I was at the grocery store today and you’d never know we just went through 3-plus months of pandemic-fueled pandemonium. You’d never know we were just locked down in self-quarantining hell for over two months.
No, things were pretty much back to normal today.
The only thing I noticed different from pre-lockdown times were that about 25% of the people were wearing masks, most stores had someone wiping down their shopping carts and self-checkout registers, and there were still 6-foot (2 meter) markers on the floors to remind you to not invade the personal space of the people in front of you.
So, today, after fighting traffic to and from the stores, and dealing with the crowds at those stores, I began to wax nostalgic for the days when the lockdown was in full swing.
It got me to thinking about things I will miss about the past 3 months.
And here they are in no particular order (for my brain is seldom in any particular order). You’ll probably very quickly start to notice a common theme to all of these.
My 45-60 minute commute to work every morning and evening dropped to about 20 minutes. It was like getting over an hour of my life back every single day! Plus, it was quite thrilling to get on a freeway that is usually a parking lot during rush hour, and zoom down it at the posted speed (or higher). Every morning and every evening it felt like I was in my very own “Cannonball Run” movie!
Similarly, if I needed to run to the grocery store to pick something up, I could just zip there without encountering any traffic whatsoever. And there was never any problem finding a parking spot right up front! So, a quick trip to the store that used to take 45 minutes, now only took 15 or 20 minutes.
When I got to work, I could often walk from the parking lot, through the entry way, down the long hallways and to my work area, without encountering a single soul except for the security guard and the nurse taking temperatures and handing out face-masks. And if I decided to take an “ergo break” and go for a walk around the inside of the building, I might not encounter anyone.
It was a similar story at stores or anywhere out in public. I often felt as if I’d broken into the store late at night to do a little pilfering. Except that the lights were all on. And while it’s true that many shelves were empty, they were emptied of random, ridiculous things. Most “normal” items remained in sufficient quantities for my needs.
No Invasions of My Personal Space
I will be the first to admit that I have a very large personal space. From what I remember from the psychology class I took a thousand years ago in college, one’s personal space is roughly a yard (or meter if you prefer, and who doesn’t?).
I, on the other hand, like a personal space measured in furlongs or perhaps even leagues. When I see someone become visible over the horizon, I immediately start to get antsy and agitated. By the time they are within shouting distance, I am already contemplating shouting at them to not come any closer.
Over the course of my life, I have become quite adept at avoiding people in otherwise crowded places. I have refined the art of buying things out of order in stores just to avoid people who are standing in the aisles that I need to go down. I’ve learned how to casually cross the street to avoid passing people walking towards me. And, in rare occasions when avoidance was impossible, I have faked my own death.
So, the past two months have been as close to heaven-on-earth as I am likely to ever get. All of the people-avoiding skills I mentioned in the previous paragraph were now being performed by other people! I did not have to avoid them … they were avoiding me. And if they still got too close, a theatrical stage-cough or sneeze would send them scurrying on their way.
Elimination of Small-talk
I have never been good at small talk (the social interaction, not the object-oriented programming language).
After I have said “hello”, I have told you all I know. At that point, my brain, thinking its work is done, rambles off somewhere to take a nap.
Unfortunately, that leaves my mouth unsupervised and it is very likely to begin meandering through the most bizarre, stream-of-consciousness, blather one could possibly imagine. An innocent remark on the weather, after a mere minute, has somehow become a discourse on how the mating habits of medieval wombats led inexorably to the development of floating point calculations in integer-based microprocessors.
It is at this point that people begin edging away from me.
And that is fine. It was their saying hello to me that led to my blathering in the first place.
So, in this instance, the lockdown has been a godsend to me. People don’t even want to be close enough to hear me, let alone engage in small talk (again, not the programming language).
So, really, it’s a win-win for everyone involved.
It may be coincidental, but my allergies have been non-existent for the past 6 months. This time of year usually is devastating to me in terms of allergies. Breathing becomes a luxury I can only dream of. I often have to take a deep breath before speaking, because I’m liable to pass out from lack of oxygen before the sentence is complete.
So I find myself hanging out in seedy parts of town, trying to score some Zyrtek or Flo-Nase.
But this year …. no problems. I have been breathing like a normal person, and without having to rely on over-the-counter allergy medicines. I have even felt quite heady on occasion as my brain gets far more oxygen than it is used to getting.
This one is self-explanatory. I have not seen my boss since early February. We have spoken sporadically via email, and occasionally by phone, but he has largely checked out and is managing things via email from his compound at Martha’s Vineyard. In fact, nearly all of the executive management team has been largely MIA. The only thing anyone has heard out of them is the infrequent blast-emails that tell us we’re doing a great job, we are the backbone of the company, work smarter not harder, lift with our legs not our back, blah blah blah.
And it may be my imagination, but the company seems to be chugging along just fine.
I like to pull up to the gas pump and pretend it is 1989. I put on my Ferris Bueller shades, comb my hair back, and sing “Shake Your Love” by Debbie Gibson out loud while I’m pumping gas.
It’s a gas! And there was no one around to hear me.
Peace and Quiet
I cannot overemphasize how much I have loved the peace and quiet brought about by all of the self-quarantining going on.
I loved waking up on Saturday mornings and not hearing lawn mowers and leaf blowers. I loved sitting in my back yard and not hearing traffic going by. I loved not hearing sirens. I loved not hearing the constant droning of airplanes overhead.
It has been heavenly! Silence truly is golden.
Reduced Stress Level
Everything I just listed above reduced my stress level out of the red zone where it has been permanently residing for the past several decades, and down to the green zone for the first time since the early 80’s.
For the first time in a long time, I could just come home at the end of a long day at work, put my feet up, and enjoy a cup of coffee and not feel the urge to go anywhere or do anything. Where was there to go? What was there to do?
I could just put on some nice music, grab something to read, and let my brain idle in park for several hours.
This is especially important because we are living in what is probably the most stressful time in recent memory. Uncertainty is our constant companion these days. We are beset by worry and anxiety and doubt.
So, if you find something, however small, that brings you a little peace and serenity, embrace it wholly and without guilt.
You need it.