To be clear, there are thousands around the world personally touched by the devastation of Covid-19. The following, if I am lucky like millions of others, is my reflection on future daily life as it might be on the fringes of the pandemic.
Poets, writers, musicians, artists are the forecasters for the future as well as documentarians of the past. Their contributions are expected, especially when times are tough.
So, why am I struggling as a writer? Never one to be shy about sharing feelings or supposed wisdom that comes with living a long life (okay, a moderately long life), so, why the struggle?
I know exactly why. Newscasters, journalists, and politicians’ blather on about getting back to “normal”, getting back to “the way it was before.”
I have a news flash of my own. It is NEVER going back the “way it was before.” There has to be a NEW NORMAL!
Think about it or better yet, let me help you think about it, by listing a few realities for said future. I’m sure you’ll think of more on your own.
- Handshakes are out of the question.
In the past, I’ve always liked to shake someone’s hand. With a career in a male dominated world, an extended hand followed by a firm grip put me in on equal footing from the start (if not in control). With friends, a warm hug was desirable. But let’s get real. Have you seen all the videos of handwashing and how unlikely sanitation is actually achieved? How long once the Stay Home/Stay Safe edict is lifted that appropriate attention will be paid to washing one’s hands? Wiping down railings and doorknobs? I predict in an effort to get on with life as we knew it, most people will hastily reduce the time spent with soap and running water.
- Dining out.
Like many of you, eating out was one of my pleasures. Once a week, a different restaurant would be chosen, a leisurely meal enjoyed, and ultimately, a return to a home free of dirty dishes. It’s been close to two months since that scenario has played out and, frankly, I don’t see it happening again for a long time. We can still have our favorite restaurants and Take Out is an option and will remain so. It’s not that I’m uncomfortable with the waiters or the chefs, (well, not too uncomfortable), but unless I’m the only customer, I have to question anyone seated nearby. After all, who among us has lived through an airborne pandemic?
- Going to the movies.
Rather not going to the movies ever again, is a no brainer. When I was in elementary school my mother warned me not to lean my head against the theater seat lest I contact ringworm. Now, one cough from the row behind would have me speeding toward the exit during the previews. Thank goodness for the zillion streaming networks and big screen TVs. We can make our own popcorn.
- Night at the theatre.
Alas, the same cannot be said for live theatre. Similar dilemmas – large crowds in crowded spaces. I’ve been fortunate in my lifetime to witness incredible performances that still touch my heart even after years have passed; Cicely Tyson in A Trip to Bountiful, Philip Seymore Hoffman in Death of a Salesman, Hamilton – twice! Live concerts (Leontyne Price and Frank Sinatra), lectures (Gore Vidal and Howard Zinn), book/poetry readings (Gordon Parks and Claire Bloom) to name only a few that were readily available. Over the years my only regret is that I didn’t save Playbills and programs. How’s theatre going to work going forward? I’ll miss it terribly.
Walls in my home are filled with photographs and souvenirs from North America, Asia, Africa, and Europe. A planned trip to Central America may or may not happen and if it does happen, when? 2021? 2022? Seeing the world and experiencing other cultures is an education unmatched by any university. I feel fortunate to have had opportunities to travel and hope that my last trip to Africa will not be my last.
Those are simply a few things that won’t apply to the future; that can’t be part of the New Normal. Is there any good news that we can look forward to once the pandemic is, for lack of a better word, tamed? We must remain positive. We need to remain optimistic. Let the scientists push forward for a vaccine. It is far beyond my scope to rush false cures. Take the time. Get it right.
In the meantime:
- How fortunate to be well. Never take good health for granted. As the tally rises daily with deaths and more people become exposed, treasure every day of good health.
- My wife is an essential worker, so we have a paycheck. I am very aware not everyone is as fortunate. It’s vital to look for ways to reach out to others in need.
3. Read. Maybe people are reading more, I hope so. My shelves are packed with fiction and non-fiction, some dogeared, some never cracked open. What a joy to have the world at our fingertips, even it is experienced at our home address.
- The best thing happening now. I hope this will absolutely be a part of the New Normal, is that we’re talking to one another! Once a day, I call someone to see how they’re doing. I make no bones of the fact that I am the beneficiary of the time spent on the phone. (I only text now to arrange a good time to talk.) I also say “hello” to my neighbors, even when they are across the street. I want to make sure they know I’m here and I know they’re there and if we ever need each other we won’t be strangers knocking on doors.
New normal? It truly remains to be seen. In the meantime…
Stay Safe / Stay Home