Kaupo Meiel: Same s**t, different day

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Kaupo Meiel. Source: ERR

One cannot hang out in supermarkets, children are not allowed to go to school or sports fans return to gym. The good old 2+2 is back and social drinking in an upscale restaurant has been replaced with the nostalgic combo of kitchen vodka and a sleeveless shirt, Kaupo Meiel writes.

The coronavirus has been with us for a year. The first anniversary of the pandemic has given rise to a plethora of retrospects as to what we have learned, where we have succeeded and failed, so that we could learn something from the experience.

We have largely landed back where we were in March of 2020. While an official emergency situation has not been declared, Prime Minister Kaja Kallas said that Estonia still has one in everything but name.

The country has been locked down again. One cannot hang out in supermarkets, children are not allowed to go to school or sports fans return to gym. The good old 2+2 is back and social drinking in an upscale restaurant has been replaced with the nostalgic and somewhat lonely combo of kitchen vodka and a sleeveless shirt.

When the emergency situation was declared a year ago, then PM Jüri Ratas issued an address where he said, among other things: "This is a time to work together as a society against a common threat. Make efforts all together as well as individually, staying calm and rational in thought, respecting each other and contributing as a society. It will help us weather this difficult situation."

Prime Minister Kaja Kallas could issue an identical statement this week.

A few things have nevertheless changed in the big picture. Someone dying of the coronavirus no longer sends politicians racing to voice their condolences as what used to be tragic has become statistics. Vaccination has also finally taken off in March, despite the process being fraught with difficulty, not least because some who want the vaccine cannot have it, while others who are offered the shot do not want it.

Luckily, Estonia is still a republic as opposed to a dictatorship, meaning that everyone is free to be stupid. We could even say that it should be included in the Constitution as that would give militant anti-maskers something they could throw at security guards: "But the Constitution states that I am entitled to be a fool!"

Details aside, we are still going through much of what we suffered same time last year. Because culture supposedly lends one strength to stay alive, we can compare life today to at least two rather amusing films.

One of them is "Groundhog Day" in which arrogant TV reporter Phil, played by Bill Murray, keeps waking up in the same backwater town and is forced to repeat the same day over and over again. He tries to kill himself to get out of the time loop as well as being horrible and nice to people but keeps waking up to the same faces again and again.

The other is beloved New Year's staple comedy sketch "Dinner for One" where elderly Miss Sophie and her loyal servant James celebrate the matron's jubilee. All of Sophie's friends have long since died, with James forced to sit in for each one of them during the birthday party. James keeps asking: "The same procedure as last year?" And Miss Sophie answers: "The same as every year." An all too apt metaphor for the coronavirus.

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Even more than last year, it is difficult to keep an optimistic mind today as what one sees when looking out the window is reminiscent of Roman Baskin's film "Rahu tänav" (Peace Street) in which the winter never left and the spring failed to come, with the characters forced to look for the fern blossom wearing their ice skates on Midsummer Day.

Perhaps one positive aspect is that one is left with more money as there is little to spend on besides canned soup and crackers. Leftover cash can also be used to buy books or art. One should steer clear of stocks, however, as that might leave one with even more money that always comes with more worry of which we have more than enough.

The main message we are being sent is that we just need to tough it out and that this tedious, sad and generally depressing situation will end eventually.

There is also an ancient folk tale about suffering. There once lived a boy who had a nut where his belly button should have been. When he got older, all the other children teased him because of it. The boy's mother told him that while he has suffered, everything would one day work out. The boy grew into a man and was still subjected to the ridicule of his peers because he had a nut in the place of his belly button. His mother once more said: "You have suffered much, son, but hang in there, everything will work out."

The years went by and the man suffered, while his elderly mother finally said: "Son, you have suffered much, while you should now travel to the tip of the Kõpu Peninsula in Hiiumaa where you will find a bird's nest and the end to your suffering." The man with the nut for a belly button traveled to the tip of the Kõpu Peninsula and found the bird's nest.

Inside was a monkey wrench. The much-suffered man took the wrench and unscrewed the nut in place of his belly button that caused his ass to fall off.

Happy new coronavirus year!

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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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