I Interviewed My 16-Year Old Son About the Pandemic

On April 1, 2020, I interviewed my sixteen-year old son, Adrian, about the coronavirus. Below is an edited and condensed version of our conversation.

CBL: Can you describe what we’ve been experiencing recently? From your perspective, what’s happening?

Adrian: Because of the coronavirus, we all have to stay home, we can’t go to school, and we have to limit our interaction with friends.

CBL: What is the coronavirus? Can you define it for me in your own words?

Adrian: Well, I’m not quite sure how new it is because I’ve heard that it has … I’ve heard conflicting reports that it’s been around for a while and it’s only just become, like, a big thing or mutated—but I’ve also heard that it’s new. It just, it’s … a virus. It comes with a cough and a fever and stuff like that. And it’s especially dangerous to older people or people with breathing disorders like asthma.

CBL: Where did the virus come from?

Adrian: Somebody ate a bat?

CBL: When did it start making people sick?

Adrian: I started hearing about it really loudly in, like, March—but I knew it was going on in January and February. It’s possible that it’s been around since November.

CBL: Who can get the virus?

Adrian: Everybody.

CBL: How do people get the virus?

Adrian: Being close to somebody, breathing the same air as somebody. I think there’s other ways you can get it, but in general, you just have to stay away from people.

CBL: How does the virus affect people who get it?

Adrian: Fever. Cough. I’m sure there’s something else. It’s a dry cough.

CBL: How can someone avoid getting the virus?

Adrian: Social distancing. Stay home; don’t go out; don’t hang out. I can understand why you might want to spend time with a friend, but maybe try and keep some distance between yourself and them. Don’t scooch right up to somebody. Don’t do stuff like go to the movies and restaurants.

CBL: How have you learned about the virus?

Adrian: Well [laughing], my Mom likes to send me messages or show me news articles. Around early March, February, she started showing me tons and tons of stuff about it, kind of panicking about it. And I was like, “You know, I just don’t think I want to hear about it.” But it’s good to know about it now so that I can be safe. I’ve also seen it on the news and heard about it from friends and from my teachers.

CBL: How has your day-to-day life changed over the last several weeks?

Adrian: Even though I never really went out much, I still did hang out with friends sometimes. Now I can’t do that as often—or, really, ever. So that’s one way things have changed. Now that I’m home all week, I tend to have more time, a little bit more time. Obviously, not going to school right now is a big change. And my schoolwork is different. For some reason, it’s way easier for me to get work done if I’m at home and at my own desk, and I can choose what I want to do next. Although I don’t like doing the homework for my choir class because now I have to sing solos into my phone.

CBL: Has anything else changed?

Adrian: I can’t go to DLM.

CBL: For people who don’t know us, we live close to a little independent grocery store in Dayton, OH called Dorothy Lane Market—or DLM, for short.

Adrian: Right. Now, you go out and pick up supplies for the week every Thursday. But normally, I would walk to DLM with my allowance or money I got from babysitting and buy some sweets or whatever. Now I can’t do that. But I do take the dog for walks on most days since I don’t have gym class anymore.

CBL: What’s that like?

Adrian: I try to avoid people. There are people who will still, like, sit on a park bench. There’s a park about three blocks from our house with a sign that says, “Do not go on or around equipment,” but yesterday, there was this group of three junior high or high school kids sitting on the bench together, all really close together, clustered. Funnily enough, they yelled, “Who walks their dog these days” as I walked by. I mean, like, they’re probably more at risk than I am right now. It really irked me that somebody could be so hypocritical.

CBL: How have the lives of your family-members and friends changed over the last several weeks?

Adrian: You were already working from home, but you did have dance class, and you hung out with your friends occasionally. But now you can’t go to that dance class so you’ve had to start practicing in the garage, and your friends aren’t coming over and hanging out. My stepdad is teaching classes from home now. It’s funny because I’ll walk in to pick up the dog, and he’ll just look over at me and then look back at his computer, and I’m like, “Ok,” and I’ll be quiet. My stepbrother and sister have to do schoolwork from home. My dad, in Atlanta, and my stepmom and my stepsister and half-sister are also at home now. I have one friend whose life hasn’t changed that much at all because he stays in a semi-permanent state of being grounded anyway. We talk on the phone every other day or so.

CBL: What are your biggest fears or worries right now?

Adrian: Oh, totally that my grandparents are going to get sick. Also, my baby sister—my baby half-sister—has asthma, and my stepdad has asthma, so I’m also worried about them, that if they’re safe or not. [aside: Are you tearing up?] Uh, but like I really, I just…I wanna [awkward laughing]. I’m sorry, I can see you tearing up.

CBL: It’s just that’s so sweet, sad.

Adrian: Ok, I’ll give you a moment so that we can talk. You can cut this out.

CBL: What are the things that are making you happy right now?

