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Oof. That last year was rough.

So, I basically didn’t have a birthday last year. Not that I’m so obsessed with having something like cake or presents or anything like that; or even celebrating really, but it was weird. The Pandemic wasn’t a concern until it was, and it hit hard and fast, and by the 14th there wasn’t anything open and everybody was social distancing.

There’s no real point where I could say, “Uh oh, this thing is serious.” I vaguely recall being somewhere back in December 2019 hearing about COVID hitting China and thinking nothing of it. I remember SARS well enough, and a rumor of disease wasn’t enough to make me-- or anybody else-- nervous.

By March, however…

I work at a small family run meat market in an affluent part of Albuquerque. The prices are a bit high, because the people in the area are rich, and a lot of them subscribe to some weird combination of liberal “I care way too much about what I’m eating, OMG GMOs” and conservative, “We’re rich and fuck anybody who isn’t.” It’s an excruciating combination exacerbated by the owner’s desire to bend over backwards for any customer’s whims no matter how absurd or impossible.

When the pandemic hit--

Wait, so, there’s this game called Pathologic. It came out in 2005, or there abouts. The game features a town in the middle of a plague and is notable for its super difficult mechanics. One of the aspects of the game and its pseudo-remakePathologic 2 is that once the plague comes, the price of items in the in-game shop shoot up to astronomical levels.

So, I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised.

-- When the pandemic hit, we were swamped. Our busiest time of year is Thanksgiving and Christmas, where we’ll be packed with people wall-to-wall. Thanksgiving isn’t too bad, because most people aren’t suffering from holiday burnout. Christmas is bad because the customers are sick of the holidays and get mean. Thanksgiving is always on a Thursday, so the progression of days is fairly predictable. We take orders all month, mostly for turkeys, and we’re busy with non-stop customers from Monday to Wednesday. Christmas’s day varies, so the amount of time we’re busy also varies, but generally you have a three day crunch.

The pandemic was like Thanksgiving and Christmas everyday for three months. We never ran out of meat, but it was a close thing. The prices kept jumping up and down on anything that wasn’t strictly grass-fed. (US beef standards for Choice usually have the cows fed grass up until the last 90 days, when they’ll be switched over to grain or sillage.) Things like buffalo and lamb maintained their prices pretty well because they don’t eat grain, but because of grain shortages, the regular beef would jump two dollars or more, sometimes twice a day, and then crash at the end of the week. The demand for ground beef was so great that meat which would normally be used for steaks was getting ground causing the ground beef prices to skyrocket. At one point it was cheaper to buy ribeyes than get hamburger. A grocery chain might have been able to manage these prices and keep them steady, but a family-owned business that operates their own farms? Not at all.

The high prices didn’t deter anybody, though. We were slammed morning to night, and had to put people on a three day waiting list for freezer orders.

I don’t want to do anything like that again. Three months of that shit.

To add to this, I am basically an extrovert by nature with short periods of introversion. I’m not depressive by nature either, with my default being somewhat happy, but not overly so. That is to say, my “mood baseline” is basically happy. I do like to be alone, but it’s draining, and if I don’t interact with friends, I start to feel unwell. Customers and coworkers don’t count.

Not seeing any friends for an extended period of time causes me to do weird things like not responding to messages in a timely fashion, and sit in bed all day and zone out. It’s not healthy and if I didn’t know any better, I’d say it was a sign of depression.

On the plus side, the Pandemic is making me rich. I’m not out of work, so those stimulus checks go directly in a savings account. Oh boy. A millennial with money. Still can’t buy a house or do any of those other things people say a successful adult of 36 ought to be able to do, but whatever. We take it one day at a time, and I’ve still got plenty of stories in my head to write, and as long as they get written, that’s success in itself. And people seem to think I’m okay at this writing stuff, so that’s going well too.

I don’t want a repeat of this last year, but it was an interesting year. Perhaps the most interesting year of my life. Also the most stressful. And the most boring. And the most frustrating. And the most...