Opening Up

We are tip-toeing into the future. Conditions are a little spartan, a little unfamiliar. This is good; this is scary. Caution, patience, and gratitude are the watchwords.

Beware: Lots of People Ahead

I took my first flight in a year last week, just a hop up north to see family. Y’all… there are a LOT of people in airports!

Pre-pandemic Hong Kong, photo Wall St Journal

It was like when you are away from home for a long time, like a summer or when you first go to college, then you are back. It is both strange and familiar. Your primitive brain remembers. Crowds of people are back. Can’t say I really liked that. But we have 8 billion people in the world, so we must share it with each other.

If you haven’t done this in a while, never fear (as long as you are vaxxed A.F, as the kids say today). The airplane wasn’t actually that bad although that was the longest wearing a mask nonstop that I have done in a while. And airplane are always late aren’t they? A little late coming in? Early to the arrival gate, which means you sit on the tarmac. Mechanical something or other, flight crew’s not there. That is all oh-so familiar, too. If we have learned nothing from this experience, it ought to be patience.

But that six feet of space thing? People in airports seem to have thrown that out the window already. Be vaxxed or stay masked.

Masks aren’t strange any more. Photo by Vladimir Vladimirov.

Be Patient With One Another

On the other hand, six feet is a little matter of patience, isn’t it? If someone is too close to you, you can move a little, edge a little, give space. I’ve become a lot more patient. More patient driving because there is a small contingent that has decided they should still drive 90 like they did last April, when there were no other cars on the road. Just give them room.

Some people may also keep wearing masks after it is safer to take them off. I prefer mine off, but you can keep yours on. It’s been nice not to get someone else’s cold; not to give to my spouse, who stays sicker longer than I do.

I rather enjoyed the bandanna approach when hiking. Kept the sun off the back of my neck and warmed up my cheeks in that February air. Some of them are tie-dyed now. Lots of additional fashion statements to make.

If someone is still wearing a mask now, next month, or in six months, don’t give them a hard time. They may have a good reason.

If someone isn’t vaccinated yet, give them time. Maybe they’re immune-compromised–there might be a handful out there. Maybe they haven’t had the time yet to drive an hour to the vax site or wait on the phone forever or hunt around to get an appointment. Give people time. The New York Times had a story only a few weeks ago that 30 million people would like to get vaccinated but couldn’t take the time away from work or family. I have in-laws whose only rural hospital closed down right before the pandemic. Vaccination sites now need to come to people. Give them time.

When we don’t need to be patient, we can avoid people who are just being “jerks.” (I have better words but NSFW). There’s a bar somewhere up north–one of those towns with lots of NRA bumper stickers on the trucks–where the owner is going to charge a $5 fee if you refuse to take off your mask. Five dollars if you wear a mask. That one’s easy. Don’t go into the bar.

Thank Us

Mostly we can breathe a sigh of relief. My youngest, who works in retail, says the arrows are coming up off the store floor. The libraries reopened a few weeks ago, and there were even greeters to say, “welcome back.” Thank you!

If you’ve been vaccinated, thank you. That does make me safer. If you’re wearing a mask, thank you. That also makes me safer. If you worked in a store–grocery, Target, fast food, whatever–thank you. You made our lives more bearable.

We’re going to be okay.