Until last week, we had a seemingly endless, ridiculous and seriously chaotic group text going with 18 of our friends. It began as a 12-person text after the social distancing order and then, once we hit the subsequent shelter in place order, it just grew and grew.
We’d decide every day or so that yes, Jess needed to be added to this glorious mess and of course, Jose too. More than once, someone begged for it to stop or for pleaded for removal, but that just caused the sadistic among us — which is most of the gang — to ramp up our efforts with jokes, jabs and gifs.
Several members don’t own iPhones, so not only were they unable to use a reaction button, but the reactions of the Apple users would come across for everyone as text. “Ann loved an image” or “Mark laughed at [insert quote of prior text]” would come through over and over again as each person reacted. To make matters worse, at some point, the texts mysteriously stopped coming through in order. Confusion and hilarity ensued and, for me and several others, the text mute feature came into play. More than once I’d check in after doing chores around the house, working or what have you and there would be over 80 messages. It was perfectly acceptable to pop in and out at any hour of the day or night — thankfully — and so it went for weeks.
Finally, after our friend Francesca added her husband, the madness stopped. He had the brilliant idea of starting a private Facebook group and our text lunacy dwindled to a trickle as everyone migrated to the page.
The text and now the page became a place for us to let off steam by telling inappropriate jokes, sending pics of whatever beverage we are sipping at happy hour or to check in on our friend who is in healthcare and contracted the virus. She was able to ask if anyone was hitting Walgreens and a friend would volunteer to grab whatever she needed. She reported that she’s on the mend and we celebrated and expressed our relief on one of the threads on the Facebook page. We share resources for supplies, too. An image of a box of fruit and vegetables pops up with the caption, “You can get produce delivered from the Crescent City Farmers Market now!” Soon, it devolves into “Tiger King” memes and the relentless stream of jokes begins anew.
Whether it’s the group on this text turned page or one of our other friends or via my coworkers, one thing I’ve learned already during this crisis is that when the shit hits the fan, New Orleans shows up. Those who were here in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina already know this firsthand, but my husband and I moved here six years ago, so we didn’t go through that horrible, life-changing disaster with the rest of the city. We’ve heard stories about how people came together, and we’ve seen it at play in our time here within our social circles when a friend is going through a personal crisis or in the news when a New Orleanian needs help and people all over the city rally with aid. It is beautiful to witness people being so kind and caring.
In yesterday’s post, I wrote about the city’s inhabitant’s shared desire for connection on display when my husband and I go out on our evening walks in the neighborhood. Our insane text and Facebook group is evidence of that, too. We want to be with one another and there for one another, even if it can only be via text.
None of us knows right now how long we will be in this holding pattern. It’s scary and everything is uncertain. We are worried and surfing waves of emotion from hour-to-hour, day-to-day and now, week-to-week; we are donating money to take food to healthcare, first responders and grocery workers; we are volunteering to pick things up and drop things off for friends and strangers; and we are holding fundraisers for and sending PayPal tips to our hospitality, event, entertainment and other gig workers, even as we send absurd gifs to one another.
Because the other thing I’ve learned is that here, humor and joy don’t go away amid pain and tragedy — they go hand-in-hand. It’s unconditional love in action on a citywide scale. And it’s the reason I wouldn’t want to shelter in any other place.
The Corona Diaries is a joint project of the Renaissance Publishing Staff. Each week during the series, a different member of our staff will share their day-to-day experiences with working from home, social distancing and the other ups and downs of living through the pandemic.