Someone asked me, what do you miss the most over the past several months from things being closed or restricted?
Let me start by saying, life is different in many ways. I don’t need to summarize all of the changes or impact on businesses, schools, families, etc. The pandemic was a seismic shift in life around the globe. We all felt it. I don’t mean to trivialize the impact because I kept working and had a paycheck. My retirement investments took a major stock market hit, like it did for millions of others, but day-to-day, life went on. I am saddened by the friends who lost income or entire jobs, and those who were sick and did not recover.
The pandemic was huge news, every night at 5:30, and on social media. Sadly, in this country we debated whether the pandemic was real or a political hoax. We had a big problem believing medical science and we politicized everything about this public health emergency. We did not need a pandemic to expose a major divide in this country, but this division was probably responsible for more of the pain we felt, and it added to the problems we had to solve.
That commentary aside, each of us has probably reflected on how our lives have changed. Do you want life to go back to how it was pre-pandemic? That would be an interesting poll. Most of us would answer “yes” but what does that mean? Since March, we have lived with many changes, not all of them bad. Granted, we all miss the freedoms, but we have adapted and in some cases, simplified and re-prioritized our lives.
Restaurants – Occasionally, but not so much. There are take out availability for many, but I do not miss being packed tightly into busy restaurants. Trying new places and where there is a relaxed atmosphere, I do miss that. So, I guess I would like the freedom to go to a restaurant, maybe sit on the terrace, but not feel that my health is at risk.
Bars – Do not go to them.
Movie theaters – Occasionally, but it was sometimes hard to find a film I really wanted to see. The movie experience is not the same anymore. People looking at their phones during the movie, do not miss it.
Gyms – Having a consistent workout schedule, I do. You find substitutes for that activity, although it is not the same as weight machines that work on specific parts of your body. I fixed up my bicycle and walk.
Shopping – Not really. I did not frequent the Mall, there were only a few stores I visited. Maybe I’ll gravitate back, or not. I can buy most of the things I need online, although that is bad for local sales tax revenues.
Grocery store – I still visit the store for prescription refills and lunch, but I wear a mask. It is across the street from my office, so it is convenient.
Hardware store – Same as grocery store.
Haircuts – I’ve already written about the “hairdemic.”
Concerts – If you had asked me last year, I would have a different answer. Each year until this year, I had purchased tickets for up to half a dozen concerts, but at the end of last year, I decided to scale back and be more selective about the concert and venue. I miss the live music, but I do not miss the long drive, the road construction, rude people and other things that as I get older, I have less patience for. Being packed like sardines with thousands of other people does not found appetizing right now.
Traveling – I have become more selective about this subject. The world is less safe than ever before. My sites are set on fewer places to visit, connecting with friends and familiar territory. Traveling to other countries or cruises? No thanks. For me, this may be the biggest, most permanent change.
Exploring – Different from traveling, this is getting in the car and driving to other parts of metro area or town close by, stopping at a store or wondering around the streets. Part of this is wanting to keep a distance from others, and part is not feeling comfortable with the surroundings. There was a comfort in exploring, I’ve always felt comfortable on my own and seeing what was over the next hill. Not anymore.
Sporting events – I have always been a sports fan, but honestly, I do not miss it much. I admit, I watch some old basketball and football games on television. I pick games that I remember or and a few playoff games. The one sport I will miss is football, we will see what happens in the fall. Having followed sports since I was a kid, I find that I generally do not miss it.
Visiting family – I do miss this, I’ve been very strict about social distancing and respecting my mother’s advanced age. We have to be smart about what we do. I’ve kept in touch with my sisters and others via technology. It’s still tough because you would like to spend time with family, but the same issues exist for them, and me, as everyone else.
The workplace – Since mid-March, most of our employees have been working remotely and the door to the public has been closed. Slowly, we have reopened and are bringing people back. Most meetings are held in a virtual environment. I do miss the camaraderie of co-workers, but I am getting used to the quieter environment. It will be a change when everyone is back later this summer.
The library – I miss the library a lot. It was my office away from the office and a source of relaxation. I often spend entire lunch hours there, reading, browsing or working on the computer. If I needed a break from the office, it was just down the street, I could go and de-stress. Not being able to check out books and movies has been something I have missed, but more than that, the library fed my need for refueling and artistic stimulation. My lunch hours have felt a bit lost with the library’s closure.
What have I learned? First, and most importantly, I am glad to be alive and that I did not end up on a ventilator. Some I know was not as lucky. Earlier this year I was twice sick with a respiratory infection, before the wave of the pandemic hit. Could I have had the Coronavirus? A nurse practitioner who treated me said it was very possible, even though I never tested positive for the flu. Granted, flu tests are pretty narrow so it would not have been a positive for the Coronavirus strain, but it shows the limits of testing.
So, what other lessons are out there? I have found other things to occupy my time. I’m an introvert, so my being is not fed by being around large numbers of people and needing constant interaction. I find ways to fill my need for socialization, by chatting up people at work and staying connected with people at least electronically. I go to work everyday (but am isolated from others), I take care of my lawn, I read books and ride my bicycle. There are people I miss seeing. But there are also things I do not miss very much.
I do not miss ignorance, and there is a lot of it. China virus, hoax, economy killer, unnecessary restrictions, mass hysteria, conspiracy theories, etc. You didn’t have to look very far to hear the naysayers and feel the push-back. The impact of this pandemic was devastating on the economy, on public trust and on those who were sick, or families dealing with those who died. More than 100,000 deaths is not a typical flu season. Many people got sick and recovered, but many died agonizing deaths. We do not know the long-term impact of those who were sick. Neurological or lung damage? Not known. Loss of jobs and long-lasting financial damage for millions. The country’s already huge debt load took on nearly $4T more, pushing our debt to around $25T, or around $76K for each American.
Will there be a second wave, or will the number of cases just continue to rise? As the country has opened and restrictions eased, will we make ourselves more susceptible to this possible next wave? An unfortunately, it will hard to re-institute protections and potentially impact businesses that just re-opened.
We have seen how a pandemic quickly crashes the public health, the economy and most crowd-based activities. I recently reviewed a film from 50 years ago, The Andromeda Strain, about an organism accidentally brought to Earth from a space satellite. This organism had the potential to wipe out life on our planet. That was science fiction, but it was science-based. So, what will be the new reality and how will each of us adapt our lives? I think we saw how quickly some people flocked to the beaches, bars and party coves when the country opened a little bit. This week, I watched video of my state leaders at the capitol and saw very little distancing or mask wearing. People I look to for leadership, weren’t really showing it. We can look to others for wisdom and guidance, but some of that we must find in mirror. Convenience is tempting, but smart is a sure base hit, even if there is no baseball.