The Writer’s Pandemic Therapist Dog: it’s a tough job, but some dog’s gotta do it…
By Peri Taub ▼(´ᴥ`)▼
Pandemic-imposed isolation was hard for most humans. For some it was a nightmare. But for introverts? I know something about this, because Barb came from a family of engineers.*
*[Translation: Engineers are people who believe calculus occurs in the real world, are fluent in at least a dozen programming languages but can’t write in English, and their idea of a perfect job is one which never involves those other… you know… humans.]
Barb’s daughter said she had never been happier than WFH (Working From Home) during quarantine. Her brother-in-law insisted he had been training for WFH all his life. Her sister said there’s no way they’re ever getting her back in her cubicle. Other family members rhapsodized on the joys of coding with a cat on your lap or a dog across your feet, where nobody is offended when you belch or fart or indulge in sound-effects for your stretch breaks, and nobody cares if you only wear zipperless pants*.
*[My British friends can just stop sniggering. (You know who you are…) Whether or not zipped undies are a thing anywhere, pants=trousers for Americans.]
To her family’s disappointment and secret shame, Barb is not an engineer. But there must be something in this DNA business, because as a writer, she is perfectly content to spend long stretches of time alone with only her therapist dog for company. She can allow her characters to have a rich social life, knowing she can always kill them later if they’re having too much fun. So as a closet-introvert, Barb viewed the annual arrival of the holiday season’s enforced festivities with the enthusiasm usually reserved for multiple root canal procedures or US presidential elections.*
*[On the one hand: dental torture and presidential candidates. But on the other hand? It does feel soooo good when it’s over.]
For introverts, the pandemic lockdown was a game changer. Engineers, writers, and introverts everywhere secretly celebrated their pandemic liberation from the
torture festive fun of pre-pandemic holiday celebrations they were so not attending during the lockdown holiday season. Alas, the reprieve was short lived. With the removal of pandemic restrictions, Barb is again sentenced to festive events including but not limited to the following:
Occasion #1: The Friends Party. Since moving to the UK, Barb and I have learned the more the British joke about something, the more seriously they take it. Like their Queen (and maybe their King), their cricket, their eye-popping flavorings for potato crisps*, and their very-proper way to queue, they take holiday fun seriously.By the time you leave a British holiday event, if you’re way too hot, way too full, and way WAY too drunk, you’ll know it was a successful party.*
*[Bonus points if you wake up the next morning in a different UCJ (Ugly Christmas Jumper — or sweater if you speak American) than the one you wore the night before.]
Occasion #2: The Office Party. Instead of spending the annual
forced incarceration festive celebration revising their resume and applying for the new job they are definitely going to need by tomorrow, introverts like Barb know to grab their one lousy free drink/festive beverage and seek out the kitchen pantry, the janitor’s closet, or the roof (if that group of three people, two portable scanners, and a flexible mag flashlight from IT have finished their disturbing and anatomically improbable attempts at fornication). If all other bolt holes are unavailable, the introvert will attempt to achieve some dignified privacy by commandeering the end toilet stall and barricading it against all comers no matter how desperate they claim to be.
Once safely locked in, the well-prepared introvert will open their phone to a good white noise app loud enough to drown out the piped-in Christmas music, and/or the vomiting people in the next stall begging for the end of the world, and ignore the truly disturbing things their colleagues are doing in the adjacent stalls. And the best part? If they’re an engineer, they can open their current favorite game app. If they’re a writer, they can jot down ideas for a holiday-themed thriller where the murder weapon is a candy cane licked to a sharp point and then consumed. Either way, the introvert still has plenty of time to work on the resume they’re going to need before the next holiday festivities, at least until it’s safe to leave their refuge.
Occasion #3: The New Year’s Party. Although a closeted introvert, Barb admitted to me that she had always wanted to go to an honest-to-confetti New Year’s Eve bash. Back in her university days, she actually did come close to achieving the iconic New Year’s Eve party when her sister’s friend invited them to a Major Social Event — balloons, live big band, valet parking, and generously flowing champagne that didn’t come from the end-of-year clearance bin at 7-Eleven — at the family’s Lake Michigan shorefront estate on Chicago’s north side. By promising to care for his geriatric cats when he went on Spring Break, Barb managed to get the one other person on the planet who didn’t already have a New Year’s Eve date to agree to come with her.
She never saw the party. But Barb did spend the next few days with the cats while her date went in for an emergency broken-jaw-ectomy after slipping on the ice as they walked up to the front door of the party. Her mother said Barb at least owed him marriage after that, but Barb felt the cats were payment enough. She said a true gentleman would have refused to get into that ambulance until they counted down to midnight and had some champagne. The one good thing about it was that Barb could tick the big New Year’s Party off her bucket list and go back to avoiding social situations. She counted it as a win.
I counted it as job security: just think of all the years of ongoing therapy she was going to need.