Dialed up

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Believe it or not, I have actual friends all over this country. All over the world! That way, I know I am loved in several time zones, but I don’t have people infringing on my free time for frivolous activities like “driving you to the airport” and “birthday parties” and “being there when you need emotional support.”

All the maintenance required for friendships abroad is the biannual phone call or email. For those, you don’t have to put on going-out clothes or find parking downtown — you can sit at home in your scuzziest pajamas, play solitaire on your laptop, and decide partway through to wear no clothes at all.

Essentially, long-distance friendships enable me to enjoy all the benefits of loneliness without any of the crippling drawbacks of being alone. It’s a perfect setup — or so I thought.

You see, everything has a cost. The cost of my friendship strategy is that phone calls take time. And I always have something else to do with my time. Things like saving the nation from runaway fascism.

Recap for anyone who just came out of cryogenic freezing: we now have a semi-sentient tangerine as the President of the United States of America. He is a narcissist and an egomaniac who believes very highly in his own capabilities. And I’m starting to think that, by gum, I am the one person with the smarts, the looks, and the Godgiven destiny to stop him.

I mean, I see all kinds of ways out of this. I just need Congress to listen to me, and the state governors, and the National Guard, and an assortment of woodland creatures. I’d have this whole kerfluffle dusted by St. Patrick’s Day. But then I decide to read the internet. That’s when I get downhearted. There’s too much for one person to combat. Immigration bans and administrative purges and health-care defunding, which might just be shiny headfakes designed to distract us plebes from the actual shifts in power structure that will send us spiraling into a world where we’d find cannibalism a reasonable alternative to Trump Steaks.

Taking on the new world order makes me tired. So I take lots of naps. And when I wake up to discover that nothing has changed for the better, that makes me really, really, really want to talk to my friends. Except that I know we’ll just end up rehashing the latest madness. And like I said, I have lots of other things to do with my time. Like writing Christmas thank-you notes.

These glittery, wintry cards have been sitting in their original packaging on my coffee table since December. And not the most recent December, either. You may be thinking that I should just pick up the phone and call my friends and family to say thanks. Maybe have an actual conversation while we’re at it. But why do that when I can send them a card? A card is a tangible representation of my affection. A card also says, “Hey, friend and/or family member, you are special enough that I don’t want our conversations to be traceable in any way.”

That’s right: in the last month-plus, I have become a paranoid survivalist. I don’t want the government tracking any of my activities, even if it’s just me thanking my grandparents for sending me a check instead of clothes. I don’t want the feds knowing where I shop, where I hike, who I talk to, or how much time I spend reading listicles instead of working.

Basically, I am taking preemptive action here. The only way to stay entirely safe is to cease to exist. I mean, crazed fans aren’t lining up to assassinate Meat Loaf, amirite?

But isn’t that what they want, the people in power? To divide us, to isolate us? That’s what will happen when we choose to live in fear and submission. And the antidote to division — isn’t that connection?

Connection doesn’t have to be on a large scale, million-person marches, grand demonstrations. It can also be two people who genuinely care about each other sending notes in the mail, calling each other just to say hi. Even if they end up discussing the Atwoodian dystopia at hand — isn’t open communication precisely what brings us together?

So that’s it. No more excuses. As an act of compassion and resistance, I’m going to call my friends. Right away. As soon as I figure how to tie off this column.

Zach Hively writes from Durango, Colo. He can be read and reached through http://zachhively.com and on Twitter @zachhively.

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From March 2017, zach-hively.