Genius in the Time of COVID-19

So far, my favorite part of quarantine is the true genius emerging across our population. Like, who knew that so many of us were actually such experts on a broad spectrum of topics. It is encouraging to see that, while once signs pointed toward a “dumbing down of society,” in truth, we’re all bright, brilliant and in touch with our own expertise.

For example, after weeks of socially distancing, I’ve tackled many of the self-care needs I may have ordinarily outsourced. I’ve taken that pedicure tool with the cheese grater side and the file side, and the pumice stone and the brush, and positive that I’m using each part of the tool exactly as it’s intended to be used, I give myself pedicures. This simple task instills a measure of confidence, and upon realizing my true beautician abilities, I almost considered it when my husband suggested I give him an at-home haircut the other day.

Having always been a novice baker and happy to stay that way to maintain a sense of passing pleasant time, I’ve been overwhelmed to find my feeds and inboxes full of baking tips. I have friends in the city who have never even turned on their ovens. Now they’re telling me how to create a sourdough starter, because… did you know ovens bake bread?! I can tell who actually reads my column and who doesn’t by the suggestions I’ve gotten to try Food & Wine recipes that turn out just absolutely divine. These new rising culinary stars, in the age of stocking up toilet paper and potatoes, have taken the time to find saffron and Grains of Paradise.

Suddenly, everyone I know also knows how to sew. Or tie-dye. Or whittle wood into usable (depending on your definition) utensils. People are building backyard equivalents to the English royal gardens when I previously hadn’t known them to even keep a houseplant. Apparently, everyone else also has mad time management skills, because suddenly the hobbies abound, with multitudes of hours to execute expertly. Meanwhile, ask me to schedule a Zoom happy hour at 5 pm next Tuesday, and I will have a full-on meltdown trying to remember how anyone manages to make any sort of plan outside of basic survival.

While there would be some truth in saying that “all parents are teachers now,” I can hardly jest about this appearance of loudmouthed genius. Yes, we parents are taking over some of the educating responsibilities that would ordinarily fall on the shoulders of the teachers. However, as a former homeschooler and now quarantine homeschooler, I will be the first to admit where my intelligence on the subject falls below that of any dedicated teacher. I can execute the lesson plans that my daughter’s first grade teacher sends us—checklists that have so obviously been painstakingly considered, planned for, reevaluated and shared with enthusiasm and care. But never mind all that when Mrs. So-and-So is going to explain to you why these are unnecessary steps in your child’s continued education. Better to listen to the freshly cultivated opinion of one mom on Distance Learning Week Six than to trust the guidance of a professional educator.

Which leads me to the true realm of genius these days: health care. Worried about your health? Fear not! Every single person around you from your grandmother to the neighbor you literally never talked to before they started shouting at you from your driveway on their daily morning walk is now a medical expert! From how the virus started to how it got here, from how to tell if you have it to what to do to not get it, these know-it-alls have got you covered. You know what? You don’t even have to bother asking their advice! They’re going to give it to you!

These infectious disease savants, I’ve discovered, also boast knowledge liminal to COVID-19 and other topics only related in the sense that it was an easy segue from saying “Corona!” to whatever comes out of their mouths next. Perhaps they’ll tell you why your homemade mask is worthless and their method is awaiting patent from the WHO. Maybe they’ll explain why, of all things, people are right to protest nail salon closures! Generally, these are the experts who have decided that it’s not necessary to maintain a distance of even 3 feet from your front door, but they’re hoarding N95 masks for the car trip to wait in line at the grocery store for someone else to put their groceries in their trunk.

At a time when information seems so scarce and confusing, let us do our part to honor all of these unsung geniuses, who, in the time of our plague, have modestly taken it upon themselves to finally share their good knowledge with all the rest of us. To them, we owe our quarantine survival; if by survival, you rightly assume I mean something to talk about during that Zoom happy hour I finally scheduled.