It’s hard to say exactly when COVID-19 took over. For me, I’m going with March 14, 2020. That’s when we started canceling things we had planned; a cooking class, hair appointments, dentist appointments, etc. March 13, 2020, was the last day I worked from my office. Looking back, it was a normal, but really, really good workweek. On March 13, 2020, I left work for the day, with my laptop, a few files, and several books. I knew I’d probably be working from home for a couple of weeks, maybe a little longer. I never thought I’d still be working from home two months later. And I certainly never thought my opinion of so many people would change so drastically. I never thought so many things would never be the same.
I’m not saying that I don’t think things will never go back to how they were pre-COVID. I have to believe they will, or I would go absolutely insane. Though, to be honest, I’d be pretty happy if shaking hands went away entirely. This isn’t the first time in human history that something like this has happened, and this time, we have better medical care and over 100 years worth of developments and improvement in science since the last time the world faced something similar to this.
But I still keep thinking about all of the things that won’t be the same, even when it’s perfectly safe for all of us to be back at work, in restaurants, and in hair salons. Will we be so used to maintaining distance that we still avoid crowds? Will we pay more attention the next time a mysterious illness affects another part of the world? Will we become like our Depression Era great grandparents, saving everything and wasting nothing? Will we spend more time outside? Less time in front of screens? Will the resurgence of interest in learning skills like baking bread, sewing, and basic home repair last?
Those are the big picture questions, that may well only be answered in the history books. There’s already a museum project in North Carolina encouraging people to save things like PPE once this is over, to preserve the history for future generations. They’ll probably be the ones who will get the answers to the bigger questions.
But what about the smaller, more personal or local changes? Nick’s mom and I have had various versions of this conversation a few times. How many friendships will be damaged beyond repair? Or at least irrevocably altered? How many people will you never view in quite the same light?
I can’t help feeling like a lot of things will never be quite the same for me.
I tend to be a rule follower, and seeing someone as a rule follower, or a rule breaker, has always been important in helping to form my opinion of people. I didn’t realize just how important until the COVID restrictions went into place. I’m much angrier than I thought I would be to see people blatantly disregarding social distancing measures. To be honest, it feels me with a rage I didn’t expect from myself. I’m sure that’s exacerbated by the fact that Nick and my sister are essential workers, that my parents are high-risk, and that so many of our friends are elderly and high risk.
There are people I no longer wish to pursue friendships with. It’s not some dramatic middle school style “we’re not friends anymore,” type of thing. It’s just that the world is big, life is short, and clearly our values do not align in a way that’s going to lead to a lasting friendship.
There’s a class I want to take when things are back to normal. The person who teaches it locally has behaved in a manner that I cannot and will not condone, so now whenever I am able to take the class, I’ll be driving over an hour to take it from someone else.
There’s a healthcare (not traditional western medicine) facility that I won’t be going back to. They’ve been open through all of the shutdown, and I fully understand that. Healthcare is essential, and I believe this particular type of healthcare is very beneficial. I chose early on to cancel my late March appointment because I knew Nick would still be going to work, and through him, I believe I carry a higher risk to the people I’m around. I thought I’d be rescheduling once things were back to normal. But now, after two months of Facebook selfies of the owner hugging people, various posts by the owner that the loss of life doesn’t merit the closures we’ve had, and that it’s good for healthy people to be exposed, I won’t be going back.
I know there’s always a chance that I’ll change my mind when things are back to normal, and I’m not in a constant state of panic, but I think it’s doubtful. I can’t see myself spending my money at and supporting a business when their values are clearly so contrary to mine. And as far as friendships, I don’t think I’ll ever come to view willfully endangering people you see as somehow less worthy as a trait I want to see in a friend. There’s the Japanese proverb that says. “When the character of a man is not clear to you, look at his friends.” I’d rather my character be defined by people who are willing to do what is necessary for the greater good.
We’ve had texts, phone calls, and offers of various food/supplies from people I wouldn’t necessarily have expected to be the ones to check on us during this. These are the people I want to pursue deeper friendships with. They obviously care, and that’s always a good basis for friendship.
And let’s not forget all of the people who gave me buttons when I needed them to make mask adapters. I still have bags of buttons sitting around the house! No one offered to sell or barter buttons, they simply figured out a way to share them.
There’s the amazingly delicious pie shop kind of near us that has now provided me with the perfect excuse to eat too much pie once things are back to normal. Technically, they could have stayed open during all of this, but they chose to close when schools closed and restaurants were required to go to take-out only. There are various programs through the schools here to provide food for needy children, including programs that send food home with them over the weekend and holidays. Schools closing meant more issues with food insecurity. So, the pie shop handed out free bagged lunches (PB&J sandwich, an apple, a cookie, and milk) every day, even though they weren’t open for business. As the community started to get involved, they were able to hand out more food. That’s a business I want to support. They filled a need, and provided an outlet for other people to help. I feel good about spending my money there. And it’s an added bonus that I’ll get to eat pie in the process.
Then there are all of the restaurants that have provided food to Nick’s job during this. A few local restaurants have dropped off food for them, and have provided free meals for first responders. Some of them don’t have the best parking, or the most convenient hours, but they are absolutely the restaurants we will be going to once things are back to normal. They’ve demonstrated that they value our essential workers and first responders, just like we do.
|Frankie & Howard|
So what about you? Has your opinion of anyone changed, for good or bad, during all of this? Are there businesses you will or won’t support going forward? Do you think we’ll go back to exactly how things were before?