There are some things we can't say out loud. Perhaps no one should say them out loud. This pandemic is just as bad as advertised. People have suffered in every conceivable way, from routine inconveniences to losing loved ones.
If you even suggest any “silver lining,” prepare to be shut down.
Having said that, people are talking, somewhat quietly. Following up on these hushed conversations, I put some friends on the spot. Be honest with me, I said. At some point, life will return to what it was before March 13, 2020. We will once again attend ball games, concerts, and church. We can hug grandma, and she can hug us. But is there anything about pandemic-era living that you don't hate?
The responses were interesting. One friend said, “Don't tell my wife, but I am getting spoiled by online worship service. I get to sleep in late, I don't have to dress up, and I can sit in my easy chair and sip coffee. I miss some of the people, but I don't miss the Sunday morning rush.” He added, “Plus, it used to be a wild scene in the parking lot, with everyone rushing home in time to watch football, and I sure don't miss that.” Praise the Lord, and pass to Julio Jones.
More than one person raved about working from home. “They tell me we're going back to the office some day,” a friend said. “But I'm in sales, and I'm doing fine on the phone and sending e-mails. I used to have to wear a suit and tie, but now I can leave my pajamas on until lunch time.” I wonder if those suits will still fit after the pandemic?
I have written about missing the face-to-face interactions with friends and strangers alike, but not everyone agrees. “I never thought I'd say this,” said a friend, “but I actually enjoy wearing a mask inside the store. I can buy a twelve-pack and two dozen doughnuts, and no one recognizes me. I used to see someone I know, and they would make some crack about 'where's the party' or try to make me feel guilty. Nobody even makes eye contact now, and I get in and out of the store faster.” He didn't say it, but it's probably also easier to buy bug traps and hemorrhoid cream too.
At least publicly, most folks say they want schools to be 100% in-person, and I am among them. It's easy for me to say, since my kids are grown. But one mom told me, “I have two little ones in 2nd and 4th grades, and I have really enjoyed spending more time with them. I know they're safe at home, and I'm blessed to have the opportunity to help them learn. I know every parent can't do that. I actually dreaded them going back to school, because I don't know what they might bring home. I pray that this virus can be controlled some day, because we all need our lives back. I'm not a home schooler, and if my kids were teenagers, I might not feel this way. But I can honestly say that I have enjoyed the extra time with family. Yep, wait until those kids are 13, 14, 15. You might wish schools were open around the clock.
I actually had one respondent who was brutally honest about his happiness when schools closed during the pandemic. “I don't like driving through school zones, because I have to slow down for the rug rats. The start of school was delayed about a month late in my county, and I sure enjoyed that month.” Oh, sweet revenge, someday you'll be a parent, my young friend.
But not everyone views the pandemic in these terms. One frequent supermarket shopper told me, “I'm a germophobic, like Howie Mandel. I've never liked shaking hands, or people invading my space. I've often turned away people in the parking lot, who were offering me their shopping cart after they had finished. I know they're trying to be nice, but I prefer to sanitize a cart as I enter the store. If nothing else, this pandemic is teaching people what I've known for years. The importance of thorough hand washing, and making sure you touch only clean surfaces. I hope those habits will stick with people long after the vaccines are approved, and life gets back to normal.”
He added, “I like the fact that stores and restaurants seem to take cleaning more seriously these days. I remember how nasty some of them used to be, and I hope we never go back to that.”
Who knows when “normal” will return, and what it will be like? Maybe we can learn from the bad, and the good, and be better prepared for whatever comes our way next time.
(David Carroll, a Chattanooga news anchor, is the author of “Volunteer Bama Dawg,” available on his website, ChattanoogaRadioTV.com. You may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 900 Whitehall Road, Chattanooga, TN 37405)