It’s strange to think of a time where I wasn’t living in a pandemic. The thought of going into packed bars has never been more uncomfortable to me… or really, the thought of going anywhere remotely crowded stresses me out. I’ve only been wearing masks in public since March or April, but I’m having trouble imagining the cashiers or shelf stockers without them (since, of course, the only place in public I regularly go to anymore is the grocery store).
I have at least one opened and one unopened bottle of hand sanitizer in my car at all times and wouldn’t even dare to think of touching anything inside of it before using it. I remember when I wasn’t afraid to sneeze in the office, or anywhere around other people really, especially more than once in a row. I know my allergies are bad right now but no one else does. I’d probably just take sick leave if I got a cold because I certainly couldn’t could let myself be seen in public with a runny nose. I’m more cautious around people who look perfectly healthy right now than I was near those who clearly had a cold a year ago, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. And really, how could I be sure it’s just a cold, anyway?
On the other hand, I imagine two years from it will be strange to think of the time I was living in a global pandemic. Maybe I will have forgotten about the scarcities of household items such as toilet paper and hand soap, particularly at the beginning of the pandemic. Or the inconsistency of COVID testing and its availability, from county to county, and state to state. I might forget about standing in line, six feet apart from the person in front of me and six feet apart from the person behind, for about five hours to have a rapid test performed. Or I might forget about my state government discouraging me from traveling to certain states or being told to quarantine if I do.
People wondering if you could get the coronavirus from eating Chinese food, or claiming the severity of the virus is overblown. The more sensible people trying to make sense of all the confusing guidance about how it’s spread. Businesses moving jobs to be remote, and colleges and universities moving degrees to be all online (or at least, providing students an option for it).
It’s a crazy reality that no one could have anticipated a year ago, but we were all blindly thrown into, nonetheless. The word “unprecedented” has nearly lost all of its meaning after being run into the ground by corporations not wasting a second to inform us that “we’re all in it together.” But of the things I have lived through so far, this seems to truly be among the few that has so little precedence that the most recent event this has been consistently compared to was over 100 years ago, that being the Spanish flu.
It didn’t take long for TV shows, video games, and other media to start incorporating the pandemic. Some podcasts seem to have entirely shifted their focus to it, whether discussing different perspectives of those going through it or going over the unending torrent of information and misinformation. It will be interesting how five or ten years in the future, a snapshot of pandemic life will be preserved in these outlets.
Whether it’s YouTube comments mentioning they’re watching a video during quarantine, episodes of The Good Doctor featuring patients suffering from the disease, or universally-ignored arrows directing customers which way to shop left stuck to the floors in Walmart aisles, what seems as though it could start to come to an end in the near future with vaccines on the horizon (and I do realize this particular remark could age poorly for many reasons) will be immortalized though obscure and otherwise forgettable references for decades to come.