Woodchucks, blind dates, and exotic pasta: Alternative things to do in COVID quarantine

Will Clark, Scarlet Staff

Lately, I’ve been prowling around my typical news outlets (the Globe, the Post, the barrage of Elizabeth Warren emails I’m still getting) and none of them has dared to leave the pale of boring, cliched suggestions for entertaining yourself while self-isolating (Except Warren. The Bailey videos are adorable). I’ve heard more than enough lists telling me to take a class in a new language, do yoga, or taking a bath in organic kombucha. This column is for those men, women, and enbys who want to get extra creative with their hobbies. Here are some self-tested, off-beat strategies for shaking things while social distancing.

· Entertain yourself with obsolete technology. For example, fix up that mouth-powered accordion you found in your aunt’s basement, or type your letter on your dad’s old college typewriter. If you don’t get anywhere—spoiler alert: check to make sure the delete button works!—at least you got some mental enrichment in, kind of like a cat rolling around in a box with a crinkly piece of paper.

· Cook a dish from your childhood. Remember those Mike Wazowski-shaped gummies you had at age 6? Chow down and experience the weirdness of how it feels to return to this old sensation. In my case, pasta wheels and goldfish still taste great, but I’ve upgraded the sauce from marinara to a spicier vegetable-basil mix. Lovely!

· Go animal-spotting in your neighborhood. You might run across a woodchuck, beaver, or fox if you’re up here in Massachusetts—I’ve been seeing the most adorable little baby woodchucks waddling around and learning to chew grass. However, we’ve also occasionally had to extract a baby woodchuck from the basement when they fall through the old bulkhead—you don’t know “unsettling” till you’ve heard a crazed animal the size of a guinea pig scratching at the basement door.

· Write poems about your exes’ bad habits. One time I wrote a whole seven-stanza poem about the piles of clothes, paper, and shoes my ex-boyfriend would leave in the living room. It can be surprisingly liberating to ridicule people who drive you nuts, but it can also back some unpleasant smells.

· Speaking of exes, make some unconventional dating decisions. If the good-old-fashioned busywork of college has been stripped back, eligible matches might have more time to hang out with you—virtually, of course! Along with typical dating apps, I’ve tried out some strategies that would’ve been familiar to our parents’ generation: I spent 4 hours this week applying to a blind date column at the Globe in the hopes that they’ll pair me with somebody who isn’t a loony. If he does turn out to be a loony, see the previous bullet point.

· If you’ve got one, go nuts on the sewing machine. Not only can you make masks that can supply essential workers and low-income families with chic, colorful protection, you can also branch out a little. Always wanted a rose-print waistcoat or a pillowcase with little tigers all over it? Well, now you can have them—just order a pattern online and a suitable amount of fabric. If you opt for the waistcoat, though, beware—I’ve tried it, and between me and my then 85-year-old grandmother we spent an exhausting and confusing afternoon fighting with ten separate bits of fabric we needed to sew together in increasingly weirdly-shaped increments. I think I may have worsened her eyesight by five years in the process.

· Sit in silence for however long feels comfortable—don’t even meditate. In the age of Facebook doomscrolling and constant pressure to fill your time with activities, we’re constantly being pressured to do more, say more, schedule more, and move more, and wanting to pull back can feel like a cop-out or a concession to social anxiety. But zoning out can provide surprising insight and pleasure if you can manage it; I’ve come up with my most creative ideas when I’ve sat down on my bed and stared at the wall. It’s vital to experience just a little silence each day, if only to better appreciate the difference—neither good nor bad—from your busy routine.

· Raspberry your cat’s forehead. They’ll love it.