Adrian: I like doing schoolwork from home, and setting my own schedule, having extra screen time. I’m on spring break right know, technically, so I’m not working this week, which is nice. Uh, I also, I just like…sort of…I guess I’m spending more time with my family—not something I expected to like, but I am liking it. [laughing] But no Monopoly, ok?

CBL: This is a little whimsical, but how would you describe the last several weeks using the following cues I’m about to give you (and there’s no right or wrong answer). What color would this time in our lives be?

Adrian: What?!?! Gosh, um. There’s a lot of answers I can think of for that. Green for sickness, obviously, and also sort of a gray because it’s mundane now, right? So you’ll go out, and there’s nothing. It’s like a black-and-white movie, and everybody will just be at home, and you’re just doing the same thing every day. And then also like a sepia brown; again, I guess, like an old film. It’s empty.

CBL: What shape would it look like?

Adrian: What shape?!?! [laughing] An irregular polygon, in the shape of that one image that everyone says is the coronavirus.

CBL: Spiky.

Adrian: Spiky. Um, I don’t know. I’m trying to think. You know how circles are fluid and stuff? So, I would actually say a triangle because—bear with me on this—there’s just three points; it’s simple, and it’s small. Which is what we’re doing. We’re staying home in our small little area, and it’s really simple, and it’s also rigid because we can’t … we have to enforce our own rules of social distancing.

CBL: What sound would it sound like?

Adrian: What?!?! [laughing]. Oh gosh. Oh wow. That’s, um, that’s like one I can’t think of an answer to. Um. I could say the X-box starting up, because that’s probably the main sound I’ve been hearing? [laughing] Um. I really don’t know. The sound of those songs in Italy? I know that’s a result of this—not what the whole time is like, but it sounds something like that to me.

CBL: What would it taste like?

Adrian: What would it taste like?!?! Like shit. No. No, um—asparagus. I hate asparagus. It’s sort of a gross and weird time to see those people out there who are like, “It’s just a hoax, or it’s fake and not real; and it’s not actually happening, I shake hands, I don’t need to… I’m not going to stop shaking hands just because of that.” That’s a good way to get yourself and people you care about and other people sick. It’s really inconsiderate. Because even if this thing is a hoax…I mean, obviously it’s pretty certain that this isn’t a hoax because it would have to be a really well-coordinated mass of widespread, tons of paid actors—like in the millions—also, what would anybody gain from that?

CBL: How worried are you that it may be a hoax?

Adrian: Oh, not at all. People that think it’s not real—that just seems like such an outlandish idea to me because it’s not worth taking the risk, no matter what.

CBL: What evidence have you seen that some people don’t think it’s real?

Adrian: I’ve seen some stuff on Twitter. There are YouTube videos of people licking things in grocery stores. People are doing stupid and weird things because of this, like coughing on people on a plane. I don’t understand. In our neighborhood, most people are social distancing, but in the media, I’m seeing other people making poor decisions. I just don’t know why they would do that.

CBL: So that’s how it tastes like asparagus to you?

Adrian: Right.

CBL: This is my last whimsical question. What does this time in our lives feel like?

Adrian: Sandpaper. It’s painful to watch people making poor decisions—and also not being able to do what I would usually be able to do.

CBL: What do you think will happen in the short term, like in the next week or month?

Adrian: My school sent an email confirming that we won’t go back until May 1st, but even then, we might stay out longer. [Adrian’s classes have since moved to remote learning for the rest of the school year]. So if I had to guess, I would say that case numbers will increase, deaths will increase. Vaccine testing has started, so maybe that will progress. But I think that for the most part, I’m just going to be staying at home.

CBL: What do you think will happen in the longer term, like in the next year or so?

Adrian: Next year, I think there will be a vaccine for it. Definitely by March or April 2021. I think. I hope. Hopefully, it will have died down and be like the flu by then. I mean, I know it’s not like the flu, but something like that. I think that, long term, it will get worse and then things will calm down.

CBL: Do you think this experience and this event will change you in any way, or affect your future or the futures of your friends and family members?

Adrian: If I had to guess, I would say that most of my family members are pretty safe. I don’t think this will change my personality. A big part of my personality is introverted; I like to set my own schedule, so this will probably just bring that part of myself more out of me. I hope that my family members will be fine. I’m not sure, though, because I have family in New York where they’ve brought those refrigerator trucks in for the bodies. I think that what’s happening now will be part of history, like the Spanish flu. I don’t know if it’s going to be worse than that, or on the same level, or if it’s going to be lesser—but I think that what’s happening right now is history.

Crystal B. Lake is Adrian’s mom and the author of Artifacts: How We Write and Think About Found Objects. With Sarah Tindal Kareem, Lake is the co-founder and co-editor of The Rambling. You can find Crystal on Twitter @crystal_b_lake. When Adrian isn’t agreeing to empty the dishwasher or be interviewed by his mother, you can find him upstairs playing X-box even though he’s supposed to be doing his schoolwork.

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