The Grumpy Owl Guide to Games and Recreations to Wile Away the Time While Your Life Falls Apart During the Era of Social Distance

Self-Isolation is difficult. It’s stressful. Just today, my wife’s job told her that she was going to be out of work for another two weeks and my own school just shut everything down, folded up its tents and was last seen heading west — straight into the sunset if not the sun itself. Goodbye Future!

This could have been a real kick in the nuts. But, lucky me, I had not only read The Grumpy Owl Guide to Maintaining Some Semblance of Sanity During a Pandemic, I had even written the stupid thing! As such, I already knew how dangerous hope was and had given it up weeks ago. We were able to roll with the punches. Wife and I threw a make-up party.

This helped matters. And seeing how my North American comrades are just beginning their own harrowing journey of self-discovery, I’ve decided to provide some advice on entertaining yourself when you’re stuck in a confined space for long periods with yourself.

I’ve tried all of these! They all hurt! These are all bad ideas!

If you’re anything like me, you’re going to do them anyway.

Welcome to The Grumpy Owl Guide to Games and Recreations to Wile Away the Time While Your Life Falls Apart During the Era of Social Distance.

Melodramatic Emails

It’s important to keep in contact with the people you love and those who love you. If these happen to be the same people, well, aren’t you the lucky little show-off? Maybe you should go celebrate with some rollerskating and making-out or something

One of the best ways to keep in contact is through emails. These emails should be extremely melodramatic. Purple, even. People may tell you that it’s important to keep some perspective. These people have never sent or received an email that started with:

The “Red Death” had long devastated the country. No pestilence had ever been so fatal, or so hideous. Blood was its Avatar and its seal—the redness and the horror of blood. There were sharp pains, and sudden dizziness, and then profuse bleeding at the pores, with dissolution. The scarlet stains upon the body and especially upon the face of the victim, were the pest ban which shut him out from the aid and from the sympathy of his fellow-men. And the whole seizure, progress and termination of the disease, were the incidents of half an hour.

An opening like that really gets the reader’s attention. From there, you can move easily into letting your friend know how much you’ve always cared about them, how that day spent rollerskating was, in retrospect, one of the happiest days of your life, and that you forgive them for that thing they did that day —they know damn well what it is— and you simply won’t hear another word about it. Nope. Not one word.

Shouting on Skype

But emails aren’t for everyone. Some people prefer to Skype.

The best way to use this communication technology is to wait until you’re in the depths of despair. This may be the moment you most want to reach out. You haven’t been outside or spoken to another human in days. The social graces have fallen from you like the scales off a snake. Now is the exact moment you should call someone. And what should you do then?

Shout at them!

Not just at them, mind you, but at THE WHOLE WORLD, who they obviously now represent. You see, this isn’t a friend that you’re speaking to. No, nothing so simple as that. They are an ambassador. An ambassador for what? Well, for anything really. They may an ambassador for their country, for a perspective you disagree with, or, maybe for all of humanity’s numerous faults and foibles. So you need to shout at them.

It doesn’t even matter what you shout about! As long as you’re shouting!

And don’t stop! Not until you wake up their spouse!

It is, after all, one of the first rules of diplomacy, that when you meet an ambassador or a delegation from some far off place, you should immediately start shouting until you wake up their spouse. If you can set their dogs to barking, all the better.

When the call ends, you now have a chance to shout at yourself about all that shouting. When shouting at yourself about shouting at them just turns into a dull roar of terror and regret, you can pass some time by writing a melodramatic email. An email of sorrow and apology.

You can keep this up for days!

So, Is This What You Plan on Doing Today?

When you’re stuck in the same room as another person for long periods of time, it can be difficult to break the ice and start a conversation. A sure-fire way to get everyone talking is to look at what that person is doing and say “So, is this what you plan on doing today?”

The more disapproval you can get into your voice the better!

This works because people don’t like to be judged but they really enjoy judging. We often think about the feelings of the judged but almost never about those of the judgmental. But these strict heroic enforcers of social norms also have needs. The need to judge.

Of course, when one starts a conversation by asking if that is, in fact, what their friend plans on doing today, they may be suddenly reminded of what they themselves did yesterday. The judger becomes the judgee. Such is the beautiful balance and harmony of life as it devolves into fits of recrimination and wild accusation. Have some fun with it!

Argue With Conspiracy Theorists Online

If you’re really looking to disappear down a rabbit hole for a few hours, it’s helpful to find someone who believes this whole thing is some sort of big hoax. You can find many of these people in the families of people you already know. And what wild ideas they have!

But that’s okay. A person comes to conclusions like “THE UN IS COMING FOR MY GUNS WITH BLACK HELICOPTERS IN 2030” because they have weighed the evidence, proven amendable to reason, and, simply, are not in possession of all the facts.

Good thing you exist!

