Life During COVID-19

In which a global health crisis is explained by the lyrics of Talking Heads

Every so often there is an event which inspires worldwide dread. (By ‘worldwide’ I really mean that the dread which exists constantly in less developed portions of the world is acknowledged by the developed West, and especially the United States, which has a talent for turning a blind eye to far-off atrocities.) Such an event has historically been either world war or disease. The latter of these two is longer-standing and not as easily controlled, and we are collectively entering a new incarnation of it.

Despite various governments’ attempts at containment and limitation—or perhaps because of them, since they are an admission that the virus is a real threat—the sense of doom and gloom which has long lingered dormant (again, largely over the United States) now pervades daily life at an elemental level. People structure their actions, or inactions, around their concerns. People stockpile supplies, frequently to the detriment of underprivileged communities. People squabble over who should be prioritized and how best to help them. Needless to say, it’s the only topic on Twitter. You can’t spell ‘pandemic’ without ‘panic.’

To whom, amidst of all this, does a girl turn when she too is staying in more often than not, ‘social distancing’ for the safety of her more vulnerable fellow Berliners, perpetually in search of distraction but also of sanity and clarity?

Well, this one turns to the band which perfected the art of reporting on modern damage, of diagnosing the underlying dread in the most innocent or mundane subjects, of crystallizing fear in deceptively cheery (dare I say…infectious?) arrangements. The idea that their work has only gained in relevance over time is both strangely comforting and incredibly unnerving. Here are a few bytes to get you dancing in your chambers of isolation, and to remind you that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Jump back, sit back, get back, relax

It’s okay

I’ve called in sick, I won’t go to work today

I’d rather be with the one I love

I neglect my duties

I’ll be in trouble but

I’ve been to college

I’ve been to school

I’ve met the people that you read about in books

                                                                        : “Uh-Oh, Love Comes to Town”

Every appointment has been moved to last week

Last week

Last week

Last week

                        : “First Week / Last Week…Carefree”

We’ve heard this little scene

We’ve heard it many times

People fighting over little things

And wasting precious time

                                                : “Found a Job”

I’m tired of looking out the window of the airplane

I’m tired of traveling

I want to be somewhere

It’s not even worth talking about those people down there

                                                                                    : “The Big Country”

Science won’t change you

Looks like I can’t change you

I’ve tried talking to you

To make things clear

But you’re not even listening to me

                                                : “Mind”

I got some groceries

Some peanut butter

To last a couple of days

But I

Ain’t got no speakers

Ain’t got no headphones

Ain’t got no records to play

                                                : “Life During Wartime”

(*my own postscript: Why stay in college? / College is cancelled)

What is happening to my skin?

Where is that protection that I needed?

Air can hurt you too

Air can hurt you too

Some people say not to worry about the air

Some people never had experience with air

                                                            : “Air”

Isn’t it weird?

Looks too obscure to me

Wasting away

That was their policy

                                    : “Crosseyed and Painless”

(*honestly, most of this song)

Doctor, doctor

We have nothing in our pockets

We’d continue

But we have nothing left to offer

Faces pressed against the window

Hey, they are just my friends

                                                : “Making Flippy Floppy”

What’s the matter with him? (He’s all right)

I see his face (The Lord won’t mind)

How do you know? (He’s all right)

And we’re going to the top

                                                : “Slippery People”

How did I get home?

I survived the situation

Somebody shut the door

Shut the door

Shut the door

Climbing up the wall

                                    : “I Get Wild / Wild Gravity”

You could pretend I’m a millionaire

A millionaire washing his hands

                                                : “Swamp”

Stop talking

Stop talking

Stop talking

Help us get ready


                        : “Big Business”

And that’s just scratching the surface.

Stay safe and healthy, folks. And look out for one another.

Image: from Redferns, Echoes

Published by Cecilia Gigliotti

Cecilia Gigliotti (she/her) lives in Berlin with a beloved ukulele named Uke Skywalker. She co-hosts and produces the music commentary podcast POD SOUNDS. Her free time goes toward dancing, reading books new and old, drawing cartoons, taking city walks, and devoting too much thought to the foibles of her heroes. Connect with her on Instagram (@c_m_giglio, @ceciliagphotography, @pod_sounds_podcast) and see what else she's up to (

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