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.