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Cooped Up While the World Raged Outside

By John Rolfe

Nom de Plumes: The author at Chateau Chickadoodle with Frieda (l) and Peggy (r)
Nom de Plumes: The author at Chateau Chickadoodle with Frieda (l) and Peggy (r)

Even though I had a bout of COVID-19, what stands out most to me about the past year is the weird contrast of peaceful contentment and abject disgust and anxiety in my own life.

As a school bus driver, I was off from March to October of 2020, and have been working only four days a week since. That’s meant lots of time at home — the place where I’m happiest — with my wife, son, cat and chickens. Unfortunately, the world outside went mad.

Each day was full of news that made me feel ill. Willfully ignorant anti-maskers and elected officials refusing to take even simple measures to help contain the pandemic; brutal police killings of unarmed African-Americans; violent riots; and a bitter presidential election that culminated with a horrifying, deadly siege of the Capitol by Trump supporters. All of it kept me awake at night.

My two weeks of fever, lethargy and nausea last September were mild compared to the anger and dread I felt watching the strife and suffering unfold. I gave thanks each day for my safe home, my family’s health (amazingly my wife did not catch the virus despite my close proximity to her), and the opportunity to spend more time writing, gardening, tending our flock, and sprucing up our shack. I’ve savored every minute.

Even though there is now some light at the end of the pandemic tunnel, I’m still acutely aware that America suffers from a deeper sickness than COVID. It is riven by dangerously divisive politics that are destroying families and friendships. Communicating and reaching understanding with those on the other side of the divide is often extremely aggravating, if not impossible and it does not bode well for our future.

In a few weeks, I expect to be back at work full-time and that life will return to a greater semblance of its old normalcy. But how long our potentially fatal societal malady lingers is anyone’s guess.


John Rolfe is a former senior editor for Sports Illustrated for Kids, a longtime columnist for the Poughkeepsie Journal/USA Today Network, and author of The Goose in the Bathroom: Stirring Tales of Family Life. His school bus drivin’ blog “Hellions, Mayhem and Brake Failure” is parked on his website ( with the meter running.



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