Coronavirus and Chads

Skylar Ball, Opinion Editor

The first thing that I notice on the first day back at in-person school — post-pandemic, of course — is the large number of kids wearing pajamas. As I trudge through a sea of children in onesies, trying to avert my eyes from the visible monstrosity of boys in flannel, and take a seat at the back of the class, I think to myself, wow. Maybe online school really was better. Sure, during eLearning, I would log into my sixth-period APUSH class and see boys without shirts on, but partial nudity through a screen is far more favorable to this.

As I take a seat and pull out my notebook, excited to finally be able to focus in class now that I’m not logging on from under my cozy comforter, I take a glance at my teacher, who I’m finally meeting for the first time in person. He has bags under his eyes, presumably from having to make an early commute for the first time in almost a year, and as he opens his mouth to speak, the whole class goes silent.

“Welcome back,” he says, and I notice just how defeated he sounds. “Now, because of the pandemic, I’ve gotten used to some of the more convenient aspects of eLearning, so I’ll be implementing some new measures in the classroom.”

I look around at my confused peers, who are all sporting various mask tans, as the teacher holds up a roll of duct tape and taps it a few times, probably for dramatic effect. “Remember the mute feature on Zoom?” he says in a deadpan voice.

The class groans in unison as the teacher continues: “I really, really liked being able to mute you all. Come on, let’s be real. I don’t want to have to get you guys to be quiet at the beginning of every class. I’m severely underpaid and severely overworked. I do not have the time or mental energy for that.”

Pajama Boy No. 1 chimes in, “If you’re so underpaid, why is your Tesla parked in the faculty lot?” Honestly, I’m surprised that Pajama Boy No. 1 isn’t sporting an overpriced Vineyard Vines matching Christmas pajama set made in a sweatshop by an 11 year old in Bangladesh, but he is wearing blue striped shorts, which complete the “Chad” look.

The teacher rolls his eyes, and I think I see a little bit of smoke coming out of his ears before a chilling smile spreads across his face. “I’m glad you gave me this opportunity, Chad.” He crosses over to Pajama Boy No. 1 and smirks, peeling off a piece of duct tape and aggressively slapping it over the boy’s face. “Consider yourself muted,” the teacher says, clearly relishing the smacking sound the tape makes upon contact.

I wake up in a cold sweat, throwing the blankets off of my shivering body and gasping in the stale air in my bedroom. Everything comes back to me with astonishing clarity. It’s month 76 of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Chad Controversy was all a dream, nothing more than a figment of my starved imagination. A quick glance at the clock on my wall reveals that it’s 8:34 a.m. My Spanish class started four minutes ago. Shoot.

I log on and stare at the wall, listening to my teacher talk about the conjugation of preterite verbs and pondering the reality of my situation. As one of the few Pali students still abiding by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines and practicing social distancing, I’m beginning to lose my mind. Sure, that dream about going back to school was bad, but being at home is much, much worse.

I flop onto my bed, leaving my laptop on the desk as my teacher drones on, and I exhale sharply. I just woke up, and all I can predict for my foreseeable future is stretches of endless days, faces in tiny Zoom rectangles and choppy audio. It’s getting quite ridiculous at this point. My room is full of old water cups that I never bring back to the kitchen because of my terrible hygiene habits, not to mention popsicle wrappers because that’s the only food with sugar that my mom will buy me from Amazon Fresh. I am literally losing my mind.

I delve through the abyss of old cups, random papers and surgical masks littering my floor in an attempt to find my phone, trying to remember what color the wood floor is. When I finally find my phone, I scroll through Instagram, utterly horrified at the amount of large gatherings taking place. FOMO aside, the behavior some of my peers are exhibiting is just irresponsible. I take the time to leave some garish comments, telling them to put their masks on and protect the public, and am met with equally aggressive responses. “Someone didn’t get invited to our non-social distanced party with no masks,” Emily-McKaylleigh quickly retorts.

I don’t even have the energy to tell Emily-McKaylleigh that I care about other people and their health, so I just throw my phone as hard as I can at the closet door, hoping that it doesn’t shatter. (Breaking news: It does, in fact, shatter.)

I close my eyes. They already hurt from looking at my computer for five minutes. When I open them, I am startled once again.

Emily-McKaylleigh and her irresponsible friends are standing in my bedroom, maskless and breathing through their mouths at me. I reach out to make sure they’re not ghosts, and my hand shoots right through Emily-McKaylleigh’s knockoff Unif sweater. I come to the realization that they are, in fact, ghosts.

“Are you…” I gasp. “Are you dead? Did you finally get coronavirus?”

Emily-McKaylleigh laughs. They all laugh, in unison, but their smiles slowly turn into frowns.

“What do you want?” I scream. “Why are you here?”

“To help you. You have to let us go,” Emily-McKaylleigh whispers. “It’s been 12 years. You have to let us go.”

Emily-McKaylleigh coughs at me.

They fade out, and I wail in despair over the fact that I will never be able to live my normal life or go back to school or see Pajama Boy No. 1 in person.