This article appeared in the May 07, 2020 edition of the Monitor Daily.

Read 05/07 edition

From fences to sidewalks, neighbors share humor in tough times

Eva Botkin-Kowacki/The Christian Science Monitor
Someone took memes out of the virtual world by printing them out and posting them on a fence in the Jamaica Plain neighborhood of Boston.

Today’s issue looks at questions of freedom and privacy as governments leverage technology to fight the coronavirus, lessons on how to handle job insecurity and shortages from Russia’s recent history, the view from New York’s essential small businesses, the American dream in Guatemala, and the creative range of actress Saoirse Ronan.

Before the pandemic, so much of our lives had moved online that we turned the phrase “in real life” into the abbreviation IRL to highlight nonvirtual experiences. Now, people are turning to social media even more to feel connected. They’re posting in gratitude for essential workers, sharing phrases of unity and strength, and finding humor in this shared predicament. 

But some are bringing those interactions back into real life, using windows and yards like a Facebook newsfeed – or bulletin board, for those who remember when every interaction was IRL. 

There are signs thanking essential workers and messages of hope etched in sidewalk chalk. But some people aim to provide a chuckle for passersby. 

One man in Maryland writes daily “dad jokes” on a whiteboard. An example: “I ordered a chicken and an egg from Amazon. I’ll let you know.”

A woman in Texas set up humorous scenes in her front yard using Halloween decorations, poking fun at things like the toilet paper shortage.

In my neighborhood, someone has taken memes out of the virtual world by printing them out and posting them on a fence. 

At a time when many of us are screen-weary, finding a speck of delight off-screen provides respite. 

As Tom Schruben, the dad joker, told The Washington Post. “Everyone is very stressed with the virus and the quarantining. … I thought it would be a good idea to give people a break from that, shake them up momentarily to take their mind off their troubles for just a minute.”


This article appeared in the May 07, 2020 edition of the Monitor Daily.

Read 05/07 edition
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