Flights were booked, connections were arranged; the split-second timing of “leaving there and getting here” was set, synchronized so everyone would be where they needed to be at the designated time and place. And, with that, holiday plans were activated and have yourself a merry little Christmas!
Then key personnel—after office parties, or bar crawls, or dinner events—started coughing and sore-throating, and before you could say, “non-refundable flight,” the dreaded “T-line” lit up and all plans were off.
Nope, it ain’t over, folks.
But we so want it to be, don’t we? So much so that it is now more normal to see people not taking precautions than taking them. Concern for oneself or even others in the orbit has given way to a more resigned, even cavalier, stance of, “What are you gonna do? We gotta get on with our lives, right?”
Even in a crowded concert hall where you’re elbow-to-elbow with strangers roaring in sing-alongs and breathing heavily on each other? Even at a crowded home party where laughing and (loud) talking guests huddle en masse around the buffet table? Even at the grocery store, the bank, the airport, where the potential of unknown Covidian particulate finding its way into your breathing passages is not negligible? Hell, even our Spectrum technician showed up the other day without a mask, and when I asked him to put one on, he huffed and puffed in annoyance while bleating that, “It’s all a fantasy anyway”… after which I suggested he take his leave and we’d call for someone else.
It’s no longer just the trumpy, right wing, science-denying, anti-vax folks; even many perfectly logical, openminded liberals have decided it’s time to move on: masks are disruptive, testing is pointless, and “everyone’s going to get it anyway.” Yes, maybe, but still… there went the Christmas plans, which I’m sure is a disappointing scenario playing out for many people this season, as it did for the last two.
It was actually less fraught when there were rules and mandates that asserted some control over the matter. Yes, the sides were drawn: there was caterwauling and defiance from the red-hatters; conversely, everyone else who wanted to do their part to keep the virus in check, stay healthy, and not infect Grandma or Uncle Buddy, wore masks, kept distant, washed hands, and tested as needed. They didn’t complain too much about all of it either. Yes, remote learning had unfortunate impacts, and the lifespans of many businesses were truncated, but there was a sense that we grasped the urgency of things and were willing to participate for the common good. When we learned that over one million people in just the United States died from this dreaded thing, our efforts felt all the more important and essential…. how many more might’ve died had we not implemented precautions? Even after the vaccines arrived, those who felt responsible to the collective got their shots and continued to follow good practices, while, sadly, the other side continued to die in greater numbers. It was numbing and exhausting, but the lines were clear.
Now? Three years in? Left to our own devices?
There’s a measure of mayhem. It’s the wild, wild west out there. People still masking in indoor public spaces are the minority and the dismissiveness of non-maskers seems more emboldened. Asking people to take Rapid Tests the morning of an event— which we understand doesn’t offer assurances beyond that moment but is at least a good bet-hedge—used to be a simple, understood request, yet some now act beleaguered by the imposition. So when someone who doesn’t mask, doesn’t distance, and doesn’t follow precautions calls two days after a gathering to announce they’ve “just tested positive,” which is becoming an all-too-frequent event, we recognize that we’re firmly in the days of Covid chaos.
I’m not sure what the answer is. Based on conversations I’ve had with a wide range of people, it seems the general think at the moment is, “You do you, and I’ll respect that.” OK. So I do me. I eat in restaurants, but insist on outdoor dining spaces. I go to theaters and concert halls, but wear my mask throughout. When people come to our home for an indoor event, we insist they take Rapid Tests that morning. When we’re invited to home parties or dinners to be held indoors, we ask if the host/hostess will be requiring same-day testing; if so, OK; if not, we bow out.
None of this is fun. None of it is comfortable. In fact, at this point it’s almost crazy-making, particularly when so many in my circle seem largely unconcerned while I continue to operate with caution. I’ll look at a crowd all jammed in next to each other, no masks, no distance, hooting and hollering along with a band, or screaming at a sporting event, and just shake my head thinking, “I guess they’re just not worried about it.” Which then makes me wonder if I’m nuts, if I’ve become hyper-cautious. But I’ve read too many articles about Long Covid, about potential unknown and longterm effects, about systemic issues that can impact the body, all of which bolsters my original mission statement asserted back in March 2020: “I DON’T WANT TO GET THIS DAMN THING!” And given how easy it is to take steps in support of that goal, I will continue to take them and hope fort the best.
But here we are again, third year in a row, with the Christmas plans of many stymied because of Covid. Which is disappointing, for everyone, especially during this “most wonderful time of the year.” My heart hurts for those affected. Hopefully, the cases will be short-lived and on the lower end of the symptom spectrum; hopefully, the families and friends who spent time together before tests were taken will escape unscathed, and, hopefully, some aspect of the holiday will be salvaged in spite of that dreaded “T-line.”
They say this thing isn’t likely to go away, so it’s up to us to figure out how to better accommodate its impacts with sensible compromises. The kind that allow “you to be you,” gatherings to be sensibly had, kids to be able to stay in school, and families to fulfill holiday plans that make the memories we all cherish. We’ll see how it goes this year. I’m keeping all the place-settings at the table either way as a positive affirmation.
Wishing you a very HEALTHY, merry, happy holiday and new year!
Christmas mannequin by Buzz Andersen @ Unsplash
Red Santa photo by Srikanta H. U on Unsplash
Cookie photo courtesy of Lorraine Devon Wilke
Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.