Well, here we are, three years since the start of the pandemic to beat all pandemics (at least in our lifetime). What a ride it has been!
We did it. We survived our first rodeo. I don’t know about you, but I embraced the hermit cycle: get up, go to the dog park, go to work in my uncle’s garage, go home and go to bed. No need to get dressed up — or even wear real pants. It felt like that movie, “Groundhog Day” with Bill Murray, and it hardly mattered what I wore as the days blurred together into weeks, months, years…
Forget about the days when we dressed to fly, now we don’t even change out of our pajamas to board the plane.
Trying to stay engaged and lighthearted in these viral times was challenging. I believe we are generally a happy species with an inclination to help each other, even we middle-agers who can barely understand the virtual social language at this point. We gave it our best shot during COVID with apps like House Party; pretty much like a real house party in that you can see your friends, you can sometimes even hear them over the background noise, and you can lock the room if you don’t want Chachi’s girlfriend to barge in on you (when we went to actual house parties Joanie still loved Chachi).
“Is this what the future looks like?” we wondered, enjoying our cocktails while hanging out with video versions of our friends, all without actually leaving the house. (zolpidem) The best part was when we were ready to leave the party, we just said goodbye; no waiting for an uber on the street or taking a late-night bus ride, because we were already home. Of course, the most often-heard phrase on House Party from the 45-55 age bracket was, “how do you end this thing?”
Virtual house parties weren’t the only advantages to humans staying indoors. Pollution was less, and wildlife was free to roam the empty parks. Water was cleaner and clearer, and people were spending less of their quality time in their cars. Hey, if this is what it takes to stop mass shootings, maybe we’d better give permanent stay-at-home orders some consideration, amiright? But we are seeing real social consequences of not bumping into each other for all that time.
Without physical interaction, it seems we lost the ability to put ourselves in another’s boots. We are hugging on the sidewalk less and fighting at the dog park more. The dog park on a crowded afternoon is to dogs what happy hour was to us pre-pandemic. Remember when everyone was so excited to see each other that we never wanted to leave? And getting the gang together on Zoom is not the same. The energy can’t move and shift through the screen, plus there is no way to sense (smell) the mood in the air. Maybe we should take a cue from our canine friends and realize that we too need actual interaction to stay connected.
I think we humans get carried away sometimes, and with the best of intentions we alienate ourselves and each other. By crossing the street to give everyone six feet of personal space and masking up in public, we’ve created a lot of isolation and fear, and often now our conversations begin with anger and distrust.
“Do you think it’s the hat? … A lot of people hate this hat. It angers a lot of people, just the sight of it.” -Uncle Buck.
So, what can we take from this viral lesson? We’ve been there, done that, survived the worst. Now what?
As I look around at our post-pandemic world, I see Hunger Games in Congress, and war balloons for profit, billionaires with no more imagination than club level seats and an obvious lack of empathy. We’ve returned to our regularly scheduled program of road rage, school lockdowns and prescription drug (vaccination) commercials for days. Our immune systems are inundated, our stresses trigger-happy, we’re booted and spurred and ready to kick some ass at the dog park — even though our dogs get along. Surely there is more to this human story.