Chris Dupuy explores this nebulous period we are currently in, where we’ve reached more favorable numbers regarding COVID and are all wondering, now what?
“We’re all good now, right? I mean, like, no more COVID?”
I’ve been waiting almost a year and a half to say those words. And now that I’m finally being given clearance (well, kind of, I think) to do so, it’s falling into the dreaded “easy to say, hard to do” category.
Am I the only one who’s a little unclear about what we are supposed to do now? Or how the hell we even begin to go about it? Do I start speaking to strangers again? Without a mask? Is there going to be a reversion back to the traditional definition of personal space as the term “social distancing” becomes more and more obsolete?
I went for a run on the beach the other day and finished up on the pier in San Clemente. And yes, I know, it’s California. So, by the definition that most of the rest of the country abides by, things will always be a little extra weird. But as I trotted back up the pier toward the railroad tracks, people were going out of their way to steer clear of me (I know, I know—cue countless jokes at my expense from that lead-in). I was sweating profusely, and in all likelihood appeared on the verge of cardiac arrest, but in reality, I suspect the caution and distancing of my fellow pier visitors was because, when I run, I don’t wear a mask.
Then I walked over to the local coffee shop, where the “Masks Required” sign still sits prominently on the counter, and the customers waiting in line seemed to have no quarrel with such a directive. Without hesitation, I “masked up” (another term I can’t wait to throw dirt on) as I passed over the Bear Coast Coffee threshold and took my spot at the back of the line.
Now, here’s the next weird part. I found a certain degree of comfort in the anonymity my masked entrance into the coffee shop afforded me. There were half a dozen or so folks ahead of me in line. All were appropriately distanced from one another as we’ve been programmed to do for the past year-plus. The combination of those four-to-five feet of separation (let’s face it, we’ve all been shaving at least a foot off the six-foot social distance definition since last summer) plus my mask made it entirely unnecessary for me to even consider idle chit-chat with my fellow customers.
And I like that.
To be clear, I do shade a bit to the introverted side of things on those personality tests we’re sometimes forced into taking in corporate America, but my results have always been close enough to middle ground for me to not use that as my excuse here. The real explanation may be that I’m just out of fucking practice. I’m afraid that I don’t know how to casually socialize anymore, and if I’m being honest, it isn’t a skill I’m dying to pick back up.
Am I the only one who’s a little unclear about what we are supposed to do now? Or how the hell we even begin to go about it?
Right now, all over the world, as the numbers of those vaccinated grows exponentially, people are beginning to peek their heads back out into civilization as we used to know it. It’s like a modern-day version of that scene in The Wizard of Oz where things first go colorized. You know, the one where Dorothy’s house had just fallen on the Wicked Witch, and the munchkins begin creeping out of their hiding places to see what in the world is going on?
Let’s call the vaccines Dorothy’s house, and COVID is the Wicked Witch. And well, I guess that means I’m one of the munchkins. Shit, I’ll volunteer for the role of Mayor of the Munchkin City (he was always my favorite, anyway). But I digress.
Anyway, out I creep, shooting quick glances over each shoulder and wondering if this is all just a ruse designed to set me up for even greater feelings of isolation and anxiety once I’ve taken a couple of deep breaths and relaxed my guard. Let’s face it, every day we read stories about new strains of the virus, not to mention the frequent storylines chronicling vaccinated folks coming down with COVID. And god forbid we go down the road of those occasional headlines screaming about another unsuspecting citizen who’s died due to a fatal reaction to one of the vaccines.
But we’re all good, right? Come on, now. I know I heard somebody say it was all over.
If you want proof, here’s all you need—traffic is bad again. Which begs the question, who could possibly want to rush back into the rat race of nine-to-five commutes, especially when we’ve proven we can thrive with a computer as our best friend? My microchip-fueled telescope that provides me visibility into the rest of the world from my comfy eight-by-eight quarantine-submarine that I used to call the spare room above the garage.
And don’t get me started on air travel. Who out there could possibly be in a hurry to get reacquainted with the good people of TSA? You really think the dog food they serve us at 30,000 feet has improved since last we sampled it sixteen months ago? That all of those altruistic airline CEOs have realized the error of their ways since the pandemic hit? That despite massive revenue losses, they’ve all locked arms and decided to improve the flyer’s experience by investing in better food for their customers? Yeah, I kind of doubt it, too.
At least if we are returning to normal, we can look forward to once again reading about fistfights breaking out between irate passengers and the gate attendants of Spirit Airlines. There’s always a silver lining if you look hard enough.
Maybe the smart play is to remain on self-quarantine just a little longer? Avoid wading into the personal space of others, mask or no mask, until Dr. Fauci or somebody official like that can pinky-swear to me it’s completely safe? Who really wants to go back to work anyway? Zoom calls aren’t so bad, right? I know more about the artwork on the walls of my co-workers’ dining rooms today than I ever did pre-COVID. I’m calling that a good thing.
So, please forgive me, but I’m going to hunker down just a bit longer. Somebody give me a wave when the coast is clear.