“It’s That Time of Year”

My 3 Cents “It’s That Time of Year”

When we hear the words “It’s that time of year” it may trigger the first line of a Christmas carol or possibly the myriad of “Best Ten” lists to fill year-end deadlines or, after looking in the mailbox in hopes of finding a Christmas card, the plethora of requests for donations from charities unknown. (The length of that opening sentence, which could have rambled on with more “or” add-ons, demonstrates the countless thoughts racing through our heads “this time of year.”)

Time for reflection of events of the last year? Oh, must we? 2021 was a continuation of 2020. With the constant reminder to wash hands, wear a mask, and keep a safe distance. Emails were now signed off with “Stay Well / Be Safe” instead have “Have a great trip” or “See you soon.”

I hear about disgusting conduct by adults with no sense of propriety. Observations about behavioral changes of people and how they are treating one another are pretty limited from my office window. At best, I venture out once a week to the grocery store and during the month of December made a few more trips to the post office than usual. Luckily, where I live, people tend to be respectful of one another and, outside of the occasional defiant barefaced shopper who can easily be avoided, no one seems determined to prove to the world that he knows better than the brightest scientific minds about what’s real or not regarding deadly transferable viruses.

Back when the pandemic first dominated the lead-in on the evening broadcasts or Twitter feed, a frequent message was “we can’t wait to get back to normal!”  I even wrote a My 3 Cents column titled, “New Normal,” more than a year and a half ago. I had to look it up and was surprised how apropos it still is. (Writers love when they realize their work “holds up.”)

Not for lack of time or creative thought, I share with you how little has changed in the last twenty-four months.

My 3 Cents    New Normal                                         4/20/2020

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.

  1. 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 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.

 2. 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 with Take Out is an option. 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?

 3. 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.

 4. Night at the theatre.

Alas, the same cannot be said for live theatre. Same dilemma. 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.

 5. Travel

Walls in my home are filled with photographs and souvenirs from Asia and 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.

My 3 Cents              “It’s That Time of Year”                 12/21/2021 (cont.)

The good news since the previous column, effective vaccines have been administered. The bad news is the emergence of new variants requires further research and hopefully new treatments. Impatience to get back to normal has been met with theatre and restaurant closures and hospitals scrambling for beds to accommodate seriously ill patients and thousands of unvaccinated people who fail to face reality.

At the risk of being redundant annually, “it’s that time of year” to Stay Safe / Be Well and hope for the best in 2022.