“Nothing and then some! Been filing [for unemployment] since the beginning of April. Nothing has changed. . . . Sad day to be a Maine resident.” —Post on Maine Unemployment Insurance Assistance Facebook group, May 20

Becca: Nate, we have got to talk about emotional health. The fact that many of us have lost many of our usual coping techniques. Friendships for many are disintegrating, changing, with no in-person contact, and Zoom calls make a lot of us feel lonelier. What can we do to replace the things we did before to feel okay? We also need to talk about WTH Governor Mills is thinking by allowing indoor seating at restaurants. COVID-19 can spread farther than six feet, and the risk is highest with prolonged time, enclosed small spaces, open mouths, and indoor air flow patterns. In the article “The Risks - Know Them - Avoid Them,” Erin Bromage chronicles a dinner where a single asymptomatic person at a restaurant infected many people with COVID-19, including those at faraway tables. Governor Mills will base her “decisions on science,” my ass. And do we really think tourists and second-homers are going to completely quarantine for 14 days? What does The Optimist think?

Nate: I’m so pleased to have earned the title The Optimist from you! It’s true that I generally look on the bright side, but even my rose-colored glasses can’t obscure the likely difficulty of at least the next few months (and possibly far beyond). Without wider testing availability or significant improvement in the national infection statistics (both of which may be possible to achieve — says The Optimist), it’s difficult for me to imagine a scenario in which it’s feasible to admit tourists without a quarantine period. So the economic pain is likely to persist, and the organizations and people and communities who rely on Maine tourism are likely to continue to suffer. You raised a number of other important points, but I’ll only respond to one for now: Do you really think that relationships disintegrate so quickly without in-person contact? I’ve always been baffled by the idea that maintaining friendships requires frequent contact; I haven’t spoken for years with some of the people I consider my best friends in the world. How about you?

Becca: Yes, friendships are definitely disintegrating and changing (sometimes improving). Remember how you and I had an issue early on in the pandemic? It was related to political stuff, but I think the conflict was heightened due to this time of increased strong emotions and confusion. We eventually worked it out in person, but without that face-to-face contact I don’t think it would have been dealt with as successfully.

Nate: I was deeply conflicted over the recent Rockland City Council vote to decline to pursue a grant that would have required cooperation with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, i.e. the Border Patrol. Up until the day before the vote, I was ready to vote for the grant, though I ultimately ended up voting against it. (In the days leading up to the vote, I discussed the situation via text message with Becca.) Becca, you were fiercely opposed to the grant, and you wrote some things that I interpreted as intense and direct criticism of my thoughts and actions, which led to a bit of distance between us. But then a while after the vote we took a walk and cleared the air in person.

Becca: I regret some of the things I said, and am so glad you trusted me enough to tell me it had bothered you. It’s a time of extremes. The other day I found myself furious at a car with Massachusetts plates for tailing me, then passing me in a no-passing zone. I honked for much longer than was necessary. Where can this extra anger go, in a productive way? As to the economic pain, it is an utter lack of creativity and vision when a group like the Chamber of Commerce says that the only solution to the financial crisis is to force people to go back to work. As a society we should immediately move to an (at least temporary) universal basic income for all who need it. Instead, society is forcing people to wrestle labyrinthine, croaking bureaucracy in order to get unemployment benefits. Even now, Mainers are calling dozens of times, waiting on the phone for hours, and are “lucky” to actually reach someone at the Maine Department of Labor. Thousands of Mainers are still waiting; a former student of mine was getting dangerously close to being unable to feed her kids. Meanwhile, those getting the extra $600 unemployment check are being pitted against those whose work (but not life) is deemed essential. “Essential workers” are at the mercy of their employer, “fortunate” to get an extra $2 an hour in “hazard pay.” Angry yet? Channel it.