Almanac Life: A Human’s Guide to Pandemic Living (for-areas-yet-to-reach-Level-6)



Hello from the Department of Humans and well done on reaching this point. You may have noticed that this message arrived in coloured font or bold type to catch your attention – that’s some sort of marketing gimmick. Not really my area. The crux of the matter here is to point out that you humans of the Earth are struggling presently with this highly contagious and deadly virus. And it is both highly relevant and highly important. So please read on if you are (a) reading this on Earth and (b) human.


So now that you’re aware, we can cancel all remaining awareness-raising activities. Our comms staff and our advertising staff aren’t too sure about this, but as I say during every pandemic, things are different now.


It has come to our attention that things are going a little off the rails in the common sense department, hence this message. Well, it’s a guide, really. Think of it as the Human’s Guide to Pandemic Living. There may be updates. I hope not.


There are a few things to sort out before we begin, including establishing a shared understanding of what we like to call the Levels of Pandemic Life.


Level 1 is where the whole idea of a pandemic seems a little humorous, far-fetched and conservative. Like that retiree who lives down the street and collects his mail each day wearing nothing but a bath robe. The notion is one of harmless whimsy.


Level 2 arrives when events from far-flung places like Wuhan or northern Italy begin to sniff around your own personal radar. Perhaps you had planned a holiday (a word which here means aeroplane flight – an ancient form of mass transport – to a distant part of the world for the purposes of recreation and wealth reduction). And perhaps those plans involved a region affected by pandemic. Perhaps the first nagging thoughts arrive that this pandemic may (heaven forbid) necessitate you altering your own plans.


Level 3 occurs when alarming death rates, infection rates and general mayhem swamp your media feed. By now the pandemic will have spread quite a way. If your neighbourhood has been spared at this point, it’s worth turning your thoughts away from that holiday you had planned.


Level 4 is when your national, state or local governments and opposition at all tiers seem curiously united and provide urgent and solemn messages along the same general lines (e.g. ‘we’re all in this together’). The population (including all in media roles) sort of bands together in what could easily be misconstrued as genuine cooperation to ‘defeat this menace’.


Sometimes and only in rare cases will Level 4a be reached, where quasi-cooperative behaviours shown in Level 4 seemingly eliminate the virus from the population. Level 4a should be thought of not as a destination, but rather as a temporary resting house. As we well know, when it comes to human behaviour, any border between two provinces can and will be breached [insert examples here, Heather, from throughout human history – it’s not that long].


Where case numbers rise rapidly and unexpectedly despite some level of community awareness and effort already being applied, you will have arrived at Level 5. All pretence of cooperation is immediately shattered like a fallen crystal wine glass and public health measures are openly undermined in the interests of personal wealth, relevance and culture wars. I know. As baffling as this may seem, readers would do well to re-acquaint themselves with our original 1990 publication: The Human’s Guide to Environmental Catastrophe.


Level 6 is when case numbers grow rapidly in a way that is out of control and that swamps the finite medical resources of your local area. You can imagine. No, perhaps it’s best that you don’t. [Heather – perhaps insert figures from other parts of the Earth, or human history again – but don’t waste too much time on it. They don’t take allegory very well].


Levels 7 to 21 are described in separate guides; not for the young or impressionable.


We understand that the situation is dynamic, the ground is shifting under your feet every minute and that everything is out of date as soon as it is published. Very good. At the time of writing (2:32pm), most of Australia (we really have to talk, Australia) finds itself at Level 4a. But a significant part of mainland Australia is in Level 5, full of a majority of humans who wishes they were at Level 4a. Or at a European holiday district. I think we can all see the problem here.


The rest of this Guide will apply to Australia as it sits now at 2:33pm.


The Human’s Guide to Pandemic Living (Level 5 (or soon to be Level 5) (or not yet Level 6))


The first thing you’re going to need for life in pandemic Level 5, aside from large reserves of financial, physical and mental health, is a Very Strong Opinion. This is new to the 2020 outbreak. We saw it but to a much lesser extent in 1919. Preferably you will arm yourself with several Very Strong Opinions across a range of topics about which you have little to no basic training. The opinions themselves may change at any moment. Remember – it is the vehement strength and dissemination of each opinion that matters. Push-through, uptake and brand recognition are the hallmarks of true 2020 success. Accuracy went out with the Enlightenment.


The next thing you will need is a scapegoat. Feel free to try any or all people in various positions of power. We will come to leadership later. Also popular targets for mystifying reasons are Bill Gates and the 5G communication network. Perhaps you could also try Yoko Ono. In any case, make it clear that your scapegoat has destroyed your life. They have created mayhem for their own benefit, they are puppet masters and how dare they inconvenience you, as you are the most important person on the Earth. It is beyond vital that as many people as possible continue to know exactly how inconvenienced you are. And whose fault it is.


Only once you have caught, broken-in and harnessed at least one Very Strong Opinion and found a scapegoat of reasonably significant public standing, move to our earlier guidance from Special Report 48.12 ‘Social media: how to feel as if your life has meaning and influence’.


It is right to pause at this point and congratulate yourself. It is no small thing to publish your thoughts before a potentially global audience. It is no small thing for you to have the same potential reach as an esteemed traditional publisher or even as an expert in whatever and whichever field. We understand that many of you are truly interested in maximising your social media reach, traffic and exposure. If that is you, please lower your head into the nearest ceramic toilet bowl and flush.


I mentioned earlier the topic of leadership. If you find yourself in a position of leadership during a pandemic, life is pretty sweet. You can’t really stuff it up. So the economy falls over? Of course it does. So people suffer? Of course they do. So you failed to arrange an adequate birthday present? Of course you did.


Fundamentally, your job as a leader during a pandemic boils down to one thing: to be honest. The one rule is to be honest. I know we spoke about this in our earlier report 27.9 ‘How to Become an Elected Leader’, but as I say during every pandemic, things are different now. Finally, you should all have realised by now you were never in control. All of that was just an illusion. Sleep on it.


That is all for now. Further statements from the Department of Humans will continue to be issued if and when required. No questions at this time. No, I can’t believe it, either.




Our writers are independent contributors. The opinions expressed in their articles are their own. They are not the views, nor do they reflect the views, of Malarkey Publications.


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About David Wilson

David Wilson is a hydrologist, climate reporter and writer of fiction & observational stories. He writes under the name “E.regnans” at The Footy Almanac and has stories in several books. One of his stories was judged as a finalist in the Tasmanian Writers’ Prize 2021. He shares the care of two daughters and likes to walk around feeling generally amazed. Favourite tree: Eucalyptus regnans.


  1. Colin Ritchie says

    Fab, as always ER!

  2. Nicole Kelly says

    David, I loved it! I moved between laughter and groans – you’ve captured it perfectly. Uncertainty, stupidity and the illusion of control. Exactly. Thank you.

  3. Yvette Wroby says

    Gotcha moment. Brilliant

  4. E.regnans says

    Hi Col, Nicole and Yvette.

    Thanks very much for leaving your comments.
    I felt unusually nervous about this one being published. Trying something different, perhaps caused that. So I feel the generosity of your comments. Thanks again.

  5. Darren Smith says

    Nice take on things Dave. I had a well needed chuckle reading this. I wonder how you’d interpret things if you were living the Swedish pandemic experiment (/cult).

    Take care.

  6. OBP you absolutely nailed it

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