I’m the kind of person who always likes to listen to something when I’m alone, whether it be the radio, stereo, or the neighbors next door arguing about whose turn it is to walk the dog. I also enjoy podcasts when I’m cooking or painting, catching up on various NPR shows I have missed. But lately I have a new series of podcasts to keep me company from my Personal Pandemic Podcasting Network.
I’ve always had friends and relatives who are much better at talking than they are at listening, but something about the pandemic seems to have sent these tendencies into overdrive. Maybe it’s the lack of strangers to interact with or being isolated with just their spouses or their cats but whereas previously I might have had phone conversations with them where I got to talk a small fraction of the time, now I can’t seem to get a word in edgewise. Once I say “Hello” they are off and ranting.
My cousin Harriet only wants to tell me about Trump. Sometimes I don’t even get to say “Good morning” before she begins her recap of the latest atrocities. “Did you see what he did TODAY?” I used to think that when she asked a question like this she expected me to make some response such as, “No, how much time will he spend in purgatory for this one?” But I soon realized that she doesn’t care what I say and will talk over me whenever I try to interject any comment, even one like, “You’re so right, can I send you a box of almost impossible to obtain Clorox wipes in appreciation for your astute analysis of the imminent doom we face?” So now I just turn down the volume slightly (she has a very good set of pipes) and listen to The Harriet Show until she’s talked herself out or, more often, she gets a call from one of her kids, where she no doubt gets a chance to re-podcast her entire rant.
Then there’s my friend Zack who you should never say “How are you?” to unless you want to spend the next half hour or so hearing the answer. The Zack “I Don’t Feel So Good” Show features all his latest aches, pains, symptoms, diagnostic testing, traditional and folk medicines he’s tried, and reviews of any scientific and medical research that might influence his approach to future treatments. Zack is the healthiest sick person I’ve ever met and despite a roster of conditions that would have killed an ordinary man years ago, I fully expect him to outlive (and out-talk) me by decades.
If I want to find out about the latest sports news I can tune in to The Billy “Empty Stadium” Show. Amazingly, even though the pandemic has closed down virtually every spectator sport that he normally obsesses over, Billy is still able to spend hours giving you his rundown on all aspects of players’ potential, managers’ incompetence and owners’ greed, along with the odds of any league or college ever playing another game and which teams or individuals will be successful (or possibly die) when they do. Even in the best of times I find it more interesting to listen to his take on sports than to listen to the actual games themselves, which is a particularly good thing now since there are no games to listen to. Actually, that doesn’t stop him because he’s been watching reruns of old games on obscure cable networks that he subscribes to, so he has up to the minute commentary about events that may have occurred 40 or more years ago.
My friends Noah and Naamah are big animal rights activists and super environmentally aware. Lately I’ve been sitting down to have a long distance cocktail hour with them. This is a couple who are a perfect pair, totally in sync with each other, and able to complete each other’s thoughts and sentences. In this case run-on-sentences, because once one of them starts talking the other keeps going until every detail of the latest news of endangered species, interspecies communications, or stories from their exotic veterinary practice gets told, or we finish our drinks. They’re also big purveyors of news on Climate Change and are particularly worried about floods, since they live on a house boat.
Finally there’s Leo, who is a serial wanna-be entrepreneur and star of Leo’s Get Rich Fantasy Hour. “Nobody realizes this but in the same way that there was a toilet paper shortage eventually there’s going to be a toilet shortage. Think about it — since families are stuck at home they’re using their home toilets at least twice as much, so they’re bound to wear out faster. And who makes all the toilets? China! There’s no way they’ll be able to keep up with the demand. So all we need to do is corner the inventory on toilets right now. Buy up every toilet we can find and pretty soon we’ll be sitting on a gold mine!”
I love all my friends and I look forward to the time when I can invite them to a party at my house and we can hug, share chip-dip and all talk at once, and together not listen to a word anyone else has to say.