April 13, 2022
It’s a warm sunny day here in Northern California, the kind of day when you sit out on the porch with a cool beverage in hand, some tunes on the phone, and just marvel at the wonders of nature.
Hard to believe just two years ago we were hunkered down, fearful of going out into a public place, fearful of coming in contact with anyone else, fearful of even breathing without a mask on. Fearful, fearful, fearful.
It was all about the fear. And making sure to wash your hands.
Not that today we are without fear. I don’t see anyone clamoring to get on board a cruise ship or travel to any of the countries where the now downgraded to an epidemic COVID-19 still lingers. Shaking hands still occurs, but fist bumps are the standard now. You still see folks walking around with masks on, but I think that’s just going to be normal for years to come, especially since the report came out about how regular flu, stomach flu, hell even the common cold all dropped precipitously when everyone, or at least most of us, were masked up.
I guess we’re all turning Japanese.
There have been adjustments to the “new normal” which is a phrase as obnoxious as any Madison Avenue ad slogan ever was. There is no “new normal” just as there is no “old normal”. There is just normal, the usual for the time. Yes, back before COVID it was not common to work from home or do most of your shopping via the internet or talk to relatives via Zoom, but many people did all of those things. Now more people do.
And it’s normal.
That initial surge of people going to movies, concerts, sporting events, the theater, has slowed down a bit. It was natural there would be a rush to be with others once the pandemic was declared under control. Humans are by nature a societal species, we need contact with others of our kind to survive. Now it’s even hard to remember those days when the lady in line ahead of you at the supermarket barked to stay six feet away even though between your cart and hers there had to be a least a seven foot buffer zone.
Speaking of which, remember running to buy up toilet paper? Everyone bought so much of it now stores can’t give it away.
Some things that were a product of those times are now standard.
People seemed to enjoy outdoor dining so the parklets created from parking spaces in front of restaurants have remained making even the most Midwest American city look like Paris in the 1920’s (sans stinky cigarettes).
Retail mall parking lots have been redesigned to accommodate the surge in drive up/pick up services most retailers are continuing to offer. I do think there will be some rethinking of that idea once those same retailers begin to notice the drop in per ticket revenue, a factor of fewer impulse purchases at the register.
Zoom is still going great guns but now faces competition from the advent of specialized video meeting apps, from RomperRoomz for kids to BrideNGroom for wedding planners to Bloom for gardening enthusiasts to GloomNDoom for depressives.
Of course one of the biggest changes was the advent of the Live/Work office building. Challenged by companies bugging out of downtown skyscrapers because their work forces were happy to trade in long commutes for virtual meetings and being able to spend more time with their families, developers worked to remodel their buildings into hybrid apartment-office spaces. Office workers can now have an elevator commute to their jobs, if they even need to go into the office at all. In addition it seems like every building has one floor or more dedicated to rent by the hour conference rooms, an easy and economical way for far flung work forces to occasionally meet face to face.
That has lead to a decrease in traffic, especially in once highway jammed metropolitan locations like Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York. Not that anyone is complaining about the downturn in traffic accidents, air pollution, or noise but there is worry that this will lead to fewer auto sales, less gasoline consumption, and fewer auto insurance policies or in other words a possible hit to the economy. It hasn’t happened yet and there are still plenty of people driving cars but the signs are there.
One thing that happily went back to what it was before is school. Happily for parents that is. Also for kids if they want to be honest. After class activities have returned, sports, music, theater, and the feeling of community a school engenders will never be taken for granted again by any student who went through the pandemic. Not to say it’s completely the same. Virtual teaching brought about the end of absenteeism and truancy. No excuse to miss class is accepted since class can be beamed into your bedroom. And if you’re not signed on, you’re busted.
We still have the divide between those who took the precautions, believed the science, listened to the experts, etc. and those who didn’t. That rift is healing slowly but should be aided by the start of Trump’s criminal trial and, hopefully, conviction. Plus the benefits of the Biden rescue bill and infrastructure bill are now becoming so evident even the capitol insurrectionists still not in jail are having to admit they were wrong. Those combined with national polling that shows total disgust with Republican voter suppression laws has Democrats salivating over an increase in their congressional majorities this November.
It’s been a long two years that are unlikely to ever be forgotten by anyone who has lived through it. We mourn those we lost, but we look forward to the new world ahead. And we will remember that that world will have come from this one, good and bad.
Exene Cervenka, masked up even when it wasn’t fashionable.