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  • Harry Jensen

April 30, 2020

Today, I accomplished a number of things, the foremost of which being that I deleted most of my tabs on Google Chrome. I am terrified of forgetting tasks and tidbits, so I use open pages as reminders, boxes to be checked. Some of the tabs are easier to rid myself of, like search results for the definitions of “ambulatory” and “obloquy.” Others are juicier and more difficult to click into the void, such as the Wikipedia page for “Living fossil,” and hesitantly conspiratorial searches like “did farrakhan really murder malcolm x.”

I made progress with my technological tidying, but some Google searches are too delicious to be culled. A tab I could not yet delete was the search results for “decent survival paycheck,” a phrase I picked out of an email which I received today from an alumnus of my alma mater. After I inquired about possible professional contacts whom I could be connected to, she wrote me back to recommend that I find volunteer work, that is, if my life and wallet are not under immediate immediate immediate threat. She herself was very thorough and kind and encouraging, but it does sadden me that the world has all but agreed that I should consider it a luxury were I to be paid for my work. After all, with nothing more than an outrageously expensive college degree and a boundless willingness to degrade myself, what else am I to expect out of the world except the rare opportunity to grovel my way into a servitudinal gig? Humility is the word of the millennium.

After replying to my alum chum, I spent half an hour crafting a very careful and concise email to my contact in Live Nation, inquiring graciously as to whether or not I had my PA job this summer at Sunlight Supply Amphitheater. Within four seconds, I had my reply: Hi, Harry ~ no shows, no work. It seems that the future is wide open!

I also received an email today from a fellow volunteer for the American Cancer Society, inquiring as to my health, and telling me that I was in her thoughts. At first, I was puzzled, but then I recalled our last meeting in January. The last time I had seen the other ACS volunteers was at an advocacy training session in Salem, and I blurted out that I might have cancer during the icebreakers, where people were saying things like, “azure is my favorite color,” and “I’m wicked at knitting.”

At the time, I was mid-flounder in the two-week purgatory between two doctor visits. In the first, my physician had suggested that I might might might have leukemia, but my hematological follow-up visit had not yet occurred. I was scared shitless for a fortnight, of course, sure that I had it, and I really wanted some sympathy, though I did feel a tremendous tickle of guilt at venting my fear of maybe maybe maybe having cancer to a room full of survivors and aging, sweater-making orphans.

Thank goodness my cancer alarm was a false one, but I forget that there are some people who did not receive the good tidings of my oncological verdict. To these people— like my volunteer friend — I am in a state of decided in-betweenness, both sick and not sick.

It’s a little like Schrödinger’s thought experiment about the cat in the box with the poison food. Serving as the physicist’s metaphor for unobserved quantum states, the cat is simultaneously dead and not dead until you open the box and start poking around. Now, though, my friend has changed the results by observing them: I am not sick, no longer an unknown.

Schrödinger’s dry and morbid fairytale has further contributed to society by stoking my procrastinator’s flame, providing me with a hifalutin reason to put off emailing my would-be boss about whether I had a job this summer. In truth, I did not want to find out whether or not I had a job. In this case, COVID-19 is the poison, the world is the box, and the cat is all of my fun. Considering the plague, it has seemed likely to me that there would be no shows in our 15,000-person stadium this summer, but I, a lowly PA, had received no word about it. My income security was obscured and thus indeterminate. Unfortunately, once I worked up the nerve, the Schrödinger in my scenario didn’t waste a second in ripping open the lid of the box and telling me, “dead cat, no fun.”

Humility, humility, humility. Even if I don’t have good work and a survival paycheck coming my way, things could be a lot worse. At least I’m not the cat.


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