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“Quarantine Diaries,” by David Garyan (Day 1)

Quarantine Diaries – Day 1 March 15th, 2020

Trento, Italy

Beware the Bidet

Although March 15th has forever become associated with Caesar’s assassination, it was an important day for Romans in terms of religious observances, feasts, and festivals. In more modern times, Czar Nicholas II abdicated the Russian throne in 1917, effectively ending 304 years of Romanov rule and Germany occupied Czechoslovakia in 1943—ah, the Ides of March, but what else do you expect from a day that carries the slogan: “Beware the Ides of March?” Ah, it’s all too depressing and happened years ago; after all, who cares about history? A famous scholar once said about the past: “Those who don’t remember it don’t remember what to repeat,” or something like that—I don’t really remember.

Yes, it’s difficult to remember the past, but even harder is to live through the present. Chekhov once said something he didn’t actually say—and this, for some reason, I remember very well: “Any idiot can survive a crisis; it’s the day-to-day living that wears you out.” Thank you for being such a good Chekhov, Mr. George Seaton; you have served your purpose well and may now return to obscurity.

Oh, dear God—less than a week into the quarantine and I’ve already gone insane. Unless you’ve just arrived from Mars, you know that the Italian Prime Minister, Giuseppe Conte, imposed a national quarantine on March 9th, closing everything except supermarkets and pharmacies and severely restricting the movement of people. In other words, people are only allowed to move if it’s absolutely necessary—work or health reasons.

In a strange way, I no longer know whether the coronavirus is a crisis, or day-to-day living; enough time simply hasn’t passed, but I’m sure that by day thirty (it’s almost certain the quarantine will take at least that long), I’ll have a better idea of whether Mr. George Seaton was as much Chekhov as the man himself.

Italy has been on lockdown for almost a week, but I consider the Ides of March day one of my own quarantine because the authorities kindly gave me permission (kind of) to travel 300 km from Trento to Ravenna on the 14th of March and I returned to stay with my brother in Trento today, which I technically wasn’t supposed to do; however, necessity can mean many different things and being the good humanities major that I am, what other choice did I have but to use—at the time of police questioning—my two masters degrees (which before that moment served no other purpose besides toilet paper) in order to come up with a good reason for traveling back? “We’re two students trying to do online classes on one laptop. You must understand! I had to travel to get my laptop and I had to travel back because of the quarantine—I can’t stand loneliness.” Ah, the beauty of a liberal arts education—critical thinking.

Toilet paper? Masters degrees in English? But wait! Isn’t that in high demand these days? Toilet paper or masters degrees in English? Actually no—neither are in especially high demand in Italy, although masters degrees in English do fare much better here than in the US. I should know: I found more work in Italy with my US education than I ever did in the States. Lesson one, kids: Everyone in the US already speaks English; if you want to get a degree in that, be prepared to live somewhere else.

As for toilet paper, even though Italy has more coronavirus infections than the US, we (as in Italians—because I live here now) actually don’t place much emphasis on toilet paper. We’re a cultured people; we have bidets—they’re standard in every house and apartment. This is a bidet, America; it’s my very own—no, actually, it’s my brother’s (do notice the full roll of toilet paper—a sign of great status).

Indeed, Duchamp could put a urinal in a museum, but R. Mutt never dared to insult the bidet in this way. No, America, we don’t wipe our asses with paper like citizens of the greatest country in the world and thus we have no need to fight over ultra-strong rolls over at Walmart, which we don’t have anyways. So, do what you will: Until you have these weapons of mass induction, Italy will always be one step ahead in the crisis for toilet paper and also the coronavirus.

All the way from quarantined Italy: I may seem crazy now, but in a month everyone here will be no different.

Until next time.


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