Lockdown Learning

In my survey of various social media feeds, it appears most of you began baking

By Kellyn Brown

This might not be the most important thing to talk about during a pandemic, but I’ve been interested in studying how people now spend those hours in the day that were once spent socializing. Or shopping. Or going to work. Or any myriad activities we can no longer do.

In my survey of various social media feeds, it appears most of you began baking. Sourdough bread looks like a popular choice. So do bagels. Americans are baking at such a high rate that some bread-making machines have sold out. It’s also hard to find dry yeast, for which sales have increased 410% from the same time last year, according to market research firm Nielsen.

I’m not baking, although I do enjoy an artisan loaf as much as anyone else.

Instead, I arrive to and leave work at roughly the same time Monday through Friday. The only difference is the office is empty, with about 90 percent of the staff at the Beacon working remotely. I still wear a button-down shirt out of habit, even if I don’t interact with anyone other than a couple colleagues. With my unkempt hair and five-week beard, that’s probably a good thing.

What have changed are those other habits. Heading to the gym at noon has been replaced with running around the neighborhood in the morning. Seeing friends and family in person has been replaced with talking to them on a shaky screen. And watching live sports has been replaced with watching old sports.

That last one has become a point of contention.

While streaming a 1996 playoff matchup between the Chicago Bulls and Orlando Magic, my girlfriend asked: “Don’t you already know how this ends?” I did. And since I was already on edge because of the quarantine, I responded with a dissertation on how she knows the ending to every British-themed film and rom-com that she has watched a million times, but that doesn’t dampen the joy she feels when she re-watches them. It went over about as well as you would expect.

Yes, I know, this is not important in the scheme of things. But having sports on while I cook or read or work during the evening is akin to therapy. And April has, or had, it all: The Masters and the end March Madness, the home stretch of the regular season for both the NBA and NHL. There’s the NFL draft, which still happened with teams forced to choose players from their respective homes instead of Las Vegas. I watched all of it.

But I haven’t baked. Montana has begun what Gov. Steve Bullock calls a phased reopening. Yeast may soon become readily available, but I’m assuming that trend will have passed before I buy any.

While I have failed to gain any new skills during the shutdown, I have gained a little perspective. For one, I need people around me. I need people to make fun of my hair and beard and my decision to watch 25-year-old basketball games. I need to see my coworkers talk about new ideas and projects — in person. And I need to see my parents and siblings — in person. Without them, the grind is becoming unbearable.

Sports, too. I need them. Oh, and I would also like some homemade bread.

I look forward to seeing all of you soon. Stay safe out there.

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