Editor’s Note: I confess that this story isn’t totally my idea. I’ve seen several references on the op-ed page to the movie “Groundhog Day,” so I suppose the comparisons must be fairly obvious.

Its Groundhog Day ... All Over Again


Prior to the turn of the last century, the most traumatic historical event of my lifetime was the 1963 Kennedy assassination. It dominated the news for weeks, filled the airwaves and precipitated a national malaise that lasted until the Beatles crossed the Atlantic in 1964.

In this century, 9/11 quickly became the most shattering domestic event since Pearl Harbor, but, while the 1941 attack dragged us into World War II, the War on Terror hasn’t drastically changed American life. Air travel is less convenient; however, the military — a tiny percentage of the population — has done most of the heavy lifting, which has largely insulated the rest of us from the conflict.

The coronavirus outbreak has rapidly outstripped 9/11 as a disaster, combining the 1918 Spanish Flu and the 2008 recession. It’s a milestone that may someday identify events as having happened before coronavirus (BC) or after (AC). The current Year Zero will evoke social distance, fear, face masks, fever, ventilators, quarantines and, for a small, unfortunate percentage, the deaths of family and friends. Millions of Americans will also recall the Year Zero as the point at which their careers ended in a flood of layoffs.

Combined with a poorly functioning, chaotic administration and an election year, the pandemic has given rise to a perfect storm that has also generated a recession and high unemployment. Two years ago, I put off retiring, because I like my job, and didn’t see a way to fill those 40 hours each week. These days, I consider myself lucky to be working at home, and to be able to differentiate weekdays from weekends. Retirees and the unemployed tell me that now, more than ever, every day feels like Sunday, except Sunday, which feels like Saturday.

Social distancing has shrunk our lives, breeding a stultifying sameness. I’m not the first to point out how much life has become like the movie “Groundhog Day.” Each morning, I do the coronavirus bed check: chest pain? sore throat? runny nose? headache? cough? (This supplements my normal “old guy inventory,” which I conduct when I first stand up: chest pain? dizziness? back spasm? sore feet?) Then I put a thermometer under my tongue, and walk around upstairs until my achy knees loosen up sufficiently to get me downstairs.

Accompanied by enough coffee to re-animate a zombie, or reawaken Ben Carson, I watch the news for seven or eight minutes or until I begin to despair. The numbers are pretty much bad every morning, so, as Simon and Garfunkel once sang, “I get the news I need on the weather report.” (I don’t really need the weather either: I’m high risk — a diabetic heart patient with one foot in the grave — so I don’t get out much.)

Around 9:00 a.m., I start work. Editing business-IT reports may not sound exciting, but I’m grateful to be productive, and I feel fortunate that five of my days differ from the other two. I put the TV on low volume, and usually catch a few minutes of Governor Cuomo, whom I’ve come to think of as my president. He’s articulate, informed and rational, and I like that the Fox News guys, such as Sean Hannity, seem to despise him.

At the afternoon “press conferences,” which are, in reality, GOP campaign rallies, I listen to Anthony Fauci, but any glimpse of that long red tie swooping in to contradict or muzzle Dr. Fauci, and I grab for the remote. I ignore The Donald’s shameless touting of unproven drugs he’s invested in; however, I did suffer through one 10-minute soliloquy in which he listed the people who’ve told him what a great job he’s doing, accompanied by his thesis on why they think he’s so great. (Trump University’s dictionary evidently omits the word “humility,” even though, to paraphrase Churchill, “He has so much to be humble about.”)

On the rare days he’s tired of hearing anti-science preacher Mike Pence praise his bold leadership, the POTUS brings “celebrity guests” on the show. Mike Lindell (the “MyPillow” guy) spent his segment gushing and groveling, then gave out medical advice: “Read the Bible.” And then there’s Jared Kushner, whom Trump has anointed as some sort of logistics czar, based on his experience and expertise as a real estate developer, his marriage to Ivanka, and his total lack of experience or expertise in health care or crisis management. What’s up next? A Ted Nugent treatise on epidemiology?

The low point for me has been the president’s accusation that healthcare workers are stealing medical supplies. It must be less than inspiring for dedicated, exhausted nurses to risk their lives working long hours with insufficient equipment and protection to hear their integrity questioned by someone like Donald J. Trump.

When the five o’clock whistle blows, it’s time for my fourth or fifth meal of the day. Each morning, I vow to eat less and to lose weight, but I’m never far from the refrigerator, and that resolve has gone the way of my goal of remaining a teetotaler during this ordeal. Life’s too short and, on Groundhog Day, too fragile, to embrace self-denial.

Paradoxically, individual days are so long, that I look forward to bedtime. The weeks seem interminable, the weekends are no improvement, so I never think, “Thank god it’s Friday.” During the 2016 election, the president promised we’d all grow “tired of winning.” For once, he spoke the truth, because, if this is winning, I’ve definitely had enough.

For years, I’ve argued on Facebook with a Christian fundamentalist from Texas. Since 2016, I’ve amused myself mocking his cult-like devotion to the president (whom he seems to worship as Messiah). However, people are dying, and Trumpism just isn’t all that funny anymore. When the movie of “Groundhog Day 2020” is made, it won’t be a comedy.

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