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December 9, 2021 in Muncie: news fatigue, pandemic blues, and work, work, work

December 9, 2021 was a Thursday, mostly cloudy but mild in Muncie, with the temperature rising to 54 degrees after dropping to its first almost-wintry chill a few days before. In between sessions keeping their day diaries, some of our volunteer writers took walks, expressed gratitude for not having to scrape the windshield, and admired a distinctive sunrise, a “bright, angry fuchsia.”

            Perhaps the most insistent theme among this set of diaries was work. It was a bit too early in December for the holiday slowdown to be setting in. We caught our volunteers with the work-week in full career, over the hump of Wednesday but before the anticipation/distraction of TGIF set in.

            Diarist A01 stews about coming to work late, then forgives himself. In the office early, Diarist C46 airs some resentments about work expectations over the holiday. G61 works at home, in “comfy lounge clothes.” I69 meets with a student while she would prefer to be reading and drinking tea, and later muses about the constant tug of war that is work/life balance; her young daughter accuses her of caring more about work than family.

            Diarist J86 shares a workplace diversion—her practice of taking periodic breaks to wander around the mostly vacant building in which she works, finding objects left behind in empty offices. She gives herself a pleasurable moment this day, pausing to frame and display at her cubicle some vintage ads she found on one such “scavenger hunt.”

            Diarist J89, a new volunteer, provides an engagingly detailed account of a brisk workday, with multiple meetings, drive time to Anderson, an extended work lunch, and an evening event. Like Diarist I69, he lets us know that he doesn’t want “too much of my life consumed by work.”

It being a Thursday, though, work nonetheless consumes a good deal of our volunteers’ time and is much on their minds.

            Also never far from the surface of consciousness is the pandemic. On October 22—the last diary day before December 9—the pandemic had receded a bit as a theme, suggesting that the summer drop in caseloads had ushered in a short-lived new normal.

The omicron variant brought covid roaring back in our Dec. 9 accounts, Diarists fret over friends and acquaintances recently infected, talk with colleagues about decisions on the booster shot, celebrate their kids finally being vaccine-eligible , or marvel at the novelty of meeting with a client face to face.

Others muse about the arc of the pandemic and the social changes and tensions entangled with it. A02 takes in a podcast on the pandemic, noting that he’s “trying to keep up but not obsessing. I find the whole experience of the pandemic—the science, the politics—interesting.” Diarist G61 recounts reading recently about the “erosion of the common good” as a factor in vaccine hesitancy, and concludes, “We have more than Covid to defeat.”

“The Plague is also on my mind tonight as it approaches another year, ironically about a year after a vaccine made its debut and we were hopeful it might represent the end of this mess,” writes Diarist C45. “Alas, we are roughly back to where we were a year ago.”

The diaries also, of course, touch on the routines and banalities that are at the core of everyday life and thus are constants in our archive: food (a bagel for breakfast, or eggs?); media consumption (“the modern mythology that is superhero comics and movies”); exercise (“daily motivation is wanting”); and family (“grandfather duties”).

A few other elements make this diary set distinctive. Four writers reference the arrival in Muncie of Afghan refugees, with several actively involved in efforts to help them get settled in and secure the basics of daily life. Another recounts a snafu, in which a food box including pork was prepared for an observant Muslim family, requiring some quick repurposing.

Beyond the Afghan resettlement, which has brought geopolitics directly into daily life in Muncie, national and international news otherwise receded to a low hum of background noise in this diary set, after spiking repeatedly over the past few years. (See our diary set of Jan. 3, 2021—three days before the attack on the Capitol).

 Half of the Dec. 9, 2021 writers register the news obliquely if at all, perhaps registering the fatigue expressed by diarist A25. Listening to the morning news on WBST, with its accounts of climate change, Russia’s aggressive stance toward Ukraine, and the Omicron variant, she remarks, “At this point, I’d like them to just play some instrumental Christmas music, or bring in a human-interest story.”

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