Friday, January 29, 2021

Pandemic Thoughts

It hit me this morning that one year ago today, I was in Bangalore accompanying a new customer on a tour. The night of the 29th, we were sitting in a gorgeous outdoor restaurant, drinking craft beer (a new concept in India) and talking about coronavirus.Yes, it was still January and we were fully aware of the potential danger and already talking about the potential for sending people to work from home (in the US) for a period of time.

My customer had routed their flights through Hong Kong to get the airline and schedule they wanted and by the end of the trip, their travel department had changed their flights home to go through London. We laughed about them having come in via China, but it was nervous laughter.

It has never been unusual in international airports to see people wearing facemasks.It has been a common practice in a number of Asian countries. But as I was going through customs in Mumbai on the way home, I saw a definite increase in mask wearing. This was still the first week of February.

When I landed in New York, I zipped through customs in no time at all (Thank you, Global Entry Program!) but I did see people being pulled out for questioning and their temperature taking by TSA. I assumed it was people coming in from China. I was surprised even then that the TSA folks were not masked. Again, this was still the first week of February.

All this is to say that this was not a goddamn surprise. Even an uninformed rube like me saw the potential for this creating serious problems in the US all the way back in January. And as we know, our government officials, including the President, knew as well and while some profited from it, they chose to hide it from the US public and continued to not only downplay it, they actively worked to discourage people from taking precautions. We don't talk about that much any more but we should. Over 400,000 (and counting) American deaths later, those deaths are on their heads.

Without looking it up on a calendar, I can tell you that the last live performance I saw was Destroyer at the Cradle on the second Wednesday of March. That Friday was the last time I went out for a beer after work, sitting down at Gizmos (the old Rathskeller) and chatting with the manager about the lockdown that was starting on Monday. The last time I ate inside a restaurant was that Saturday, when we stopped off at Sushi Bomb and sat at a bar table after stocking up on groceries, thinking that we'd keep our heads down for a few weeks and stop this thing early. Those small, normal events stand out sharply in my memory almost a year later.

Everything since then has pretty much been a blur. I tracked my grocery store visits for awhile, in case contact tracing was needed. But I've stopped being very good about that. We've gotten away for a couple of short hotel stays (room service only, wipe everything down, masks everywhere) and one glorious week at a condo in OBX last fall, but everything else has been pretty much an undifferentiated fuzz of work and... well... work.

I used to try to imagine how we would come out the other side of this. Now I frankly have no idea. It's been clear for almost a year that what was normal will likely not be normal again. What that *new* normal will look like, I haven't a clue. I realized yesterday while out for a walk that the thought of being in a crowded space anymore fills me with loathing. "Social distancing" has become the new norm and I'm not sure that, even when Covid winds down, I'm going to be in a hurry to be in close proximity to a bunch of strangers. I was usually more inclined to stay to the side or in the back at the Cradle and other clubs anyway (that stool at the back of the bar in the Cradle Back Room is MINE, dammit!). I have no idea how I'll deal next time (and there will be a next time, hopefully soon).

All of this being said, I realize how incredibly fortunate we are. We're not worried about where we're going to sleep tonight. We're not having trouble making ends meet. We're not having to go out and put ourselves at risk in order to keep working. Hell, I was mostly working from home anyway. I also recognize that all of that could change in an instant. So many people are hurting so badly from this and will continue to do so long after it is over.

So get your vaccinations. Keep your distance. Wear a fucking mask (a good one or at least 2 less-good ones doubled up). Wash those paws. And let's try to create a new normal after this that is safer, saner and more honest.

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