It’s difficult to change minds and, even if you change a mind, it’s hard to get a person to act on what they know. So you should be able to kill hours, if not days, speaking to the dedicated members of communities organized around only the most durable delusions. Conspiracy theorists are, after all, after the truth. That’s what they always say: They seek The Truth. And what reason do you have to disbelieve anything they say? So argue with them! Surely, they will see the error of their ways once they see the evidence.

Spread Some Panic

You just heard a thing. It’s a really important thing. Maybe you heard this thing online. Maybe you just heard it in your head. But you heard it and now you must share it. You must scream.

Before you share such a thing, you need to ask — will this help create terror in the people who read it? Will it encourage them to ignore the best advice of professionals and rush outside into areas full of other people? If the answer is no, then why even share it? Are you even helping if you’re not helping people to freak the fuck out?

There’s almost never any good reason to share something that fails to spread terror. It’s usually something people already know. It’s either advice they’ve already received (my hands are clean, thanks) and will probably misunderstand anyway (I can go to a concert, I brought hand sanitizer) or it’s a sort of non-update (Still alive, still bored, thanks!). There’s rarely any good reason to share anything that might comfort, amuse, or educate.

But things that terrify? Those are exciting things.

You should scream blue murder about everything you see.

After all, knowing The Advice and following The Advice are different. One is easy, the other is hard. When you’re trying to spread panic online, it’s important to remember that you’re not trying to change people’s minds. You’re not some sort of conspiracy theorist. And changing minds would be hard. You just want to shout “FIRE!” not convince anyone that there is no theater. You’re after that easy, low-hanging, red meat of fear. You want to attack the will to follow instruction and the ability to follow instruction. To erode.

You may want to call people ‘hopeless fools.’


Or go for a sort of action hero tone:


This might not work the first time, or even the hundredth, but keep at it. It will wear people down. You only need time and you have nothing but time.

Or maybe, you should just claim that anyone who has the worries of any reasonable person during this troubled period and acts like a responsible adult in a country full of toilet-paper hoarding man-babies, is either over-reacting, paranoid, or crazy. Conversely, maybe they are ASLEEP TO THE REAL DANGER! There’s a lot of ways to approach this thing.

Get creative!

You can also help spread panic by turning everyone’s feed into a RED ALERT ZONE. Only fifteen updates today? What not fifty five? God knows, not like anyone just wants to relax. This will go on for a very long time and we should all be hyper-vigilant for all of it. You can also help panic by killing any space for humor. You can make this a lot harder for anyone and it’s already plenty hard for everyone. If not you, then who? BREAK THAT NEWS! And you really want to upset people? Tell them to “relax.” Tell them you just want to relax.

Scream it!


This is one of my favorite hobbies. I don’t even need a reason. Sometimes, I just fucking cry. Music does it to me. And it doesn’t have to be good music. Anything can set me off.

Two days ago, I heard Gangnam Style. You know what I did. I broke down in tears. The whole bit. Shaking and everything. It was quite a sight, I can assure you. Crying and dancing. Thinking about rollerskates. A real treat for my wife and dogs. I mean, there are a lot of perfectly acceptable ways to feel about that song. What I did? I’m pretty sure that’s not one of them. That’s just not what’s supposed to happen with this:

It passed but still . . . fml


Did you know that Issac Newton invented calculus while he was stuck in the house during a pandemic? Neither did I. Not until two days ago when some nefarious genius decided that was a thing everyone needed to hear. So, like, no pressure.

But I do know something about Issac Newton. I know that he was a terrible human being. Newton was a serious asshole. Like a non-stop asshole. Issac Newton was a great scientist. He was also the pandemic of human beings. A terrible man. Really terrible. Look it up.

As this thing goes on, few of us are going to invent anything like calculus. Many of us are going to be assholes. We’ll have good moments and we’ll have bad. And I think it’s important for you to know that, when you have your bad moments, I’ve had some too.

So when you receive a melodramatic email, know that, tomorrow, you might be sending one. Try not to wait until you need to talk to another person to talk to another person. When someone gets shouty with you, try to get them through it. (If you can.) You’re going to get testy with the people you love and they’re going to get testy with you. Sometimes, a game of Left Handed Sit Down Sock Catch helps. Some people in your life are going to need more support than others and one of those people may be you. If not now, then later.

We’re all going to do all the wrong things. We’ll say the wrong things and feel the wrong things. If we say any of these things online –even the right things– they will only ever be right for some people some of the time. If I’ve said anything that is wrong for you, please let me apologize. I’m sorry. The whole seizure, progress and termination of these ideas were only the incidents of half an hour. I’m doing the best I can.

Also, shit happens.

I’ve found a make-up party with my wife helps.

It’s like The Masque of the Pink Death in here.

But shit still happens. And I’m very sorry about everything.

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