now. Talk about habituated.

      We aren’t as good at predicting cow and sheep jams, so if we really need to be someplace on time, we just have to leave early and hope the beasts aren’t too slow.

      Like

  7. “Rather than walking around the car park counting each space and exposing myself as a lunatic…” I hope that’s Gareth Wild demonstrating our wonderful British sense of humour, but I suspect not.

    As for the fake vaccination certificates, it was only a matter of time. At the start of the pandemic, I had a naive view on those sunflower lanyards worn by those who had a medical condition & so couldn’t wear masks, believing that you had to apply through proper channels. Until Lawrence Fox blithely announced how he’d a pack on Amazon. Sigh.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I didn’t know about the lanyards, but I do agree about the certificates. I found myself wondering how any border officials recognize fake ones.

      I expect the quote is humor. It made me laugh, anyway. I hope I was laughing with him.

      Like

  8. It appears that here on BC and probably the whole of Canada, that lumber/timber/bits of milled wood, has become the new toilet paper. Yes, people are now hoarding bits of wood! :D … probably because of all those DIY ‘home improvement’ projects that have been going on for the last year now, and the timber industry in general slowing down.

    Liked by 1 person

    • There’s just no predicting people, is there? One paper here did a follow-up on people who hoarded toilet paper, asking how that worked out. None of the answers were particularly memorable–I think one guy said, well, I still haven’t had to buy any and someone else still couldn’t get into the storage room–but it was a funny idea for an article since the country never did really run out.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I read that the current big sellers are teeth whiteners. It was also reported that deodorant and toothpaste sales are up. Apparently people are serious about going back out in public

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Widddershins is right–the price of wood here is insane. First it was toilet paper, then gym equipment, now lumber. People are lunatics, although not Mr. Wild, who sounds like something out of Monty Python.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Gym equipment? How much can a person hoard it? Who has the space–never mind the time to use it? Mr. Wild at least is just quietly obsessive about something harmless–and I’m convinced he has a sense of humor about it, although I can’t prove that. But–

      Oh, never mind. People are lunatics. You’re right. We’ll leave it there.

      Liked by 1 person

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