REWIND: Tell people to go away with The Offspring and Tom Petty

Tom Petty

Tom Petty in New York in 1976. Photo: Richard E. Aaron/Redferns.

For all the problems with 2020—the never-ending barrage of disasters, each worse than the last, unrelenting in their pace and scope, a perpetual hurricane with no eye, bad news crashing in on you one after another with no respite like waves smashing you over and over against the rocks of… what was I saying?

Oh, right.

For all the problems with 2020, it’s the nerds’ time to shine. Communicating with your friends exclusively online? Our social lives in high school were via ICQ and AIM. Staying home and amusing yourself for countless hours? We’ve lost entire summers to “Civilization II.” Keeping up with multiple overlapping conversations on Slack? You should have seen AOL chat rooms!

Similarly, nerds, often an introverted bunch who appreciate personal space, have been social distancing for generations. If there’s one tiny silver lining in this it’s that it’s now socially acceptable to tell people they’re too close and that they need to back up. Usually that goes over poorly.

To help you get to where we already are, here are some subtle hints to those around you that they need to step off and give you some space.

Godsmack — “Keep Away”

Nothing says “stay six to 10 feet from me at all times” like nu-metal.

I mean, yes, there are recurring themes of physical and emotional isolation, but I’m not even talking about thematically. The sound and aesthetics of nu-metal make people keep their distance. It is and always has been weird music for weirdos.

And now it’s the weirdos’ time to shine.

Think about it, if you tell someone to smack you in your mouth 200 times every other day, you won’t have any problems with social distancing.

Offspring — “Gotta Get Away”

This one is appropriate for multiple reasons.

For the purposes of this column, yeah, everyone’s gotta get away. From each other and especially from me. You ain’t giving me no plague, if you wanna kill me you’re gonna have to work harder than that.

More than that, though, is that this song begins: “I’m getting edgy all the time/ There’s someone around me just a step behind/ It’s kinda scary, the shape I’m in/ The walls are shakin’ and they’re closing in.”

I think we’re all there at that point, if not about a week past it.

Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers — “Don’t Come Around Here No More”

We’ve all got that one friend who still thinks everyone’s overreacting.

As of this writing literally half the world is isolating themselves, twice as many Americans have died in the past month from the virus than died on 9/11, and the number of deaths is doubling every two to three days. But that one jerk is absolutely sure this is all just the media doing it for ratings—never mind that several members of the media have died of the disease already.

That friend should not continue to be your friend. Tell them not to come around no more. Dress like the Mad Hatter if necessary, that usually helps make people stop speaking to you.

Five Finger Death Punch — “Walk Away”

We’re coming up on three weeks locked in our homes with our families and/or roommates. [Gokhman note: If you have children, they basically are your roommates at this point. “Where did you put the remote!?”].

That’s a very long time.

Tensions are likely high. There are probably fights, or at least people snapping at each other. In those cases, even though “social distancing” means physical distance between people when you go outside and doesn’t usually apply within a household, you should probably socially distance from those you live with. Take the advice of this song’s chorus:

“Just walk away/ Make it easy on yourself/ Just walk away/ Please release me from this hell/ Just walk away/ There’s just nothing left to feel/ Just walk away/ Pretend that none of this is real.”

Ray Charles — “Hit the Road Jack”

I am legally obligated to include “Hit the Road Jack” on any list of songs about breakups, dumpings, physical separation, emotional separation—or roads. That’s just how it goes. It’s not my rule, it’s society’s rule.

It’s such a great song, though, so I don’t mind. Just hope the person or people you’re on lockdown with don’t tell you this when it’s all over and you’re allowed to hit the road again.

[Gokhman addition!] Richard Thompson — “Keep Your Distance”

I hopped in my car yesterday to make a coffee run and see the outside world, and I noticed that the inside of my car was a little disheveled. Things I’d kept in the drink holders were in the seats. Things that I’d had in the center console space were on the floor. My Fastrack was still there. That would have been a valuable thing to steal because it would have been free passage into San Francisco for a couple of months before I noticed. My garage door opener was still there. With that you could have burglarized my house when I was gone.

But my Chinese mass-produced prescription sunglasses were missing. Someone took them not realizing that the wearer will get a migraine, and likely COVID-19, because I’ve definitely been sick and I definitely didn’t wipe those things down. So, more upset than I was before I walked outside, I started driving and this was the first song that came on. By the great Richard Thompson, one of the greatest guitar players of our time. How appropriate.

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