Cooped up inside, many of us find ourselves falling into one of two camps.
One feels lockdowns must continue until it is “safe,” whatever that may be — adequate testing, the ability to treat the virus or defeat of the virus. Anyone taking an outdoor excursion is viewed with suspicion.
The flip side of the coin are those joining, or sympathizing with, protests over stay-at-home orders that are sprouting up nationwide. Feeling the curve has been flattened, and perhaps that the virus wasn’t all that in the first place, they want to get back to something resembling normal.
Of course, neither side is completely wrong. The virus hasn’t been licked, but we cannot stay at home indefinitely. With a vaccine (optimistically) a year away, that’s simply not possible. Bills, rent, mortgages, auto loans and the like must be paid, both for individuals and for businesses.
And as states make their move toward reopening, our frayed nerves are sure to be tested further.
Last weekend, I ran a couple of errands. What I saw gave me some insight on what we can expect as the country reopens:
- I picked up a pair of shoes I had ordered via curbside delivery. This worked flawlessly. I drove up, checked in via a link in my email receipt, gave them a description of my car, and within moments, my shoes were handed to me through the window. With this infrastructure in place, curbside delivery is a convenience we should benefit from even when things do return to normal.
- I went to a car wash to clean and vacuum the car I’m giving to the kid but was disappointed to find the vacuums taped off. I’m guessing this was because it would be impossible to maintain distancing, though I believe it could have been done by limiting the number of vacuums in use. We all need to prepare ourselves for similar inconveniences in the “new normal.”
- I stopped at a grocery store which was confusing as all get out. Our stores are not well designed for one-way aisles, particularly if you are not familiar with the layout of the store going in. Think of any box store you frequent. Multiple locations of the same store rarely have the same layout.
- If you think we, the customers are confused, so are the employees who are trying to implement new and confusing processes handed down from store managers and corporate offices. There will need to be a lot of patience all the way around, from both customers and employees.
- But the part of the trip that nagged me the most was the trip to the convenience store. People weren’t behaving badly, in fact, for the most part, I was impressed with the positive attitudes people displayed toward each other. But many were not minding the practices the experts have been trying to drive home these last few weeks. Masks and social distancing were hit or miss. Someone holding a door, which while polite, makes it impossible to give someone their space. And a lot of people are confused, or not aware, of their surroundings.
All of us will face challenges readjusting to public life. Rules are confusing. They work against behaviors we have practiced since we were young. And, maybe, some of us are just tired of being told what to do.
Stan Lee was fond of saying, “With great power comes great responsibility.”
For us, in the coming weeks, our freedom — that gift which so uniquely defines us as Americans — is our great power.
Hopefully, by sacrificing a bit of that freedom the last few weeks, we have given our health professionals an opportunity to better manage this crisis. By being mindful of our own behavior as we reemerge — limiting exposure, keeping social distances, covering our cough, wearing masks — we can exercise great responsibility.
I know it isn’t easy. Masks, for instance, trigger claustrophobia in me. So, I chose not to put myself in situations where I need to wear one for more than a few minutes. But, if I can’t do that, then it’s “suck it up, buttercup,” because going in without the mask is not an option.
I like to think of it as me not being a selfish jerk. I spend most of my time at home, but I also have not been tested. I have no idea if I’m carrying the virus. Do you?
Yes, there will be inconveniences in the coming weeks and months. But, aren’t they are small prices to pay to do right by our friends, our neighbors, our families, our front-line responders and our communities?