Janet Combs

Everything about this pandemic has been extreme and surreal. Driving on Route 17 toward Myrtle Beach, I see a digital highway sign flashing an ominous message about doing what you can to stop the spread of COVID-19. For a moment, I wonder if I’m an extra on a disaster movie set; there are hardly any vehicles on this ordinarily congested stretch, the sky is 9/11-blue and the breeze carries a hint of ocean. What would my character do, reading such a dire warning? I suppose I could turn around and go home, but it’s nice to take a short unmasked, ungloved drive in the untainted bubble of my vehicle; it provides a brief sense of freedom—these outdoor spurts are important mood-elevators. Wait, is that deceased Tom Petty singing “Free Fallin’” on my car stereo? Just another perfect movie moment. This thing is not over yet.

What a cheery opening to this week’s column!

COVID-19 has brought us conversely apart and together; isolated from others, yet home with our loved ones around the clock. Which is to say, continuously. Uninterrupted. Without a break. You get the idea. Puzzles have been completed, closets cleaned, yards impeccably manicured. Unexpectedly, it’s caused my husband and I to bond—to bond nightly, to bond enthusiastically, to bond relentlessly—for upwards of two hours each evening.

Our bonding started off innocently enough, with a single free film on a streaming service one evening in early April. I think it was “Casino Royale.” I mentioned I hadn’t seen a lot of James Bond films, and my husband remarked that he had pretty much seen them all. There might have been a special promotion going on where the James Bond movies were available free—after all, the whole international intrigue theme runs through both the current pandemic and the entire James Bond series. We were incentivized, somehow, to begin our 007 journey. Can we agree that the word “incentivized” is annoying and will never appear in this column again?

Nearly every evening after dinner, we’ve watched a James Bond film; I think we have only four or five left. And it’s a good thing, because while the pandemic endures, the promotion has ended and we now have to pay for our bonding.

What have I learned from this intense spy immersion? I have learned that the women characters can dash through unfamiliar, challenging terrain in high heels and bathing suits far better than I could ever run in sneakers and running shorts around my local high school track. This is perhaps the most outstanding and impressive feature of the female leads in James Bond films, unless we want to count looking fabulous while lounging on yacht decks a character trait.

One of my favorite continual elements is the imaginative spy gadgetry—belt buckles that can shoot spikes into walls and spin out lines for rappelling down rock faces or buildings, bombs triggered by the number of clicks on a retractable ball point pen, fancy sports cars that can shoot a field of impenetrable fog at the vehicles chasing them.

Dame Judi Dench appears in later Bond films, and she manages to elevate any project she appears in. That’s my one-sentence review of Dame Dench.

Finally, we have the variations on James Bond himself—all lovers and fighters extraordinaire, played with humor and playfulness by some and a darkness or vacantness by others. No man has been shot at and missed more often than James Bond.

Inevitably, here on Planet Janet we’ve started to see a lot of parallels between the Bond films and our own drab lives during COVID-19. A number of feature films are percolating, with the following working titles: Today Will Happen Again Tomorrow, A View to the Same Old Room, Face Masks are Forever, Live and Use Sanitizer, Don’t Touch Your Face Another Day, and my personal favorite, Glovedfinger.

Like Bond’s signature drink, we’ve all been shaken—not stirred. We will return.

Janet Combs is a freelance writer living in Georgetown County. Contact her at www.janetfrickecombs.wordpress.com.