OPINION

Just Thinking: Pandemic only has reinforced mooselike tendencies

Margo Bartlett
Guest Columnist

The end of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic finally may be in sight.

Granted, the end is a teensy bright dot in the far distance, so small it might be a speck of glitter and not the end of a year of living like a moose, but let’s assume what the experts say is true: Vaccines are being distributed, we’ll all get one eventually and perhaps by February 2022 the pandemic will be as over as “Game of Thrones.”

Speaking of moose: They live alone, probably because even the wilderness can’t accommodate two in the same spot. And a moose could stand 6 or 7 feet tall and weigh upwards of 1,000 pounds.  

Margo Bartlett

I’m 5-3 (confirmed by my doctor last week), and if a moose were to walk into my living room right now, my first thought would be, “Heavens, moose are gigantic.” Actually, of course, that wouldn’t be my first thought; it would be, “How’d that moose get in here?” but after that, I’d have many questions, including, “Who knew moose have ears like donkeys?” and “If moose are so solitary, why did Bullwinkle hang around with a flying squirrel?”  

Moose also have stubby tails like Boston terriers. I’m beginning to think they were assembled with spare parts, which might explain why they’re so solitary. 

This brings me to my worry: The pandemic gave many of us the leisure to follow our random flights of fancy without being censured by bosses, supervisors or team leaders who want to know why we have the largest member of the deer family on our screens instead of spreadsheets or last year’s profit-and-loss statements.  

It turns out my natural inclination is to follow such flights all day, every day, and I’ll want to go on looking up “dogs with stubby tails” and “business report examples” even as the rest of the world is rushing into the streets to party.  

Of course, I’ll be glad when restaurants and schools are back to normal and I can follow a flight of fancy straight into an antiques mall or a department store if I feel like it. But when everyone around me is planning three-day parties and going to sold-out, indoor concerts and renting houses for family reunions, my idea of celebrating will be to drift into the library and spend 40 minutes looking for books that might amuse my grandchildren.

In other words, months of forced isolation have cemented my mooselike tendencies. Like other moose, I’ll see my fellow animals for lunch and coffee and movies and programs. But inevitably, I’ll return to my own part of the forest with my books and my New York Times Magazine puzzles, emerging only to get the pen I left on the counter before returning to the forest again.

Talking of animals, my granddaughter is enrolled in an online academy during the waning days of the virus. The quality of the academy is, shall we say, uneven, as is demonstrated by this question, in a unit on animals: “Do squirrels have friends?” 

My granddaughter, not unreasonably, immediately thought of squirrel playdates and squirrel birthday parties. Her mother wisely deduced that the question, and the lesson itself, had to do with squirrel habits. Are they solitary, like moose, or do they live in groups, like meerkats and female elephants? In fact, adult squirrels may live alone, but in cold weather, they snuggle together in nests called dreys. 

Oh, and here’s this about elephants: Their tusks are actually teeth, which continue growing all their lives, assuming no horrible poachers kill them for the ivory. (Every so often, we solitary types make angry moose noises.)  

I only hope, when the pandemic is over, I don’t feel a sudden and wholly uncharacteristic tug toward gregariousness. I love my fellow man, many of them to a ridiculous degree, and on cold nights I’m never happier than when I crawl into a snug flannel drey with my husband. Most of the time, though, I’m more moose than squirrel. (Bullwinkle, by the way, was named after a car dealer named Clarence Bullwinkel.)

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have, uh, work to do.  

Write to Margo Bartlett at margo.bartlett@gmail.com.