Near Normal

As the spring season approaches, mask mandates are being eased or lifted, depending where you live. Vaccine cards are becoming less important to enter restaurants and entertainment venues. The covid death count is no longer the lead story on the nightly news. Life is slowly returning to “near normal” which sounds so much better than “new normal”. Unfortunately, the effects of this pandemic are going to be with us forever. Near normal may be the closest we ever get to the way things were in pre-virus days.

The calendar recently marked the two-year anniversary of the day the world changed. On March 10, 2020, Governor Baker declared a state of emergency in Massachusetts due to the coronavirus. The world was on edge as this new disease wreaked havoc in every facet of our lives. It was a frightening time. No one had any hard facts about the transmissibility of the virus. The symptoms seemed to vary from patient to patient. Precautions were debated and debunked. The CDC changed safety protocols from day to day. The science seemed to change depending on which scientist was clarifying things for us at the time.

On Friday, March 13, 2020, I was sent home from work with my computer and my keyboard. I was instructed on how to connect to the company’s system so I could work remotely. At any other time it would have been a dream come true. No commute. No gas expense. No time clock. This was not that. This was a nightmare.

The working from home part was fine. Rushing to meet morning deadlines was a great distraction from staring out the window at the gray world outside. A world suddenly devoid of traffic and people. A world suddenly gone quiet. In some ways, the world returned to something basic, stripped of the usual bombardment of information and advertising that no longer seemed as important as survival. 

Fast forward to March 2022: I’m still working from home. I may not be locked down inside these four walls anymore, but after being a housebound for so long, adjusting to a full-time return to the outside world is not going to be easy. After two years of feeling uncomfortable wearing a mask at the grocery store, I now feel uncomfortable not wearing one. I keep a mask in my pocket wherever I go, just in case I enter a business where they are still required. The great mask debate is just one more addition to the list of things dividing our country.

Don’t get me wrong, a return to “near normal” is definitely a step in the right direction. Normal is too much to hope for. As the weather warms, people’s faces are a welcomed sight, even if their smiles aren’t as bright as they seemed before. Maybe some of the younger children won’t remember the hardships they endured while the pandemic raged on. Maybe their worst memory will be having to sing three choruses of Happy Birthday as they washed their hands while lathering up with antibacterial soap. Maybe most of them were lucky enough not to have lost loved ones to the virus. 

My wife and I unfortunately contracted covid (the omicron variant) just before Christmas last year. Our symptoms lingered through New Year’s Day. The virus took away any chance we had of celebrating, but we endured as best we could. So much for happy holidays. We were just happy we could breathe.

The pandemic made an indelible impression on life as we know it. Experts are now saying we may have to deal with covid on a seasonal basis. “Near normal” may be as close to normal as we are ever going to get. Considering the alternative, I’ll take it. Who wants to be normal anyway?

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