Plague Diary #001 (Letter #006)

Baby holds bottle by nipple to show she is full

Notes from a position of (relative) privilege

Doin’ good by stayin’ in

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

My darling Baobao,

As you might have learned in history class, 2020 was a year of world-wide plague. What was first known as the “Corona Virus” and which is now mostly called Covid-19 has turned our world (as the saying goes) upside down.

Here in Ottawa, we are advised to engage in social distancing, which means keeping at least 2 metres away from others and, ideally, staying in one’s own home possible. We are supposed to go out only for groceries and other necessary outings.

It sounds grim, and I think for most people it is grim, or worse.

Some businesses have been closing voluntarily, last week bars were ordered closed and restaurants ordered to go take-out only. Today, the provincial government announced that all non-essential businesses (except for beer, liquor and pot stores, thanks be to Darwin! Although some question just how our government decided what is and isn’t “essential”) must close down.

And of course, my upcoming soccer season is in doubt, although May 25th is still a while away.

But to tell you the truth, from a strictly personal point-of-view, the situation is actually not all that unpleasant — for me, if not for your mum, who is starting to feel a little stir-crazy. But that has more to do with her desire to return to work than with the present emergency in particular.

Never look to anecdata for general truths

Baby playing on floor
Keep your social distance, Daddy!

I am out of work. My non-daddy, non-publisher job is in the transportation industry, driving airline flight crews from the airport to various hotels around town. Not exactly a low-risk situation, and I am happy to say that it has now been nine days since I last got behind the wheel of one of my company’s vans.

Despite that, thanks to the frugality I learned from your mother, and to the fact we don’t own a car, or eat out very often, etc, I have a little money in the bank and your mother, of course, is still on maternity leave and so, getting the vast majority of her salary.

And more to the point (for us), our long-plan has been that, when she goes back to the office, I will stay at home with you. So, while I may yet go back to work for a while, if the emergency lasts until August, we will simply have gone ahead with our plan a little early (and with a smaller personal cushion that I had hoped to have).

(But, it is really important to remember that our situation is not typical. Already, nearly one million Canadians have lost their jobs, and the vast majority of them are not in our privileged position! We are very far from being rich, but we are in in a very good spot compared to many, many people. We aren’t in danger of losing our home and we don’t seem to be sick; we are merely inconvenienced and hoping to avoid catching the disease.)

Couple all that with the fact that both your mother and I are fairly hermatose (though I have been pretty social at various points in my life, here in Ottawa I have not been too good at meeting new people), and that fact we have nowhere to go but the grocery stores hasn’t made for too much of a change.

Even better, I have been starting to get writing work done, despite the fact that you can be a pretty demanding time sink — when you’re not napping away the hours — as well as working on promoting your grandfather’s novel, as well as his short story collection (which I do commend to your attention, Gentle Other Readers!).

Situation fluid; far from the last word

Photo of Papa Zesser holding Asta in his arms, while standing on his back porch as late-March snow falls from the sky.
Hard times are relative; yesterday we stepped out onto our back porch to enjoy what might be the last snow-fall of the season.

So, here we are. Food in the cupboard and fridge, money in the bank, and barely feeling inconvenienced; since I stopped working, I don’t worry (much; I have had to go out a few times for groceries, both for us and for your grandfather) about bringing home the virus; so far no one I know personally has caught the disease and so (obviously), so far no one I know has died of it.

Whether any of this will last remains to be seen. Saying it now feels kind of obnoxious, to tell you the truth, but it is my truth, at least for the moment.

And for the moment and going forward, I will be taking as many precautions as I reasonably can.

Minimizing contact with others, keeping physically apart when contact is necessary — and, since an acquaintance of your mum’s just left 10 face-masks in our mailbox, I will wait until tomorrow to do a shopping run.

That’s all for now, my darling girl! We’re doing our best to keep you and ourselves safe in these nervous times.

I love you,


NOTE TO THOSE READING IN 2020: While it’s true that I am not personally feeling too much anxiety, I reiterate that I am being cautious, and I hope you are, too. I am normally pretty sceptical about information coming out of official or corporate media channels, but I am morally certain that the Covid-19 emergency is the real thing. Below please find a list of (mostly Canadian) resources for more information.

Will we follow this to the letter? Maybe not, but we’re going to try. (I wonder if there is bleach on the shelves, or if we can find any more rubbing alcohol.)

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