While staying home during the COVID-19 pandemic is the best way to keep from becoming infected, sheltering in place is not for everyone.
Domestic violence numbers are on the rise among people who don’t get along under the same roof when conditions are normal. When they are obligated to spend a mentally unhealthy amount of time together, things can quickly go awry.
Much of this can be attributed to cabin fever. Humans are not wired for sheltering in place over long periods. Our genetics come down through eons of hunting-and-gathering mentality.
Back then, we were out in the fresh air amassing seeds and being targeted by apex predators. We had other stuff to worry about than going stir crazy and taking it out on one another.
If something bad happened, we ran into a cave or climbed a tree until it went away, which lasted no more than a few days. That, coincidentally, is how long it takes to die of thirst.
Today, even relatively normal families or partnerships can be strained by a sudden abundance of togetherness.
Whereas we previously only saw one another for an hour in the morning and maybe four hours at night because of employment, now it’s All. Day. Long.
It’s important to watch out for the subtle signs of cabin fever to alleviate them before the police are required. Toward that end, I have prepared a list of common symptoms.
Please know that I’m an expert on this malady. I’ve been working from home for years. Hell, I was self-quarantining before it was cool.
1. You find yourself — or notice a family member — staring vacantly for longer than 16 minutes. It’s called the Thousand Second Stare.
2. A knife fight with your significant other ensues over who ate the last Frito in the bag.
3. You lay awake at night wondering just how deep a hole in your backyard would need to be so that a certain teenage family member will never be found.
4. The quiet ticking of a clock causes uncontrollable twitching in your shoulders, neck or face.
5. Thoughts of whether a neighbor’s pet will fit in your Traeger grill begin to creep into your brain.
6. You’re suddenly aware of watching General Conference (or some other religious program) while eating dry cereal stark naked.
7. A single look from a window convinces you that a package delivery person is the absolute love of your life.
8. You’re bound hand and foot and left in a laundry room with an open bag of Cat Chow.
Keep in mind that these are only some of the signs of cabin fever. There are others that may be particular to you. One of my own is that I am the devil. Not a devil. The devil.
Fortunately (for you) I have a ready antidote. My wife knows exactly which part of me to strike so as to convince me otherwise. It would explain the headache I’ve had for three weeks now.
Learn to recognize the signs of your own cabin fever. Stay hydrated, exercised and sober. There’s really no point in surviving a pandemic only to be locked up for the rest of your life.
Robert Kirby is The Salt Lake Tribune’s humor columnist. Follow Kirby on Facebook.