Pete McMartin: Surviving COVID with plenty of wine and whine

Columnist McMartin contemplates yet another day just like the one before it

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Dear Diary,

6 a.m.: The alarm on my Apple Watch goes off — a tremor-like tapping against my wrist so discreet that, in my semi-consciousness, I wonder if I am having a mini-stroke instead of waking up, given that, at my age, I am entering mortality’s sweet spot. The fog of sleep dissipates and reality begins to clarify above me on the ceiling, and, wide awake now, I think, with what has become a familiar sense of dread, oh no, no, no, no, no, here I am again, in bed, in my home, entering Year 3 of lockdowns, mandates, masks, monthly existential crises, and of hearing that word that produces a mental flinch in me every time it’s uttered now — “COVID.” I swear softly, as I do every morning, and stare at the ceiling, since it is as good a place as any to ponder the grey, endless unscrolling of what life has become.


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6:15 a.m.: I stop staring at the ceiling.

6:16 a.m.: I reach across the bed to touch my wife only to find her side of the bed empty again, since our terrier, who insists on sleeping in bed with us, woke up in the middle of the night, again, to pee or throw up or shit or drink from her water dish, and often all of the above, and my wife, so as not to wake me, rises at 2 a.m. in the dark, stumbles into the second bedroom down the hall, carrying the terrier in her arms like a baby, and sleeps there with her.

7 a.m.: I dress (or, if the mood strikes me, parade around the house naked, having long ago stopped caring if the neighbours see me in all my zaftig glory), and go to the kitchen to make coffee. Making the morning coffee is the peak of my day, since that first sip of dark, aromatic brew constitutes the one pure moment of joy and purpose in the day’s routine that I look forward to.


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Then, breakfast — which I promise myself every evening before going to bed will be healthy, but is instead fried eggs, thick-sliced bacon, toasted rye slathered with butter, and a smoothie of yogurt, mixed fruit and cream because, well … screw it, COVID.

7:30 a.m.: I read the New York Times online, watch the morning news on TV, read The Vancouver Sun in print and then in digital form so I can read at the bottom of news stories the comments posted by rabid anti-vaxxers — an exercise that never fails to inspire both hilarity and disgust in me.

9 a.m.: Walk the dog around the block. Having done her business at 2 a.m., the dog, her bladder empty, sniffs at fire hydrants with disinterest. She is, to use the correct canine term, a bitch, and she barks at every dog she meets. Could she, I wonder, be shouting “Get a vaccination!” in dog language? If so, good girl!


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10 a.m.: My wife and I begin our daily walk. Walking has become our go-to exercise regimen because (a) it takes up a lot of time, the one thing we have in abundance, and (b) it doesn’t really feel like exercise, the one thing we’d rather do without. Yesterday, we walked 20 kilometres, and after weighing myself on the bathroom scale, I discovered I had put on a pound. Life has become a cruel joke.

12:00: Noon arrives, or as we have come to know it, wine o’clock. The one difficulty with lunch today: What pairs best with canned tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches? White or red? A hearty Zinfandel or a light, crisp Pinot Gris? Unable to reach a consensus, we compromise, deciding: Both!

1 p.m.: The central part of our day begins in which, months ago, with so much time on our hands, we promised ourselves to devote exclusively to self-improvement, with piano lessons, online French and Italian language lessons, yoga and reading. Unfortunately, there are several dozen Netflix, Prime Video and Cineplex series that require binge-watching, so we haven’t quite got around to self-improvement. But damn it, we will! Plenty of time.


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5 p.m.: Grocery shopping for dinner. Do the social-distancing cha-cha in the aisles, two steps forward, three steps back. Shelves empty of canned tomatoes, beans, bread and hamburger, but — just so our multi-billion dollar grocery chain knows it cares about us, the cash-strapped, inflation-beset consumer — there is a two-for-one sale on ketchup-flavoured potato chips, so … yay. Buy steak, milk and a dozen eggs. Bill comes to $137.15.

6 p.m.: Dinner. Can’t remember what we had exactly, but, you know, sustenance. And wine. Watch the news. News dominated by truckers’ convoy. Terrier barks at screen. Good girl.

6:49 p.m.: Wine.

7:27 p.m.: Wine.

8:14 p.m.: Wine.

9 p.m.: Alarm on Apple Watch reminds me it’s time for bed. I turn off television, check doors are all locked, turn off lights, get into bed with my wife and terrier — who growls at my presence (the terrier, not my wife) — and, putting in earbuds, listen to an audiobook downloaded on my phone. I fall asleep within five minutes, utterly exhausted for some reason.

6 a.m.: Apple Watch alarm goes off. Repeat.



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