(Emma Freer)

Reporter Emma Freer (top right) shares a few of the ways she's getting by.

For 26 days now I have been in quarantine, staying home except for essential trips to the grocery store, post office, restaurant parking lots and, on one occasion, Twin Liquors.


My people and I are healthy. A cousin is a nurse in Columbus, Ohio. So far she is coronavirus-free, but her ears are chapped from constantly wearing masks. Another relative has been laid off. My grandmother, many years into her dementia diagnosis, is in a nursing home that is closed to visitors but otherwise safe.

Like everyone else, I've been mourning canceled events—a college friend's visit from London, a months-old reservation at Hamilton Pool, a party to celebrate a dog's baptism—and life before the pandemic. Weirdly, I miss wearing shoes.

I'm lucky to be only mildly inconvenienced, rather than afflicted or grieving or broke, and doubly lucky to have friends who take quarantine activities seriously.

Initially, I filled my planner with the basics. A virtual happy hour, which prompted the Twin Liquors trip. Some long phone calls with friends. Movie nights with my roommate featuring "9 to 5," "First Wives Club" and "Working Girl."

One Saturday morning I successfully wrangled my parents and siblings onto a FaceTime call. After explaining to my dad what "FT" means, we then moved on to explore effects. Even with animated shark faces, it was soothing to see them through the screen.

Then the events diversified.

One friend, a Ph.D. student, generously uses her University of Texas email address to underwrite weekly Zoom meetings. (After the first 40 minutes, charges apply.) With her screen shared to a New York Times crossword puzzle, she guides us through the clues. So far, it takes six to eight of us 45 minutes to complete a Saturday.

That same friend is known for her PowerPoint parties. Before the pandemic, she and her housemates hosted a few: about 12 people would prepare three- to five-minute PowerPoints on a topic of their choosing and present to the group. Go over four minutes and you have to take a sip. Go over five and you chug. A short Q&A follows each presenter.

Some past PowerPoints include "Pandas in Sino-American relations," "A close reading: The New York Times Magazine Gwyneth Paltrow cover story" and "Kristen Stewart's Journey to Queerness: A Timeline."

I attended PPPI and PPPII. The latest iteration is this Saturday: QPPP. "Zoom link forthcoming," promises the event description on Facebook.

All of this to say, I've been asked by my editor to report on how people fortunate enough to have free time during this pandemic are spending it. Let me know what's on your agenda at emma@austonia.com.

In the meantime, I'll be working on my PowerPoint.

(Poli Pix Co. LLC/Shutterstock)

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